The USCB cross country team makes its debut under new head coach Bernard Gaither on Saturday morning at the Palmetto State XC Festival in Columbia. The women’s race is scheduled for 10 a.m. with the women to follow at 10:45.
Gaither takes over the cross country program following the retirement of longtime coach Larry Kimball and hopes to enjoy immediate success like he did in his first season as the Sand Sharks’ track & field coach, when he led USCB to Sun Conference championships in both men’s and women’s track & field and was named the conference Coach of the Year for both genders.
On the women’s side, USCB returns three runners who contributed on the cross country course a year ago as well as several who were contributors on the track. Former Hilton Head Island High School standout Ciara McMahon (Hilton Head Island, S.C./Wofford), a transfer from NCAA Division I Wofford, will lead the pack for the Sand Sharks, along with junior Hannah Johnson (Aynor, S.C./Aynor HS) and sophomore Annya Jones (Goose Creek, S.C./Goose Creek HS). Returners Rachel Persall (Simpsonville, S.C./Hillcrest HS) and Gabby Ward (Charleston, S.C./Charleston Math & Science) and a host of middle-distance runners from the track team, including freshman Alayna Richardson (Richmond, Va./Patrick Henry HS) and Lauren Tregoning (Newton, N.J./Sussex Technical HS) will help fill out the lineup.
Junior Cristian Slaton is the only returning runner on the men’s side. Slaton anchors a lineup that will feature a trio of talented freshmen in Justin Dolata (Springfield, Ga./Effingham County HS), Matthew Self (Atlanta, Ga./North Atlanta HS) and Wesley Murphy (Beaufort, S.C./Whale Branch Early College HS). All three newcomers ran sub-18:00 5K times in high school.
Senior Darryl Dunham also returns to the mix after competing at South Carolina last season, transferring back to USCB to complete his career. Dunham leads a group of several middle-distance runners from the track team who will contribute to the cross country squad, including freshmen Carter Freeman (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley HS) and Elyjah Brown (Charleston, S.C./Military Magnet Academy).