2006 Cougar Track & Field Outlook
Dec. 27, 2005
The Washington State University track and field program ended the 2005 season with four All-America certificates and the promise of more as all four recipients return for this season: heptathletes Julie Pickler and Diana Pickler, and pole vaulters Tyson Byers and Tamara Diles. Additionally, sophomore Haley Paul earned All-America honors with her 14th place NCAA Cross Country finish last fall. Solid recruiting classes on both the men's and women's teams provide depth in all events giving the Cougars the most balanced teams in several seasons.
Head Coach Rick Sloan returns for his 33rd year with the program, the 12th season as the head coach. When Cougar jumps coach Kris Grimes moved to Nebraska last year, Sloan made a rather late decision to hire Matt McGee, a former student-athlete who had been a volunteer coach for WSU.
'Matt is an outstanding young coach and is a diligent recruiter,' Sloan said. 'Matt is getting a masters degree in biomechanics so he has a good understanding and a good eye for seeing technical mistakes and being able to make corrections.
Sloan has taken on the coaching duties for the pole vault and the triple jump along with the multi-events and McGee is assisting him with all of those areas as well as coaching the high jump.
'I want to make sure my time is not divided to the point I don't give adequate attention to all of these areas but I think to this point it is very doable. Matt has been very instrumental in helping in these areas and another set of eyes to see things during a practice is very beneficial. I think the situation we have now is working very well.'
Washington State Track & Field Men's Team 2006 Outlook: Proven Vets and Promising Newcomers
A solid mix of proven veterans and promising newcomers have Head Coach Rick Sloan very optimistic about the Washington State men's track and field team this spring.
'We have areas on our men's team where we have one, two and three-person depth and we're very strong,' Sloan said. 'I don't see any areas where we're terribly weak.'
The areas of proven strength, events where the Cougars have Pac-10 scorers and or NCAA participants returning include James McSwain and Jaycee Robertson in the sprints, John Cassleman and Eric Nygard in the intermediate hurdles, All-American Tyson Byers in the pole vault, Martin Boston in the triple jump and Drew Ulrick in the discus. The decathlon, throws and distance events have returning athletes ready to step up their competition performances to a higher level combined with talented newcomers who are developing with great expectations by the coaches.
'Overall, assuming people remain healthy and continue to work hard, I think we have the chance of being very good when put in competitive situations,' Sloan said.
The sprints corps will be one of the Cougars' strongest areas in 2006, led by senior James McSwain, who had a breakout season last spring. After running the 100m dash in 10.19 and the 200m dash in 20.85 at the Mt. SAC Relays, McSwain went on to second place in the 100m at both the Pac-10 Championships and the NCAA West Regional.
'James performed well, especially in the later stages of the season and it is our hope that he continues that throughout his senior season and we pick up where we left off,' Sloan said.
Jaycee Robertson has performed well in both the 100m and the 200m and is followed by Jarrell Nelson and Martin Boston, who doubles with the triple jump. Freshman Devin Timpson, a state champion in the 100m, 200m and 400m, looked good during fall training although Sloan is not quite sure which events Timpson is going to make the strongest contribution.
The Cougars' lineup for the 200m includes McSwain, Robertson, who was fourth in the event at the NCAA West Regional, Nelson and Timpson. They will also contribute on the 4x100m relay squad.
While junior John Cassleman has the best 400m time, he will primarily compete in the intermediate hurdles. Freshman Reny Follett demonstrated his strength and fitness in early training and will contribute in a combination of the 400m and 800m events.
Joining the team at semester are Brian Woods and Justin Woods, brothers from Southern California who have good sprint resumes. Brian Woods has run the 100m in 10.55 and 21.24 while Justin has PR times of 10.48, 21.01w and 48.66. Additionally, both Woods bring experience in both relays.
'Both Justin and Brian bring added depth to our already good sprint corps and give us good options for the relays,' Sloan said.
In the 4x400m relay, WSU will use a combination of runners from many events, possibly including hurdlers Cassleman and Eric Nygard, the Woods brothers, Follett, and Martin Boston, who ran a 47.7 relay leg in conference meet last year.
MEN'S MIDDLE DISTANCE
The middle distance events will have one senior and several first-year competitors who will need to prove themselves.
