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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

By Bethany Bradsher

ECU foursome set for debut on the big stage

Curt Kraft
Aiesha Goggins
Tiffany Harrist
Tyshonda Hawkins
Tania Minkins
(ECU SID images)


ECU foursome set for debut on the big stage
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By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

It’s the equivalent of the East Carolina baseball team making the College World Series, or the Pirate basketball team surviving until the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament.

But when the ECU women’s 4X400 relay team and an individual 400-meter runner qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships last weekend, most fans in the Pirate Nation hardly registered the accomplishment.

Maybe it’s because there are so many events and so many athletes in the sport, or because a larger number of them qualify for the NCAA Regionals.

The fact is, Aiesha Goggins, Tiffany Harris, Tyshonda Hawkins and Tania Minkins have achieved a singularly historic accomplishment. When they run this week at the championships in Des Moines, IA, they will be the first ECU women’s relay team ever to qualify for nationals. And when Goggins runs in the 400 meters she will be the first woman to run at that level in 17 years and only the second in Pirate history.

For head coach Curt Kraft, they are bright signposts on the track and field program’s road to national prominence.

“It seems like every time we turn around we’re kind of setting a new standard,” Kraft said. “It’s just something special, when a relay qualifies for the national championship. It kind of truly defines what a team can do.”

According to the Track and Field Results Reporting Service, the relay team’s ECU-record time of 3:35.75, run at the East Regional, places them 22nd in the nation heading into the national meet. Goggins, who has broken the ECU record in the 400 twice this season as a freshman, is ranked 4th in the nation with her Conference USA time of 51.94.

The relay team, which runs its preliminary heat on Thursday, has likely not even reached its peak this season, especially because Minkins has been battling an injury this spring and has had to sit out a number of meets.

The foursome finally ran together again at the C-USA Championships in Houston. Even though they dropped the baton they ran a 3:39.58 to capture third place.

Their stellar time at the regional meet set the pace, said Harris, the only sophomore on a team with three freshmen, and the more they accomplish the closer the group becomes. They live together as well as train together, she said, and so they are more like sisters than teammates.

“I knew what all of them were capable of doing,” Harris said. “At conference we dropped the baton, and we ran a safe race. I didn’t know how fast we could go. Now I know we can all go faster."

“I think after our mishap at conference, we all just took that and learned from it,” Goggins said. “I felt like we had a lot to prove in terms of what times we can bring.”

Goggins, a freshman from Durham, runs the anchor leg on the relay. She said that when she’s out on the track watching her friends give their all it motivates her to run harder.

She is a runner who thrives in the midst of intense competition, according to Kraft.

Goggins' times are fast enough to be in the hunt at the top of the field in the 400 open race, which opens with preliminaries on Wednesday. She also excels at the 200 meters and just seems to be getting better right before her coach’s eyes.

Kraft is sure that the faster the runners in nearby lanes are, the more Goggins' true potential will emerge.

“I don’t want to doubt her,” he said. “It’s not out of the realm to think she can win it all. You put someone out in front of her, and she is just like a rabbit, she’s a competitor.”

Harris and Goggins both said they have gained some respect on the ECU campus since they qualified for nationals, especially among other athletes. But they are determined to push themselves to help the Pirate program garner more credibility on the national stage. This week in Des Moines, they hope to give everyone in the track and field world a reason to remember East Carolina.

“If we set a couple of school records and they do as good as they can possibly do, then we’ll let the rest take care of itself,” Kraft said.

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher Archives

06/08/2011 03:09 AM

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