Husky Men On Track for Big 2005 Season
Jan. 6, 2005
Today: 2005 Washington Men's Track and Field Preview
Friday: 2005 Washington Women's Track and Field Preview
In the world of college athletics, where injuries and graduation can significantly impact a team's fortunes, rebuilding can be a difficult task.
Entering Year Three of his rebuilding effort at Washington, however, head coach Greg Metcalf -- himself a UW alum -- sees signs that 2005 may be the year the pieces finally fall into place.
The numbers certainly back up that belief. Projected to score roughly 20 points at the 2004 Pac-10 Championships, the UW men instead scored 45, including 36 by athletes who return in 2005.
Add in the team's top two returning sprinters, Davaon Spence (Kingston, Jamaica/St. Jago HS/Mt. Hood CC) and Patrick Davidson (Kingston, Jamaica/St. Jago HS/SW Christian College), and its top two returning jumpers, Phillippe Cook (Seattle, Wash./Rainier Beach) and J.R. Wolfork (Issaquah, Wash./Issaquah HS/Pacific Lutheran) -- all of whom missed the 2004 Pac-10 meet with various injuries -- and a recruiting class among the finest in UW history, and it becomes clear why Metcalf feels this could be a breathrough year.
'We're at a better starting position than we've ever been,' he says. 'The first step towards becoming a champion is to decide to be outstanding in everything you do. I see our guys making that decision every day at practice, and that gets me excited.'
Returning its top-two performers in the 100- and 200 meters, and four of its top-five quarter-milers, the UW is loaded as never before in the sprints.
Senior Sean Williams (Kirkland, Wash./Lake Washington) and juniors Phil McCary (Juanita, Wash./Juanita) and Bruce Jackson (Seattle, Wash./Nathan Hale HS/Eastern Washington Univ.) all return from a 4x400m relay squad that reached the NCAA Championships in 2004 and placed fifth at the Pac-10 meet, their time of 3:06.41 the nation's 15th-fastest and the third-best ever at UW.
The relay will likely be even stronger in 2005 with the addition of Shane Charles (Birch Grove, St. Andrew's/St. Aguilan Secondary), a transfer from Central Arizona who led his native Grenada to eighth in the 4x400 at the 2004 Pan-Am Games.
'Last year was an eye-opener for the relay,' Vaughn says. 'With the addition of Shane, the expectation level is raised. Shane has a tremendous sense of what it takes to succeed, and he's able to help other people to manage themselves. He is really something special.'
Charles will also play a central role in the 400-meter hurdles, where his best of 50.92 seconds led all Grenadans in 2004 and earned junior-college All-America honors. Combine that mark with Williams' 51.89 from 2004 -- sixth-fastest ever at UW -- and the Huskies have as strong a 1-2 punch in the event as any Pac-10 team.
'Sean has the potential to compete for a Pac-10 title,' Vaughn says. 'He just needs to have faith in his ability and go all-out from the start.'
The UW will also benefit from the healthy return of Jamaican sprinters Spence and Davidson, the team's top performers at 100- and 200 meters before injuries sidelined both in April.
The Huskies' deep sprints corps also includes McCary and senior Nik Williams (Marysville, Wash./Lake Stevens) -- who each rank among UW's all-time top-10 indoors at 400 meters -- and freshman Michael Mateljan (Fullbrook, Calif./Fullbrook), expected to carry the load in a 100-meter hurdles event thinned by graduation.
With so much experience to work with, Vaughn is focused less on technique than on motivation.
'I don't coach people just to run fast,' he says, 'I coach them to win. We have to execute at a high level to beat the teams in the Pac-10.'
The 800-meter and mile runs bring the crowd to its feet at Dempsey Indoor, and for good reason -- since 2002, those events (along with the 1,500 meters outdoors) have produced for UW five NCAA Championships competitors, two All-Americans, one school record and two freshman records.
Despite the losses of two-time All-American Eric Garner and 2003 NCAA competitors Todd Arnold and John Russell, the Huskies figure to reload in 2005 rather than rebuild, with Pac-10 scorers and talented newcomers filling the gaps.
