Coastal Carolina track coach Barry Shumpert has had his eye on Rock Hill sprinter Gabrielle Lee since she was in the 9th grade.
All it took was a little nudging from Rock Hill coach Micah McCoy to get him interested. They are friends from way back, and Shumpert knew if McCoy was going to recommend an athlete, it was going to be a good one.
Lee signed with the Conway school Monday. She'll go there as a sprinter in the 100 and 200 meters and could end up running in the short relays.
"Coach Shumpert showed an early interest in me and saw me run at last year's state meet," Lee said. "I finished second in the 100, third in the 200, and our four-by-one relay team won the state championship for the second straight year.
"I always wanted to go to a Division I school and this is a good opportunity. Coach Shumpert has some sprinters back, but I'll be running in meets next year if I can turn in better times than some of them. It will be exciting, and I'll be able to come home and run on Winthrop's track.''
That's because, like Coastal, Winthrop is a member of the Big South Conference. And as far as earning a spot near the top among Coastal's sprinters next year, McCoy said that shouldn't be a problem because her times are already better than some of the runners coming back.
"I think Gabby can go there and run a lot faster than she did here,'' McCoy said.
"Coach Shumpert's program and method of training is a lot like ours because I borrowed some things I learned from him.
"I met him when he coached at Miami and I was running at a Level II Spring School. I know he will help Gabby. Most coaches I talked to this year felt she would be a state champ in the 100 and 200, but she had a pulled hamstring and didn't qualify.''
Lee, raised by Dr. John McCoy and Sandra McCoy since she was an infant, is the daughter of Pam Boyd. She has qualified academically and scored 1,100 on her SAT. Lee plans to major in nursing.
"Coach McCoy brought stability to our program and the way he coaches made us work hard to do well,'' Lee said. "He believes in strength, power and endurance when training, just like the program at Coastal.
"Running on this team and competing with the other runners we had has made me better. All of our sprinters have been good and we pushed each other. All of them helped me, but none more than Tierra Williams. She was very fast and I had to get better to keep up with her.''