In the 800m, senior Justin Ireland has the fastest time at 1:51.89, clocked last spring before sustaining debilitating injuries when he was hit by a bicycle.
'It is a shame that we didn't see what Justin was capable of at the end of last season because his accident took him out of training for a while,' Sloan said. 'He was just starting to hit his stride and get things going. With this year's strong cross country base behind him, he'll be mostly a 1500m guy but he has shown he can run a good 800m too.'
Justin Chambers can provide strength in both the 800m and 1500m after accumulating one more cross county training season under his belt. His level of competition can be a factor in team standings for the Cougs.
Newcomers include freshmen Jimmy Schofield, who has run a 1:54.08, Reny Follett, Matt Miller, and Sam Stone. Follett is really inexperienced at 800m after being a prep sprinter and just moving up to 400m. Sloan considers him a very fast and very powerful runner who is up for the challenge.
While senior Danny Wolf has the top 1500m time (3:46.8), his talents will mainly be used during the championship season; at the Pac-10 and NCAA level where Wolf is the Cougars' premier 5k runner. Sophomore steeplechaser Phil Hinrichs will dip down and run an 800m or 1500m on occasion but in the meets that matter, he'll be leaping barriers and water hazards.
Clay Hemlock, a senior transfer from Portland State who runs a large range from 800m to 10k, will compete indoors but redshirt this spring.
'This is an area where we have a lot of talented people participating but we need to see who makes the natural progression and steps up to run fast times for us when we need it,' Sloan said.
The distance events for the Cougars will have seniors Danny Wolf and Mike Heidt leading the way with a large group of freshmen learning to compete in one of the toughest areas in the Pac-10.
Wolf, a 3000m indoor All-American, has a 5k time of 14:05.34 followed by junior Andrew Jones' time of 14:22.84. Alex Grant will compete indoors but will redshirt the outdoor season. Rounding out the returning 5k racers are Ryan Freimuth and Chris Williams. Sloan noted that Freimuth had a breakout cross country season that will build confidence in his ability to race well in 5k and maybe the 10k on the track.
Heidt has a 10k time of 30:03.68 and Sloan looks for him to drop his 5k time and see the benefits in his 10k races. The Cougar distance runners usually race a 10k only once before the conference meet in May.
'We'll have to see if they're ready to race on the track and race the best in the Pac-10,' Sloan said. 'They're on a roll right now and we just want to keep that going. They think they can be competitive and that is a good frame of mind to be in.'
There are a handful of freshmen ready to run the longer distances to be evaluated during the indoor season with those who can make a contribution this year continuing to compete while the rest will redshirt.
Freshman Robert Williams is generating a lot of excitement in the high hurdles for the Cougars. Williams, the California state champion, has run a sub-14 seconds 110m hurdles race in high school.
'I think Robert will adapt very quickly to the three-inch higher hurdles just because he is a big, strong guy,' Sloan said. 'He is our top guy, our ace. With his big stride I think he is going to do very well in the intermediate hurdles as well.'
John Cassleman returns as the top intermediate hurdler after a great year last year. He finished fourth in the Pac-10 and ran a PR of 50.50.
'We need to keep John healthy and I think he will progress nicely and wouldn't be surprised to see him under 50-seconds this year,' Sloan said.
Seniors Eric Nygard and Leyk will provide depth in the 400m hurdles with Williams an unknown factor but giving the Cougs a potential of four very good intermediate hurdlers.
In the 3000m steeplechase, Phil Hinrichs had a great freshman year with a PR of 9:08.74. Chris Concha and newcomers Evan Blanshan, a transfer from Portland State, and freshman Sam Ahlbeck round out the event.
'Phil is a very good athlete with a lot of natural talent,' Sloan said. 'Keep him fit and he can be a very good steeplechaser for us.'
Sloan believes the two WSU high jumpers have the ability to clear 7-feet and would like to see that happen this season. Senior high jumper Ryan Thomas spent last season in transition after transferring from junior college last year but has shown that he is a very strong and very talented jumper. Thomas can also compete in the long and triple jumps but will primarily be a high jumper. Sophomore Kyle Eaton has made some technical changes and Sloan believes he'll do well if he manages the knee tendonitis that held him back last year.
