Beavers Back On Track After 17 Years

March 1, 2005

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SATURDAY, MARCH 5Oregon State at Willamette Invitational;Salem, Ore.; 12:30 p.m.

Oregon State will travel to Salem this weekend for its first women's track meet in 17 years when the Beavers compete at the Willamette Invitational at McCulloch Stadium. OSU's last track meet was the 1988 NCAA Championships; the school then dropped its women's and men's cross country and track programs.

OSU brought back its women's programs in those sports for the 2004-05 academic year and most of the Beavers now have a season of collegiate cross country under their belt. Under the leadership of head coach Kelly Sullivan - who ran and coached at Willamette before coming to OSU - the Beavers are coming off a successful autumn in which they finished 16th out of 28 teams at the NCAA West Regional.

'We are trying to get the girls comfortable with running college track,' Sullivan said. 'We are going to run 24 ladies, with only three of them having run in a college meet before and five or six of them having never run in a track meet before. It's elementary right now, so that's probably the biggest thing we will work on is getting the ladies to figure out how to perform at a college track meet.'

Half the runners will be competing in the 1,500 meters, while the other half will be competing in the 800.

'It's an open meet and it's not scored so there is no pressure,' Sullivan said. 'It's just exciting to open our season, 17 years removed (from OSU's last meet) back at my alma mater and the place where I just finished coaching. I'm really very excited - there is no better place to get started, it is a pretty familiar area'.

Most of OSU's runners from last fall's cross country squad will be returning for the track season, with a few new additions to the team.

'We are going to run a young lady by the name of Ashley Francis who went to Westview High School in Beaverton,' Sullivan said. 'She is the only one we are going to run for now, because a few of the runners are still very new (to OSU's program). I'm excited to watch her run because she is doing really well in practice. We had hoped she could run cross country but time restraints kept her from participating.

'Overall this first meet is like a practice meet for me. A time effort for me to see where we are at and what we need to do training wise for the upcoming season.'

The Beavers will be looking toward Ashley Younce and Naomi Palmer to help lead the track team this season.

'Based upon our cross country season, I'm curious to see how Ashley Younce will perform on the track,' Sullivan said. 'Naomi Palmer is someone else we will be looking to as well, she ran collegiately at Bowdoin and had a pretty good year'.

Ashley Younce finished 32nd last season at the NCAA West Regional with a time of 21 minutes, 36 seconds, three spots away from qualifying for the NCAA Championships, while Palmer finished 58th in the 199-runner field.

'There are a lot of question marks,' Sullivan said when referring to potential new standout performers on the team. 'I'm excited because unlike cross country, where I really wasn't sure what to expect, we are in a lot better shape and a lot more prepared now. With our first cross country meet we had only been together for nine days and now we've got six months under our belt.'

HEAD COACH KELLY SULLIVAN: Kelly Sullivan came to Oregon State in January, 2004 to re-start OSU's program after being head cross country and track and field coach at nearby Willamette University, a Division III school in Salem, Ore., since 1997. Sullivan was also an assistant coach at Auburn from 1984-96, and head coach at Clackamas Community College (Ore.) from 1980-84.

Sullivan, 47, guided Willamette's teams to three top-10 nationalfinishes in cross country and track and coached 23 All-Americans, including five individuals who won national championships. t Auburn, he coached 36 All-Americans and at Clackamas he coached 24 NJCAA All-Americans.

Sullivan was an All-American in the steeplechase and cross country at Willamette before graduating in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in History and Education. A native of Nehalem, Ore., he graduated from Neah-Kah-Nie High.

OREGON STATE TAKES TO THE ROAD: Oregon State will spend at least the first season of its revived cross country and track programs without a home course or track. The Beavers ran in one meet in Corvallis during cross country season at the Oregon State Track Club Invitational, however they will remain on the road for all of their 2005 track season.

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