Winthrop University

Winthrop roundup: who were the school’s top athletes for the month of January?

Winthrop students think Pat Kelsey is crazy. That’s okay as long as they attend games

Winthrop University (SC) basketball coach Pat Kelsey will do almost anything to get students to come to Eagles home basketball games. He showed that Jan. 31, 2019 during a quick tour around campus to promote the Winthrop-Radford game.
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Winthrop University (SC) basketball coach Pat Kelsey will do almost anything to get students to come to Eagles home basketball games. He showed that Jan. 31, 2019 during a quick tour around campus to promote the Winthrop-Radford game.

As the weather in York County warms up a bit, our focus turns to spring sports at Winthrop. Tennis and track and field are already underway, with the remainder of the Eagles’ spring offerings soon joining them.

January’s Eagles of the Month announced

Men’s track and field athlete Joey Jennings and women’s basketball player Jah’Che Whitfield were awarded Eagle of the Month honors for the first month of 2019.

Jennings tied a Winthrop record with a 4.4-meter pole vault, while taking first place honors in the long jump event at the Thundering Herd Invitational in Huntington, W.Va. in late January. Jennings also placed second in pole vault at the same meet.

Whitfield received back-to-back Big South Freshman of the Week honors in mid-January, averaging just shy of 13 points per game and converting nearly 41 percent of her shots from the field in the month. The Sumter native scored a career-high 19 on Jan. 8 against Charleston Southern, and is averaging 11.4 points per game in Big South play.

Tennis hits the road

Men’s and women’s tennis both took road trips over the weekend. The Winthrop men (2-3) dropped a 7-0 decision at 25th-ranked N.C. State Saturday, followed by a 7-0 victory Sunday at North Carolina A&T. The Eagles took five of six singles courts in straight sets in Sunday’s match, with Gabriel Dias knocking off Vasil Ivanov, 10-6, in a third-set tiebreak on court two.

The Eagle women (2-2) narrowly missed a victory in a 4-3 result at Georgia Tech Sunday. Georgia Tech took the doubles point early, before the star Eagle duo of Megan Kauffman and Lauren Proctor could finish their match. Proctor took one of Winthrop’s singles points, defeating 24th-ranked Kenya Jones in a three-set match. Alisa Soloveva authored a straight-set victory for the Eagles, while senior Ellie Burns lodged the third Eagle victory.

The tennis teams continue their schedule this week. The men travel to Wofford Friday for a 3 p.m. match, before an 11:45 Big South opener Sunday morning at Hampton. The women host Davidson Wednesday and the College of Charleston Friday. Both of those outings at the Rock Hill Tennis Center are slated to begin at 2 p.m.

Henson sets another milestone

Junior Harper Henson added another superlative to her storied career at Winthrop in the Carolina Challenge in Columbia over the weekend, notching a 2:14.78 800-meter time. That time was a personal best, and is a new Winthrop school record.

Henson also recorded a sixth-place finish in the women’s mile, finishing with a time of 5:02.21. Nine additional Eagle athletes recorded top-10 finishes in their individual disciplines. In addition, the Eagles recorded a fourth-place finish in the distance medley relay, finishing with a time of 10:27.28.

The teams will next compete at the Big South Indoor Championships at the Liberty Indoor Track Complex in Lynchburg, Va. The events will be contested Feb. 15 and 16.

Baseball projected for strong finish

The Big South preseason baseball poll has been released, and the league’s coaches project Winthrop to finish with Radford in a tie for third. The Eagles received 80 total points and one first-place vote, trailing only 2018 champion Campbell (86 points, six first-place votes) and High Point (85 points, two first-place votes).

Junior right-handed pitcher Zach Peek finished third in voting for Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Peek finished the 2018 season with a 6-5 record and a 3.74 ERA in 14 starts.

Tom Riginos’ club opens the 2019 slate Feb. 15, with a three-game series against Toledo at Winthrop Ballpark.

Softball picked to finish seventh

Winthrop’s softball team was selected to finish seventh in the Big South preseason softball poll. The Eagles received 35 total points in voting by the league’s coaches.

The Eagles will be led by new coach Windy Thees, who takes over from recently-named Hall of Famer Mark Cooke. Thees joined the Eagles from Utah State, where she was the associate head coach.

Thees’ team opens the season Friday morning in Statesboro, Ga., at the Bash in the Boro. The Eagles will face Savannah State, Tennessee-Martin, host school Georgia Southern and Saint Francis (Pa.) in the weekend tourney.

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