Women Of Troy Track And Field Hopes To Return To Nation's Elite

Feb. 24, 2005

Who are the 2005 Women of Troy?

Three seasons have passed since USC won its first NCAA team title in Eugene. Two campaigns have gone by since a No. 3 showing in Baton Rouge. The past two years--2003 and 2004--saw a 13th and a 12th-place showing, respectively.

So what can we expect in 2005? More of the same? Or a return to the lofty perch of a few years back?

There certainly is no lack of talent available. The roster is filled with runners, jumpers and throwers who were among the best in their age group coming out of high school, junior college or the international scene. But the last couple years, they just haven't been able to put it all together. While finishing 12th might be considered doing well at some schools, it is not a tolerable ranking for the University of Southern California.

Looking at his team heading into spring, 11th-year head coach Ron Allice is cautiously optimistic that this group has what it takes to once again do great things.

'I really like the work ethic of this team' said Allice, who directs both the men's and women's squads. 'Our fall program was successful and for the most part we are healthy. We have the potential to have a fairly balanced squad, which is always one of my goals. I think if we stay fit and keep working hard, we can go a long way at the conference and NCAA meets.'

The 2005 USC team featuers a blend of youngsters and veterans that will have to gel quickly this spring to be successful. The last two seasons saw outstanding recruiting classes and now is the time for those classes to bear fruit.

'We are talented, there's no doubt about that,' said Allice. 'But we need to show more heart and rise to the occasion in the big meets. And I think some leaders have to emerge to set examples for the others if they should struggle.'

The 2005 season features another challenging schedule, with a trip to the Texas Relays, the annual Dual Meet with UCLA, the Pac-10 Championships in Westwood, the NCAA West Regionals in Eugene and the NCAA Championships in Sacramento.

'I believe we are up to the task,' said Allice. 'It's time to get on our marks and go.'

Events Breakdown

USC has been one of the preeminent sprint schools in the past 10 years, with such names as Inger Miller, Torri Edwards, Angela Williams and Natasha Mayers making their marks in the Cardinal and Gold. This season, there is a lot of depth and a lot of talent, but much of it is young. Returning athletes include 2004 Pac-10 100m champion Virginia Powell (11.32), a junior who also is an elite competitor in the 100m HH. She is ready for an outstanding season. Senior Alexis Weatherspoon (11.58/23.76) is the most experienced of the group and a three-time Pac-10 100m finalist. Sophomore Dominique Dorsey (11.97/23.70) showed flashes as a freshman and should continue to develop, while sophomores Whitney Graham (12.42) and Tara Davis-Quarrie (12.00) are working hard to lower their times.

Adding to this group is a remarkable group of freshmen sprinters that should make waves from the get-go. USC signed four of the fastst young women in the nation, including Jessica Onyepunuka (11.31), Carol Rodriguez (11.43), Jasmine Lee (52.52/23.3) and Talia Stewart (13.33 in the 100m HH).

'Ginnie Powell has shown great development at USC and is ready to turn it up to the next level,' said sprints coach Tina Fernandes. 'Alexis Weatherspoon has grown a lot the last couple years. She is beginning to feel that special gift that we saw in her when she was being recruited. Dominique Dorsey is determined to be successful from start to finish, so watch out for her this year. Whitney Graham is someone to keep an eye on, while Tara Davis-Quarrie will help out our depth here. The newcomers are all pretty special. Onyepunuka has the potential to be one of USC's all-time great sprinters. Rodriguez has been very impressive in workouts and looks to be the real deal. Lee shows tremendous versatility running the 100m, 200m and 400m. Stewart is a hurdler but has the raw talent to run with the sprinters. These women are special, gifted and wonderful young people to work with. As a coach, I wake up each day and hope I am not dreaming.'

The 400m returns junior Tracee Thomas (52.99) and sophomore Treani Swain (53.62) and will get help from incoming freshman Jasmine Lee (52.52). Both the 400m and 1600m relays stand to be improved in 2005, thanks to the fresh influx of depth and talent.

The middle distances should once again be strong for the Women of Troy. The top returner in the 800m is senior Gina Clayton (2:08.46), who scored at last year's Pac-10s and was a finalist at the NCAA Regionals. Sophomore Treani Swain (2:09.09), who also runs the 400m, will be a big contributor in the 800m. In the 1500m, the Women of Troy are anchored by All-American senior Iryna Vashchuk (4:12.79). Vashchuk is a two-time NCAA qualifer in cross country and last year she finished sixth in the 1500m at the NCAA outdoor meet. She has the capability to run the 800m and the 5000m. Sophomore Kristen Berglas (4:38) adds depth to the 1500m and will contribute at the Pac-10 level. In the 3000m steeplechase, junior Meghan Mainwaring and sophmore Victoria Carter are the two main competitors. Junior Kate Neeper leads a long distance squad that scored in the 5000m and 10,000m at Pac-10s last year. Neeper was fifth at the conference meet in the 10K. Senior distance captain Harlye Maya, plus Kate Pinta and Christina Eads, add depth to the distance corps.