With Head Coach Rick Sloan taking over the pole vault coaching duties this event will remain another strong area for the Cougar men. Senior Tyson Byers pushed his PR to 17-8 1/2 last year with a fifth place finish at the NCAA Championships and should find continued success through the 2006 indoor and outdoor season. Sophomore DJ Brown cleared 16-feet in high school but an injury wiped out his freshman year and he was a work-in-progress last season. Sloan is excited about Brown's potential and with his progress in terms of speed and stride turnover. Decathlete Brandon Brownell will provide depth in the pole vault and many other events.
Martin Boston is a 24-4 1/2 long jumper but likely will not compete in this event because it causes ankle irritation and Sloan feels Boston is too valuable as a triple jumper, sprinter, and relay runner to take a chance on injury in the long jump. So the Cougars will rally around a group of 23-foot long jumpers with Thomas occasionally competing but sophomore Nick Isaac and Brownell carrying the event. Isaac leaped 23-3 in high school but had a sub-par year in 2005. He has already shown signs of getting back to that distance and beyond from his training this year. Brownell has had problems with his shins and lower leg injuries most of his career so he will have limited work in the long jump.
Where the long jump is slim, the triple jump will be a strong area for WSU. Boston soared to 50-11 last year at the Pac-10 Championships and proved he is very good.
'I think Martin is a lot better than people expect him to be,' Sloan said. 'I've seen what he's capable of in the triple jump and he's very, very talented. I wouldn't want to put a number on it but I think he's going to jump very far this year.'
Joining Boston is freshman Moreno Zapata, one of the top high school jumpers in the nation with a 50-11 1/2w triple jump last year.
'Moreno has worked hard and is getting a little different understanding of triple jump,' Sloan said. 'We've changed a few things but he's picking it up and I think we'll have a very strong one-two punch in the triple jump.'
The Cougars have depended on their top discus thrower to lead them in the shot put but junior Drew Ulrick done a good job with a shot put PR of 53-3 1/2 and is continuing to improve. A handful of freshmen are joining Ulrick in training and progressing well, which creates a competitive atmosphere. Matt Lamb has shown some outstanding ability in both the shot put and discus after being among the national prep leaders in both events last year.
'Lamb is going to be an outstanding thrower for us,' Sloan said. 'He's not real big but he also ran 10.6 for 100m in high school so he's a very explosive guy.'
Fellow frosh Vic Asher and Clint Osborn should add depth in the shot put, although throws coach Debra Farwell is working with Asher to improve his strength and Osborn to develop his technique. The goal for all three freshmen and Ulrich are to develop to the point they all contribute to the team score at the conference meet.
Ulrick, an NCAA discus participant last year, will be joined by state champions Lamb (Idaho) and freshman Chase Mancuso (Washington) in this event.
Philip McArthur spent his freshman year as a redshirt to learn the hammer throw and has already surpassed his season-best of 168-1 in practice this year. Sloan thinks McArthur will be a very good thrower for the Cougs and is looking forward to watching his development over the next four years. Mancuso will also throw hammer this season.
The javelin throwers had a strong showing last year and Sloan looks for all of them to move to a little higher level this year. Sophomores Jon Jeffries (208-4) and Ryan Scott (202-5) competed well when they needed to but didn't have their best performances at the conference meet.
'I look for them to do a little more this year,' Sloan said. 'They are still figuring it out but they have been working hard and I look for improved performances from both of them.'
Freshman Cameron Schwisow shows the potential to develop into a good thrower after tossing the javelin 195-0 in high school. Senior Billy Reamer is still trying to come back from earlier elbow surgery but Sloan is hopeful that he can get back up over 200 feet.
MEN'S MULTI EVENTS
Junior Brandon Brownell reached a decathlon PR of 6847 points last year despite battling numerous minor injuries. Sloan, who coaches the multi-events athletes, hopes he found a partial solution to some of Brownell's leg injuries by having him practice all technical work in flats, minimizing his time spent in spiked shoes.
'Brandon has always demonstrated the competitiveness and athletic skill and strength to be an outstanding decathlete,' Sloan said. 'The problem has always been his inability to work on the things he needs to due to injury issues. Our objective is to keep him as healthy as a decathlete can be and spend the time working on the techniques he needs to, specifically in the high jump, which is a weak event for him. But he has the ability and talent to be a good high jumper. We just have to practice it.'
