University City

Healthier 49ers indoor track and field team hopes for improvement

K’Vonte Scott was eligible to compete for the Charlotte 49ers indoor track and field team last year, but the recent transfer from East Tennessee State and Charlotte coach Bob Olesen agreed Scott would redshirt so he could nurse a hamstring injury.

By the end of the outdoor season in spring, Scott’s hamstring no longer was an issue. Then a junior, Scott won the men’s decathlon at the Conference USA Outdoor Championships.

As Charlotte opens the 2015 indoor season Jan. 16-17 at the Virginia Tech Invitational, the men’s and women’s teams are hopeful that athletes like Scott, who for one reason or another did not compete last winter, will help the 49ers climb the conference ranks.

“The healthier you are, the easier it is to do your job,” said Scott. “Having people being able to compete and healthier, there’s definitely more (team) points on the table to get.”

Both 49ers indoor teams placed sixth at last year’s C-USA Indoor championships. It was Charlotte’s first season back in C-USA after winning 23 indoor and outdoor championships between the men’s and women’s teams during eight years in the Atlantic 10.

“The men and women will have a better idea for what they are in for in the second go-around for the new conference,” said Olesen. “We’ll be holding our own, but there will be some improvement just based on experience.”

Anthony Bynum (Hopewell High graduate) enjoyed a fine indoor season last year, but a slight muscle strain kept him from competing at the conference meet. That prevented Charlotte from earning points in the short sprints. Bynum finished in the top six in both the 100 and 200 meters at the outdoor championships last year.

Khyran Shank, a redshirt senior, returns to provide depth in the sprints. He sat out last year’s indoor and outdoor seasons to concentrate on academics.

Another newcomer to the men’s indoor team is Jeff Hendricks, a Mallard Creek graduate and transfer from Western Carolina, where he was one of the top runners at the Southern Conference indoor championships in the 60 and 200 meters last season.

In the jumps, senior Trey McRae is coming off an outdoor season in which he was a second-team All-American in the high jump. After more than a year of battling tendinitis in his left knee, McRae is the healthiest he’s been since early in his sophomore year.

Seniors Michael Tamayo and Zach Greth are Charlotte’s steadiest distance runners. In the throwing events, junior Michael Pecchia (hammer throw) and redshirt senior Daniel Freeman (javelin) both placed at the conference outdoor meet last year.

Texas El Paso is the defending C-USA men’s indoor champion. The women’s title went to East Carolina, which is no longer a member of the conference; Western Kentucky replaced ECU.

On the women’s team, redshirt senior thrower Toby Jo Klauenberg returns after redshirting both the indoor and outdoor seasons last year. In 2013, Klauenberg made second team All-Atlantic 10 when she set a school indoor record at the conference meet. Victoria Ebert is a promising freshman hammer thrower from Rhode Island.

Senior Joann Blakney (West Mecklenburg) is expected to defend her C-USA title in the 60 meters. She ran a personal best time of 7.35 seconds at the event. Blakney finished second in the 100 meters at the C-USA outdoor championships in 2014.

Mallard Creek High alumnus Lauren Gulley, a junior, scored points at the conference indoor meet last year by placing sixth in the high jump and as a member of the fourth-place 4x400-meter relay.

Although T’Sheila Mungo (Independence) usually specializes in the short sprints, she placed second in the 800 meters at the C-USA indoor meet. Finishing one spot behind her was classmate Rachel Miller, who missed training with the team this fall because she was studying abroad in London.

The C-USA Indoor Championships are scheduled for Feb. 25-26 in Birmingham, Ala.