Winthrop will begin the indoor track season Friday at the Appalachian State Opener in Boone, N.C. Coach Ben Paxton will take his sprinters, throwers and jumpers to the meet.
The early-season event is a reward mechanism for the athletes that have trained throughout the fall. Distance runners have completed the cross country season. Now, it is time for the rest of the track team to get their chance.
"Track athletes are so goal-oriented. This is a reward for three months of hard work," Paxton said. "We have a lot of young people this year that we think can be good."
The Eagles have its largest freshmen contingent on the roster this year. A total of 28 of the 68-member team are freshmen, more than 40 percent.
The indoor meet will take place at the Holmes Convocation Center. Traditionally, the first meet of the season has been a good one for Appalachian. One Mountaineer set a school record, and three others made NCAA automatic and provisional bids in 2007.
Four Eagles to watch in this meet and throughout the indoor season are: Shardal Twyman, Keary Simms, Travis Coleman and Rebecca Holmes.
Twyman is a senior from Charles Town, W.Va. She is a short sprinter and will run in the 55-meter sprint, among other events. She missed the outdoor season last spring with a hamstring injury and is eager to compete again.
"It should be exciting," she said.
This will be the first time Winthrop has competed at this meet. Twyman said the team has always opened at Clemson.
"We've been doing the same things every day, like clockwork," she said.
Simms is a triple jumper from Fort Pierce, Fla. The sophomore's best performance last year was 48 feet, 3 inches. He, too, was slowed by a hamstring pull a year ago.
"I've been going good, not quite 100 percent, but better than last year," Simms said.
Twyman and Simms think the Eagles are a much deeper team this year with the influx of freshmen.
"As a freshman, we only had two female sprinters here," Twyman said.
"We have a lot more depth," Simms added.
Coleman, a junior from Clarksburg, W.Va., holds the school indoor record for the weight throw. But it is the shot put that might turn some heads this year. Winthrop coaches are expecting big things from him.
Coleman would love to get a NCAA qualifying throw in the first meet of the season.
"All the summer work is paying off now. Hopefully, I'll get off a big throw," Coleman said.
A dozen schools competed at Appalachian State last year. Winthrop will join three other Big South schools, Gardner-Webb, High Point and UNC Asheville, at the event this year. Winthrop's next meet will be Jan. 23-24 at the Liberty Fast Times Invitational in Lynchburg, Va.