SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Citadel's Malik Diggs and Western Carolina's Dakota Lamont both claimed the 2017 Southern Conference Co-Most Outstanding Track Performer honors due to a tie in the voting on the men's side, while Western Carolina's Dasha Arnaut took the women's track honor as voted on by the league's coaches. The coaches' votes were based on performances at the 2017 Southern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which were held on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. The conference office also announced ETSU's Benjamin Johnson was nabbed the Men's Most Outstanding Field Athlete accolade, while Samford's Selena Popp snagged field honors on the women's side.
Western Carolina's Devaniel Dale and Jazmine Gooden swept Freshman of the Year honors for the Catamounts after both were the top-scoring freshmen at the championship meet.
Western Carolina head coach Cale McDaniel was voted the conference's Men's Coach of the Year and Samford's Rod Tiffin was named the Women's Coach of the Year.
Diggs, a senior, won the men's 110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles to register 20 points for The Citadel's men's squad. The Laurinburg, North Carolina, native is the first SoCon competitor to win both hurdle events in the same year since 2013 and is the fourth since 1996. In the 110-meter hurdles, Diggs achieved a personal-best time of 14.27 seconds, which is good for No. 2 on the 2017 SoCon outdoor performance list and is the second-fastest time in The Citadel's history. He also won the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 52.87 seconds – also good for second on the program's all-time list. Diggs was also a member of the Bulldogs' 4x400-meter relay team that finished second overall with a time of 3:17.19. For the meet, Diggs totaled 24 points for the Bulldogs.
Lamont won both the men's 200-meter dash and 400-meter dash titles and was a member of the Catamount 4x400-meter relay team, which also placed first overall. Lamont, a junior, posted a personal best in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.49 seconds, which is good for No. 2 on the 2017 outdoor performance list. In the 400-meter dash, Lamont was the first of three Catamount medalists to cross the finish line, finishing in 47.75 seconds. Lamont also guided a Catamount 4x400-meter relay unit that won the title by nearly four seconds. His 22.50 points earned was the most by a men's track athlete at the meet.
Arnaut earned four first-place finishes for the Catamounts in the 400-meter dash, 400-meter hurdles and as a member of both winning relay units. In the 400-meter dash, Arnaut posted a time of 54.92 seconds before winning the 400-meter hurdle event with a time of 1:00.81 on Friday. In addition to her individual first-place finishes, Arnaut led the Catamounts to two first-place finishes in the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays, which posted times of 45.52 seconds and 3:47.02, respectively. Both Catamount relay marks were Western Carolina's fastest times this season. The sophomore also placed fifth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.42 seconds. For the meet, Arnaut accounted for 29 points of the Catamounts' 194 points on the women's side.
Johnson, in his first year as a thrower, was the top point-getter on the men's side after winning the discus throw and javelin throw events and earned a second-place finish in the hammer throw to tally 28 points for the ETSU men's team. The sophomore threw the discus for 50.19 meters (164-8), a personal best, which also ranks first on the SoCon outdoor performance list. The Nashville, Tennessee, native set a 2017 SoCon best mark of 58.80 meters (192-11) to secure the javelin title for the Bucs. In the hammer throw, Johnson's mark of 56.15 meters (184-3) earned him a second-place finish.
Popp, who was also tabbed the league's Most Outstanding Field Performer of the 2017 SoCon Indoor Championship, claimed the women's heptathlon crown with a score of 5,129 points. The Samford sophomore earned first-place finishes in four of the seven heptathlon events: the javelin throw (33.34 meters), shot put (11.17 meters), high jump (1.74 meters) and 800-meter run (2:26.60). Popp, who won the women's indoor pentathlon at this season's SoCon Indoor Championship meet, placed second in the women's high jump at the SoCon Outdoor Championship with a leap of 1.73 meters (5-8) and achieved a third-place finish in the javelin with a best throw of 38.08 meters (124-11). Popp also claimed a seventh place finish in the long jump with a best jump of 5.76 meters (18-10.75).
Dale was the highest scoring freshman on the men's side at the championship meet after registering 18.50 points with second-place finishes in the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash and was a member of the Catamounts' 4x400-meter champion relay team. Dale, a native of Salisbury, North Carolina, set personal-bests in both individual events with a time of 21.46 seconds in the 200-meter dash and 47.95 seconds in the 400-meter dash. His time in the 200-meter dash is good for second in the conference, while his mark in the 400-meter dash ranks third.
Gooden was the top-scoring freshman on the women's side, tallying 22.50 points for the Catamounts after competing in five events. Gooden placed second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.79 seconds, just 0.02 seconds shy of tying the first-place finisher. The Greensboro, North Carolina, native finished third overall in the women's long jump with a best mark of 6.12 meters (20-1), while finishing fourth in the 100-meter hurdle event in 14.03 seconds. Gooden was also a member of Western Carolina 4x100-meter relay, which posted a winning time of 45.42 seconds. Gooden added an eighth place finish in the 200-meter dash, finishing in 25.09 seconds.
McDaniel, in his first year as head coach of Western Carolina, led the men's team to their second straight and seventh overall outdoor crown. The Catamounts won the final event of the championship meet, the 4x400-meter relay, to edge Samford by just six points. McDaniel was also named the 2017 SoCon Men's Indoor Track Coach of the Year after leading the Catamounts to an indoor title in February.
Tiffin captures his second Coach of the Year honor on the women's side after guiding the Bulldogs to their second outdoor title with their first coming in 2014 when Tiffin garnered Coach of the Year honors. Tiffin, in his ninth season at Samford, and the Bulldogs coasted to their 2017 outdoor title by more than 50 points.
Co-Men's Most Outstanding Track Performer (tie)
Malik Diggs, The Citadel
Dakota Lamont, Western Carolina
Men's Most Outstanding Field Performer
Benjamin Johnson, ETSU
Men's Freshman of the Year
Devaniel Dale, Western Carolina
Men's Coach of the Year
Cale McDaniel, Western Carolina
Women's Most Outstanding Track Performer
Dasha Arnaut, Western Carolina
Women's Most Outstanding Field Performer
Selena Popp, Samford
Women's Freshman of the Year
Jazmine Gooden, Western Carolina
Women's Coach of the Year
Rod Tiffin, Samford