Leading all UW returnees in both events is sophomore Carl Moe (Auburn, Wash./Auburn), who despite a foot injury in 2004 lowered UW's 1,500-meter freshman record to 3:44.91, and placed eighth in the event at the Pac-10 meet.
While Moe sits out the indoor season to complete his injury rehab, don't be surprised to see senior Andy Fader (Everett, Wash./Cascade) leading the mile at Dempsey Indoor. The fifth-place 1,500-meter finisher at the 2004 Pac-10 meet, the junior boasts three-straight top-10 conference efforts, and is the fourth-fastest miler in UW history.
'Andy and Carl are true leaders,' Metcalf says. 'They set the example everyone else follows.'
Team honors in the 800 could be a true dawg-fight, as sophomore Ryan Brown (Renton, Wash./Renton), the UW indoor freshman record holder at 1:50.97, battles Moe, sophomore Tim Freeman (Bainbridge Island, Wash./Bainbridge) and freshman Austin Abbott (Chehalis, Wash./W.F. West) for UW's top spot.
The state 1,600-meter champ in 2004, Abbott should also make an impact at 1,500, along with junior Jon Hickey (Hanford, Wash./Hanford).
'I've seen some amazing things from those guys this fall,' Metcalf says. 'We need folks to step up and fill the gaps left by Eric, John and Todd, and those four in particular are responding to that challenge in a big way,' Metcalf says.
There's no need for UW to reload in the longer distances, where Washington returns its top-two steeplers, four of its top-five at 5,000 meters and two of its top three at 10,000 meters.
Moe and senior Andrew Robinson (Edmonds, Wash./Edmonds-Woodway) led all Huskies in the steeple in 2004, but will likely cede event honors to sophomore Jesse Fayant (Spokane, Wash./Mead HS/WSU), back at UW after a year at Washington State. As a UW freshman two seasons ago, Fayant ran fourth in the steeple at the Pac-10 meet, with a best of 8:58.81 that ranks fourth among returning Pac-10 steeplers this season.
The Huskies are likewise deep in the longer distances, with Fader leading three returnees among UW's all-time top-four indoors at 5,000 meters, and junior Mark Mandi (Everett, Wash./Everett) one of six Huskies to run under 31 minutes at 10,000 meters in 2004.
It was Mandi who led UW in both events at the Pac-10 meet, posting 11th- and 10th-place finishes, respectively, his 10,000 meter mark of 29:48.92 ranking seventh in UW history. He and Fader, along with Hickey and sophomore Mike Sayenko (Bellevue, Wash./Sammamish) give the UW four returning Pac-10 5,000-meter qualifiers. Add in redshirt freshman Brad Liber (San Diego, Calif./University), coming off a breakout cross country season, and the Huskies have a chance to do serious damage in the event this season.
'The five- and 10K events are the deepest on our team,' Metcalf says. 'Mark Mandi is going to be a force in the Pac-10 this year, and the guys behind him all ran fantastic this fall.'
The Huskies got a glimpse of the future at last year's Pac-10 Championships, where freshman McKane Lee (Arlington, Wash./Arlington) placed sixth with a career-best mark of 16-11 1/2, two inches beyond Walker's freshman best.
'McKane really made some big strides last year,' Licari says. 'He has the talent to be one of the best vaulters in this conference.'
Chasing Lee all season were sophomores Seth Perrins (Tekoa, Wash./Tekoa HS/Ricks College) and Sam Roberts (Cashmere, Wash./Cashmere), each of whom topped the 16-5 mark. They will be joined by Washington state runner-up Loren Duvall (Longview, Wash./Mark Morris) to form a group of four all capable of scoring at the Pac-10 meet.
'That's as deep a group of men's vaulters as we've ever had,' says Licari, who has coached seven All-Americans in the past four years. 'The exciting thing, too, is that each of them still has a lot of room to grow. They're not even close yet to how high they can go.'
