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Eagles gear up to host track meet

Winthrop's Sashay Robinson runs the 400 meter dash. She runs it fast and is looking for ways to run it faster.

Mitch Greeley, a former Northwestern and Clemson standout in the pole vault, is coming home after a stellar career with the Tigers.

They will be front and center in the ASICS Winthrop Invitational that gets underway today at the Irwin Belk Track near the Winthrop Coliseum.

Robinson, a redshirt junior out of tiny Liberty High School near Clemson, owns four school records: the indoor and outdoor 400 and as part of the indoor and outdoor 4x400 relay teams. She runs with Monique James, Latish Watson and Amati Anita Oblong on the relay team.

She has been working to perfect her race. She had some trouble getting out of the blocks to start the indoor season; she has fixed that. Now she is focusing on staying consistent through the middle of the race while keeping enough speed in her legs to finish with a good kick.

Robinson said there is no secret behind her success -- just a lot of hard work. And it has paid off. Winthrop coach Ben Paxton said Robinson is quietly having "a phenomenal season."

"I practice hard. That's where it all starts," Robinson said after Tuesday's workout. "I always try to work hard and trust what the coaches tell me to do."

Greeley graduated from Clemson in December 2008. He moved to Arkansas and has trained with Earl Bell, a renowned U.S. men's pole vaulter and coach. Greeley has set his sights high. His goal is to make the 2012 Olympic team.

"I had to really go back and learn a lot of stuff I was missing," Greeley said of his time with Bell. "I've relearned a lot of fundamental things; things I knew I wasn't doing right but didn't know how to fix."

Greeley's best jump at Clemson was 18-feet, 1-inch. He topped 18-3 at the U.S. Indoor Meet last month in Albuquerque, N.M. At Northwestern, he was a three-time Class AAAA state champion.

He's starting his outdoor season here at home, but he's taking advantage of the opportunity to see some friends and catch up with his family. Next up is a meet in Los Angeles at the end of April. He will compete in Des Moines, Iowa, then in Europe this summer.

"I only get to come back home once a year," he said. "I usually wouldn't go outdoor for another couple weeks."

Robinson ran a 55.17 seconds in the 400 meters last weekend in Charlotte at the 49er Classic to lower her previous best of 56.02 set two weeks prior. Her time is tied for 18th best nationally, and she is less than a half-second shy of cracking into the top 10. And she has helped Winthrop to a 14-1 record.

Winthrop coach Bobbie Schreiner works primarily with the Eagles' sprinters. She loaded up her runners' schedules with heavy workouts early in the year to get them ready for this point in the season. She said her sprinters are running well right now but could be better. She is gearing up the team for the final five weeks of the season.

"This is all the result of three years of training," Schreiner said of Robinson. "She is stronger, she's not injured and she is more mature. Her confidence helps me coach better."

The communication Robinson and Schreiner share helped the sprinter through two injury-plagued seasons. This is Robinson's first injury-free season since her freshman year. She suffered a stress fracture in her left foot during her sophomore season. Hamstring issues cost her the outdoor season last year. But Robinson went to every practice and all the meets even though she couldn't compete. Being there allowed her to remain a part of the team.

Due to the hamstring problems she was given a medical redshirt, so she will be eligible for another outdoor season next spring.

There will be plenty of competition for Robinson and the Eagles this weekend. More than 20 men's and women's teams will participate. Robinson wants to run against the best. She said she competes to win; not to beat any specific time. Schreiner is OK with that philosophy.

"I hope she gets that from me,'' Schreiner said. "I want her chasing championships. We're working together to create a better product."