'Gina was solid for us last year,' said distance coach Tom Walsh. 'She came through for us when we needed her most at the dual meet, Pac-10s and Regionals. She has a good chance this year to make it to the NCAAs. Treani is ready for a breakout season in the 800m. Her 400m speed makes her dangerous and she has made major improvements in her strength and endurance. She has NCAA potential. Iryna keeps getting better and better. Her work ethic is second to none and she loves to compete in high pressure meets. She creates fear in her competitors. Kate Neeper had a breakthrough year for us last year, but she has a lot of room to get better.'

The hurdles should be a strength for the Women of Troy in 2005. USC returns 2003 100m HH All-American and school record holder Virginia Powell (13.07), a junior who also is the reigning Pac-10 100m champion. She has a chance to score some big time points come conference and NCAA time. Highly-touted sophomore short hurdler Candice Davis struggled somewhat as a freshman (13.93), but looks like she'll bounce back and have a breakthrough season in year two. Junior Tunisia Johnson is the top returning intermediate hurdler. She owns the eighth-fastest 400m IH time in USC history at 59.59, but she'll need to drop into the 57-second range to make waves at the conference level. The Women of Troy will get a big boost with the addition of prep All-American hurdler Talia Stewart, the two-time state high hurdles champ in high school. Expect to see big things from her fairly soon.

'Virginia Powell has improved her technique and is ready for a big performance this season,' said Allice. 'Candice Davis is much fitter this year and had a good fall. She should make an impact and contribute well for us. Tunisia Johnson is working on her overall strength. Her mechanics have improved--we'll need her to come through for us down the stretch. Talia Stewart is the real deal and was one of the best hurdlers coming out of high school.'

The Women of Troy should also be outstanding in the jumps this year. Sophomore Michelle Sanford is on her way to being one of the great horizontal jumpers in USC history. She won the Pac-10 long jump title as a freshman and bounded 43-9 1/4 in the triple jump--the third-best mark ever at Troy. She'll be backed by steady senior Tiffany Jones (19-0) and incoming junior Katarzyna Klisowska, a top Polish jumper (21-0, 42-0). She had knee surgery in the fall but should be back in form by mid season. In the high jump, USC benefits from the transfer of sophomore Alexandra Church from Kent State. Church (6-2) was the 2003 NCAA Indoor runner up in the high jump. Look for her to challenge the school record this season.

'We should be very solid in the jumps,' said jumps coach Mike Pullins. 'Michelle was undefeated as a collegiate in the long jump until injuring her hamstring at the West regional. She is just a talented young woman. Klisowska was slowed by her surgery, but we are expecting big things from her at some point. It could be the long-awaited breakthrough for Tiffany Jones, who had a productive fall and showed improvements in the weightroom. The Pac-10 Conference long jump will have arguably the most competitive field in recent years, but we'll be up to the challenge.'

The throws program will be hard pressed to replace the production of all-time USC NCAA throws point scorer Inga Stasiulionyte, who had an NCAA title and three runner up finishes to her credit in four years. Replacing shot put record holder L'Orangerie Crawford will also be tough. But USC is not without some good talent to see it through such losses. In the hammer, the Women of Troy return Trojan freshman record holder Julia Rozenfeld (201-2), who placed 10th at the NCAAs last year. In the discus, sophomore Kate Hutchinson should challenge for the school record of 177-10 after throwing 168-1 as a freshman last year. Hutchinson also adds depth in the hammer (148-9), along with sophomore Alexandrea Williams. In the javelin, senior Leslie Erickson and sophomore Andrea McBride are 2-3, respectively, on the Women of Troy all-time javelin chart. If Erickson (168-11) can stay healthy, she has a shot at making it to NCAAs. McBride (146-2) has been impressive in training and looks to make a major improvement this season.

'Julia is an intense competitor in the hammer,' said throws coach Dan Lange. 'She doesn't look the part of a hammer thrower, but she has great technique to make up for her lack of size. Kate had a nice freshman year, but I look for her to take it to the next lever this season. She has a chance to make it to NCAAs this year. Leslie Erickson is back to full strength after her shoulder surgery and looks to improve upon her PR of 168-11 that she set at the UCLA dual meet in 2002. Andrea McBride is training very well and should surprise some people with her improvement.'

USC's pole vault program continue to develop and will be coached by volunteer assistant Brooks Morris, a former Trojan vaulter. Senior Melissa Astete is the school record older at 12-11 1/2. She'll be backed by junior Shannon Lewallen (11-10) and Jessica Luna (10-10).