Just a year removed from an injury-plagued season that saw UW fail to qualify a single long- or triple-jumper for postseason competition, the Huskies could boast one of the Pac-10's deepest jumps units in 2004.
Washington could potentially be led in all three jumps by freshman Norris Frederick (Seattle, Wash./Roosevelt), who led the nation in 2004 with a prep-best high jump mark of 7-1, and was the nation's fourth-ranked prep in the long jump, at 24-10 1/2. Having already competed against the world's best at the IAAF World Junior Championships this summer, Frederick should have no trouble adapting to competition in the Pac-10, where his marks make him an immediate conference threat.
'Norris is one of the most talented athletes I've ever worked with,' Licari says. 'The challenge is going to be keeping him from over-extending himself, because he never wants to stop jumping.'
Fellow newcomer J.R. Wolfork (Issaquah, Wash./Issaquah HS/PLU), who missed the 2004 season with an injury after earning Division-III All-America honors in 2003 at Pacific Lutheran, gives the UW two long jumpers with bests beyond 23-10, while the healthy return of senior Phillippe Cook (Seattle, Wash./Rainier Beach), himself a Pac-10 high- and long-jump competitor in 2002, will add depth for the Huskies in those events.
Both Wolfork and Frederick have each bettered 48 feet in the triple jump as well, while junior Warren Eickhoff (Snohomish, Wash./Snohomish) is a two-time Pac-10 high jump qualifier with a best finish of sixth in 2004.
'J.R. is going to make a big impact for us,' Licari says. 'The jumps overall in the Pac-10 have been down the last few years, so if these guys are firing on all cylinders at the end of the year, they're capable of scoring a lot of points in those events.'
UW's lone decathlete in 2004, junior Doug Blaty (Coeur d'Alene, Idaho/Lake City HS/Oregon), will be joined by freshman Corey Fredericks (Vancouver, Wash./Evergreen) and junior Blake Bidleman (Redmond, Wash./Inglemoor). The three have just one decathlon between them, but Licari is excited by their potential.
'There's so much room for each of them to grow,' Licari says. 'Corey, in particular, shows a lot of potential. He could be a real threat down the road.'
Throwers have earned more honors than any other unit in UW's long history, and 2004 was no exception. Discus-thrower Will Conwell (Kent, Wash./Kentwood), hammer-thrower Martin Bingisser (Bellevue, Wash./Interlake HS/CS Northridge) and javelin-thrower Brian Harris (Hillsboro, Ore./Hillsboro) each earned top-four finishes at the Pac-10 meet, as throwers accounted for 20 of UW's 45 Pac-10 points.
'Last year was great, and this year could be better,' says UW assistant Bud Rasmussen. 'Those guys each look as good as they ever have.'
Conwell's discus best of 173-5 will be challenged by junior Joe Gatewood (Puyallup, Wash./Puyallup/N. Idaho Coll./Santa Rosa JC), who will also vie sophomore Evan Wilson (Shepherd, Mont./Billings Senior) for shot-put honors.
As it has been for 30 years, the UW is deepest in the javelin, with sophomore Harris' best of 221-0 leading three Huskies over 200 feet. Senior Rigel Wise (Kelso, Wash./Kelso) is a two-time sixth-place Pac-10 finisher with a best of 220-6, while senior Juan Romero (Renton, Wash./Lindbergh) has thrown 208-6, and freshman Dave Nyland (Woodinville, Wash./Woodinville) has gone 197-9.
'Will looks as good as he ever has, and Martin, Brian and Rigel are each capable of earning All-America honors,' Rasmussen says. 'We're in year three of returning this throws program to glory, and I can't imagine a better group of guys to build upon.'
With just a handful of key losses, a talented veteran corps, and top preps and transfers lining up to wear the purple and gold, head coach Greg Metcalf appears well on his way to returning Washington to the Pac-10's top tier.
'This is the most talented team, top to bottom, that I've seen here in my three years,' Metcalf says. 'The key is to stay healthy. We need our best people at their best at the end of the year. If that's the case, we're going to really make some noise.'