2001 Women's Track Season Outlook
Feb. 15, 2001
In 2001, Jeanette Bolden's UCLA women's track and field team looks to defend their NCAA Indoor title, try for their fifth consecutive Pacific-10 crown and go after UCLA's first NCAA Outdoor championship since last winning in 1982 and '83. The Bruins have a roster-full of experienced quality athletes, along with a recruiting class judged No. 1 in the nation by Track & Field News.
T & FN has tabbed UCLA the early favorite to win the 2001 NCAA Outdoor title, ahead of USC, Texas and South Carolina. In 2000, the Bruins won their first ever NCAA Indoor crown and placed third at the Outdoor, behind champion LSU and second-place USC. UCLA has won the Pac-10 title six of the seven years with Bolden as coach and the Bruins overall have won 11 of the 14 contested conference championships.
Eleven Championship-Level Veterans Returning
With seven-time NCAA Indoor/Outdoor individual throws champion Seilala Sua gone, the championship torch is passed to junior pole vaulter Tracy O'Hara, the defending NCAA Indoor/Outdoor champion and collegiate indoor/outdoor record holder. O'Hara will join 10 other returning veteran athletes to lead UCLA during the 2001 collegiate indoor/outdoor seasons. Joining O'Hara will be - seniors, sprinter Shakedia Jones, hurdler Michelle Perry, pole vaulter Erica Hoernig (outdoor only), triple jumper Deana Simmons (indoor only) and thrower Christina Tolson, juniors, 800m/relay participant Ysanne Williams, high jumper Darnesha Griffith and pole vaulter Heather Sickler, along with sophomore throwers, Chaniqua Ross and Cari Soong (indoor only).
O'Hara, from San Diego Rancho Bernardo HS, in 2000 as a sophomore set the NCAA indoor (14-6) and outdoor (14-7.25, No. 5 on the 2000 U. S. list) records, defended her Pac-10 title and placed sixth at the U. S. Olympic Trials.
'Tracy has established herself as one of the top young women's pole vaulters, not just in the U. S., but in the world,' said Bolden, who is in her eighth season as the Bruin head coach. ' With Seilala gone, Tracy can provide us with championship scoring in her event.'
Jones, from Waukegan, IL HS, last summer earned a spot on the 2000 U. S. Olympic women's 400m relay pool. At the U. S. Trials, she placed fifth in both her semi-final heats in the 100m and 200m. Last season as a junior, she placed sixth in the 100m at the NCAA Outdoor, sixth in the 60m at the NCAA Indoor and at the Pac-10, she placed second in the 100m and fourth in the 200m. An eight-time NCAA All-American, Jones' collegiate bests in 2000 were 11.26w,11.33 and 23.26.
Perry, from Palmdale Quartz Hill HS, at the 2000 NCAA Outdoor placed fourth in the 400m hurdles (56.50, No. 4 in school history). A four-time Outdoor All-American, Perry is the two-time defending Pac-10 100m hurdle champion (last season ran a personal-best 13.03w, 13.15).
Hoernig, Sickler and O'Hara provide the Bruins with a vaunted triple threat in the women's pole vault. Hoernig, from Santa Ana Foothill HS, last season as a junior placed 15th at the NCAA Outdoor and 11th at the NCAA Indoor. Her best mark in 2000 was placing second at the Pac-10 (13-7, personal-best and same height as teammate winner O'Hara). Sickler, from Camarillo HS, in 2000 as a sophomore was 12th at the NCAA Outdoor and third at the Pac-10 (13-3, personal-best, No. 3 in school history).
Simmons, from Centralia, IL MacArthur HS, only has one indoor season of eligibility remaining. A three-time NCAA All-American in the triple jump and the 1998 Pac-10 champion, Simmons in 2000 placed 16th at the NCAA Outdoor, 12th at the Indoor and at the Pac-10, was third. Her personal-bests are (44-1.75nwi, 43-8.75, 43-7.75I).
Tolson, from Fountain Valley HS who transferred to UCLA in 1999, made an immediate impact in her first season at UCLA. In 2000 as a junior, Tolson earned All-American honors four times. At the NCAA Outdoor she placed fifth in both the shot put and hammer, and at the Indoor, she was third in the shot put and eighth in the weight throw. At the Pac-10, she won the hammer throw and placed second in the shot put. In 2000, Tolson's personal-bests were 56-10.75 (No. 8 in the U. S.) and 208-11 (No. 10 in the U. S.), a Pac-10 hammer record.
Williams, from Albany, NY HS, in 2000 as a sophomore placed fifth in the 800m and ran on UCLA's 4 X 100m relay at the NCAA Outdoor. As a freshman in 1999, Williams won the U. S. Junior 800m crown and ran her personal-best (2:05.23).
Griffith, from Santa Margarita Trabuco HS, last season as a sophomore, qualified for the high jump at the NCAA Outdoor, placed 12th at the Indoor and won the Pac-10 title. Her personal-best of 6-0.75, set at last year's UCLA-USC meet, is No. 4 in school history.Ross, from Elk Groove Laguna Creek, redshirted during the 2000 outdoor season. Indoors in 2000, she earned All-American honors for the second time, by placing sixth in the shot put. Her personal-best is 54-1.
