Men's Track & Field Welcomes Six Signees for 2003-04 Season
May 19, 2003
EUGENE - The University of Oregon men's track and field announced Monday the addition of six signees from the fall and spring signing periods - one junior college horizontal jumper, a prep javelin thrower, and four West Coast prep distance runners.
Arriving in the fall as a redshirt junior, Leonidas (Leon) Watson will transfer from Florissant Valley Community College in St. Louis and owns long jump and triple jump bests of 25-8 1/4 and 53-0, respectively. In 2003, he has won national junior college triple jump titles outdoors (personal best 53-0) and indoors (52-4), and added national runner-up honors in the long jump in both meets (outdoors, 25-0; indoors, 24-8 1/4). Outdoors, he also ran leadoff on the squad's national fourth-place 4x100 relay (40.80) in May.
The other five signees are currently high school seniors and will join the men's program next fall as freshmen.
Kyle Merz of Satanta, Kansas and Satanta High School won state javelin titles in 2001 and 2002 as a sophomore and junior, and owned a 2002 regular season best of 207-9 as a junior. His coach also reported a personal best of 223-1 in an exhibition meet last summer, although no official results were published. He has missed the 2003 spring season because of an arm injury.
The Duck distance program inked a trio from one of the top prep distance classes in state history, and a top California addition. All three in-state signees hail from the Portland area - Mike McGrath of Lincoln High School, Alec Wall of Grant High School, and Patrick Werhane of Southridge High School in Beaverton - and will be joined by senior Kyle Alcorn of Buchanan High School in Buchanan, Calif.
'We have been fortunate to take advantage of a standout year in Oregon prep distance running,' Duck men's track and field head coach Martin Smith said. 'Mike McGrath has illustrated his talent at the national level with a state record in the 800 and has equally exciting potential in the 1,500 and mile. Alec fills a need in the longer distances and his experience in the Foot Locker National Championships and state performances show national-class promise. Patrick fits a similar profile, helping us in cross country and in the 5K and 10K on the track. Kyle has equal potential in both cross country and track, and could emerge as a steeplechaser or 5K runner.'
McGrath currently leads the nation in the 800 with his state record (1:48.56) from April's Centennial Invite, and his mile personal best from May's Oregon Twilight at Hayward Field (4:05.28, 3:47.5 1,500 split) ranks him third nationally and .01 seconds behind second place. In the 2002 4A state championships as a junior, he placed top four in the 1,500 (second, then-PR 3:52.38) and 800 (fourth, 1:54.19) and was 28th in the state cross country finale last fall (16:27).
'I've been impressed with Coach Smith and his relationship with the runners,' McGrath said. 'They have a great team and training environment. I've only been to Hayward Field for a few races, but it's amazing how much the crowd cares, and their enthusiasm during the races. When I came here for the Twilight last year (2002) to watch, I was surprised by the big crowd, so I was excited to come back and compete here this year. (Looking ahead to college) I have a lot of time ahead of me and a lot of work to do, but I hope to make an impact in the 800 and 1,500. I think the fall cross country season will be important to add strength and make the step up to the mile.'
Wall and Werhane have also shown promise on both the track and trails. As seniors in the 2002 4A state cross country championships, the duo finished third (15:26) and fourth (15:36), respectively, while as juniors they placed fourth (15:38) and fifth (15:44). After the fall state season, Wall appeared in the Foot Locker Western Regional (seventh, 15:43), Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships (24th, 15:41.3), and USA Track and Field Cross Country Championships (33rd, 29:50), and Werhane also ran in the 2002 Western Regional (50th, 16:33). This spring, Wall ranks second in the state in the 3,000 (8:28.1) and also ranked second in Oregon as a junior in 2002 (8:29.61). In the state track finale last year, Werhane claimed ninth in the 4A 3,000 as a junior (9:00.04), while Wall didn't compete.
In 2002 as a junior, Alcorn clocked his current personal bests in the mile (4:15.96-c) and two-mile (8:59.96-c), and ranked eighth nationally and second among his junior class in 2002 in the latter event. Last fall as a senior, he took seventh in the state division 1 cross country finale (5K-15:52), second in the CIF state championships (15:22), and 16th in the Foot Locker West Regional finale (16:05).
Their additions boost a distance crops that matriculates senior and three-time harrier All-American Jason Hartmann, and returns three key seniors and in-state products next fall - All-American Brett Holts (Bend), Noel Paulson (Aumsville) and John Lucas (Eagle Point). Merz joins a javelin unit that features current Pac-10 champion and junior Adam Jenkins (Gladstone) and graduates 2001 NCAA champion John Stiegeler (Coos Bay). Watson's addition helps alleviate the graduation of Pac-10 long jump and triple jump scorers Santiago Lorenzo and Foluso Akinradewo, respectively.
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