While Clemson’s top-ranked women’s team has enjoyed sustained success in track & field over the past few seasons and has firmly positioned itself to compete consistently at the highest level nationally, the men’s team has progressed more gradually.
That sense of the program’s one-sidedness could begin to change this season according to Interim Track & Field Director Shawn Cobey. In fact, as he assesses the men’s team, he sees a more balanced mix of impact newcomers and returning talent, and also the key leadership provided by seniors Cory Thalheimer (throws) and Spencer Adams (hurdles).
Setting a strong example, Adams has the best time nationally (7.62) in the 60m hurdles this season, and was recently named the ACC Performer of the Week after winning that event at the Auburn Indoor Invitational.
“Guys like Spencer Adams and Cory Thalheimer have taken on a senior leadership role,” said Cobey. “They’ve pretty much taken the younger ones under their wings and said, ‘Hey, this how it has to be done. This is how we’re going to work, and these are our goals.’ They’ve taken ownership of that team, and that’s why you’re seeing the guys starting to come around a little bit more in their performances.
“We expect some big things out of the guys. As of last week, when the national-ranking list came out, (sprinter) Brunson Miller came out and ran the fastest time in the 400 in the country. He’s a transfer in here from the Citadel. So we’ve added some key players to the guys’ team, and they’re an improved team from last year. We’re looking for them to start making some noise in the ACC this year, and hopefully we can also be in that top-twenty-five nationally.”
One reason for Cobey’s optimism is the evolution of last year’s large freshman class into a more technically-astute group of sophomores. As an example he cited the early performances of Torian Ware, who recently set a new school record in the high jump.
“Torian is starting to come into his own,” said Cobey. “Coming in last year as a freshman, he really didn’t have a lot of background in the high jump, and just training high jump, because he was a basketball guy. Coach (Chris) Huffins has done a good job with him this year, and he’s starting to understand the event better.
“Now that he’s understanding the event, and is feeling more comfortable in the technique that it takes to do the high jump, he’s able to relax a little bit more and just go and compete. He’s growing into the athlete we expected him to be. He had a lot of just physical talent last year as a freshman, and now you add in the technique part to it, and that’s why you’re seeing the performances that he’s had.”
As far as this year’s freshmen, Cobey thinks that the Tigers have a future standout in sprinter Tevin Hester, and that Hester can only benefit from being an understudy to senior Warren Fraser.
“Tevin is really coming around,” said Cobey. “We’ve had a big tradition of sprinters here at Clemson, and I think he’s the next one in line to be that superstar sprinter that we’ve had. We haven’t opened up Warren Fraser yet, who was on the Olympic team this past summer for the Bahamas. But in training every day with Warren, Tevin has been able to kind of follow in those footsteps and see what kind of training’s going on, and what has to take place to be successful early. He has a lot of work still to do, but he’s very talented.”
Cobey said that an upper-tier ACC finish, and cracking the top-twenty-five nationally, are achievable goals.
“We’re absolutely aiming for that this year,” he confirmed. “With some of the additions this year, and with some of the freshmen that we were counting on last year now being sophomores, the maturity is a lot higher than it was last year, and that experience definitely helps.
“I think they’re ready to step-up, and hopefully get in that upper-echelon of the ACC and compete. They’re just going to keep getting better. I can’t guess where they’re going to finish, but can say that they’re working every single day to put the best team out there that we can, and to give themselves a chance to be in that top-tier in the ACC.”