Soong, from Riverside North HS, had an outstanding freshman outdoor season in 2000. She won the U. S. Junior hammer title and earned All-American outdoor honors, by placing eighth (197-7, No. 3 in school history, No. 2 all-time U. S. Junior). At the 2000 Pac-10 meet, Soong was fourth in the hammer throw. In 2001, Soong will compete during the indoor season and redshirt for the outdoor campaign.
'These 11 athletes have proven themselves in championship level competition,' said Bolden, the 2000 Women's U. S. Track Coaches Association and Pac-10 Coach of the Year. 'Our young athletes will be looking to this group for leadership and direction.'
Returning Pac-10 Scorers
Also returning for the Bruins this season will be - junior Bunmi Ogunleye, fourth in the 400m and fifth in the long jump at the 2000 Pac-10, sophomore Heather Newlin, sixth in the conference high jump and junior Kristee Porter. The multi-talented Porter, she earned All-American honors on the Bruin women's volleyball team last fall and also played on the basketball squad, placed sixth in the triple jump at the Pac-10.
UCLA's distance corps will be helped with the return of redshirt freshman Lena Nilsson. During her prep career in Sweden, she was that country's Junior Champion in the 400m and 3000m 16 times between 1995 and '99. Also, from last fall women's cross country team, the Bruins will return junior Kelly Grimes, senior Bridget Hatch and sophomore Melissa McBain, along with true freshman Valerie Flores. Flores as a senior prepster at San Pedro HS in '99 cross country placed fifth at the CA State meet and 19th at the Footlocker National HS Championships.
Nation's No. 1 Recruiting Class
Adding to UCLA's returning talent is a recruiting class judged No. 1 in the nation by T & FN. Leading the newcomers are Sheena Johnson, Jessica Cosby, Adia McKinnon and sprinter Sani Roseby. T & FN has judged UCLA's last four recruiting classes as No. 1 (2000), No. 3 (1999), No. 1 (1998) and No. 4 (1997) in the nation.
The prize recruit is Johnson, from Woodbridge, VA Gar-Field HS, who last summer competed at the U. S. Trials in the 400m hurdles and won the U. S. Junior meet. Her best of 56.82 was No. 4 on the world junior charts, No. 3 all-time high school and No. 7 all-time U. S Junior. A multi-talented athlete, Johnson is a two-time T & FN women's prep Indoor Athlete of the Year and who finished in the 2000 voting for the T & FN women's high school Athlete of the Year. Johnson has additional best marks of 13.73 (100m hurdles), 53.68 (400m), 20-0 (long jump) and 42-4.75 (indoor triple jump).
Cosby, from Reseda Cleveland HS, earned All-America status from T & FN in the shot put (50-3 1/2). Last summer she placed second at the U. S. Junior meet. In 2001, Cosby will compete indoors and redshirt outdoors. McKinnon, from Flossmoor, IL Homewood-Flossmoor HS, earned T & FN prep All-American honors in the 400m (52.91) and also ran an 11.54 (110m) and 23.89 (200m). Roseby, from Montery HS, earned T & FN prep All-America honors in the 100m (11.76) and has also run a 13.72 (100m hurdles), 24.03 (200m) and 54.76 (400m).
'We have some very talented newcomers in this incoming recruiting class,' said Bolden, who has an unbeaten 57-0 dual record in her seven years as the Bruin coach. 'When blending the veterans with our newcomers, we should be able to field a very strong team for this season.'
The UCLA women's team also has a staff addition this season. Al Jordan, who won a gold medal in the triple jump at the 1984 Olympics and who is the husband to the late Bruin great Florence Griffith-Joyner, will coach the Bruin women jumpers. Monte Rucker, who has coached the UCLA women jumpers for the last six seasons, will now coach the Bruin men's jumpers on a volunteer basis.
Losses From Last Season
Sua as a senior in 2000 won the NCAA Indoor shot put title and successfully defended her NCAA Outdoor shot put and discus crowns. She ended her Bruin career with seven NCAA indoor/outdoor titles, became the winningest NCAA Outdoor women's athlete in history with six individual championships and is only the second NCAA Outdoor women's athlete to win four consecutive individual titles (discus, 1997-2000). During her four-year UCLA career she also won six individual Pac-10 throwing championships.Along with Sua, UCLA's other significant losses include - Keyon Soley, the 2000 NCAA Indoor long jump champion who transferred to Florida, Christina Bowen, who advanced to the 2000 NCAA Cross Country meet and in 1999, qualified for the NCAA Outdoor in the 3000m, Jessica Matthews, who placed second last spring in the Pac-10 10,000m, Kelly O'Connor, who placed eighth last year in the Pac-10 triple jump and Tamar Cherebin, who ran the opening leg on the Bruins' 4 X 100m relay at last year's Outdoor.