With a healthy body Brandon does good things this year in the decathlon.
Washington State Track & Field Women's Team 2006 Outlook: Cougs Anchored by Four Returning All-Americans
Returning for the Cougar women are four All-Americans and two conference champions. The All-Americans are pole vaulter Tamara Diles, heptathletes Diana Pickler and Julie Pickler, and cross country runner Haley Paul. Julie Pickler was also the Pac-10 heptathlon champ joining high jump winner Robin Mikesh. An additional six women who scored at the conference meet return to a solid Cougar team which includes three state champions and a freshman from Sweden among the newcomers.
'I look for the returnees to improve and compete at an even higher level and we have some newcomers on the team I am excited about,' Head Coach Rick Sloan said.
While strong overall, the WSU women's team has some areas where the level of strength is a question yet to be answered. Sloan has seen a new level of commitment and dedication from some returning athletes who have performed a little below expectations in the past. The added dedication has been seen in their training, performance and attitude. The newcomers' development and early competition outcomes will answer the depth questions and Sloan's desire to have all people perform up to their capabilities.
'My expectation is that our women's team will be better than we were last year and we were pretty good last year,' Sloan said. 'We have areas on our team where we are as good as anybody in the nation in terms of quality and depth. We just need to have the areas where we're not quite as strong to be representative and be able to contribute at the level we need at the Pac-10 and in our dual meets.'
A combination of returnees, newcomers and multi-events performers will compete in the sprints for the Cougar women.
Senior Nicole Hatcher has the best 100m time at 11.88w but it is from her sophomore season so Sloan looks for her to drop back down to that time and a little lower. Sophomores La Shawnda Porter and Nicole McClendon run the 100m in the 12.0 range and look to drop their times to the 11.0 range.
Freshman Jeanne Newman looks to be very talented coming in with high school times of 12.06 in the 100m and 24.34 in the 200m. Sprints coaches Mark Macdonald and Ellannee Richardson are working on her running mechanics and improving her start.
'Jeanne has a very light, quick active stride and she's going to be very good, especially in the 200m,' Sloan said. 'I think she can help us in the 4x400m relay as well.'
In the 200m Newman has the top mark with WSU's All-American heptathletes Julie and Diana Pickler adding strong performances. Porter showed promising signs of development in the 200m during fall training.
Brandi Probasco-Canda is capable of running in the 200m but is primarily a 400m runner and after her hard work in the off-season Sloan looks for a sub-54 seconds performance from her. Freshman Lorraine King ran 55.24 open 400m last year but will use her strength and learn to hurdle in the intermediate event.
In the 4x100m relay Sloan hopes to see more sprinters step in and take over the segments the heptathletes have been providing. But the Picklers are ready for 4x400m relay duty especially after Julie ran a 53.1 split on the anchor leg at the conference meet last spring. If Probasco-Canda and King, or anyone else can drop their times down into the 54s or below, the Cougar women's 4x400m will be pretty fast.
WOMEN'S MIDDLE DISTANCE
After an outstanding cross country season Haley Paul will work everywhere from 800m to 5000m and is expected to perform very well and reach PRs in all of those areas.
Sara Trané, a freshman from Sweden, came to WSU as an intermediate hurdler but also ran 2:11.17 in the 800m. The coaches are enthused about her 800m possibilities, especially during the indoor season.
Isley Gonzalez is one of the stronger 1500m performers followed by Meghan Leonard and Collier Lawrence. Leonard will primarily compete in the steeplechase outdoors. Redshirt sophomores Karen DeMartini and Katie Troy have dealt with injuries and set backs in their WSU careers to date but as healthy runners will see competition in both the 800m and 1500m. Freshman Marisa Sandoval will run in the 1500m and 3000m.
'Marisa had a good cross country season, is a good racer and a strong runner,' Sloan said. 'She will help us on the track.'
A dominate factor for the Cougar women in the distance events will be cross country All-American Haley Paul. She reached the NCAA Regional 1500m as a freshman last year but is a different runner this year. Paul's improved conditioning and training through the summer equated into a very strong cross country season. WSU Head Cross Country Coach Jason Drake sees Paul making a smooth transition and finding continued success in distance races on the track oval.
Gonzalez and Leonard are coming off solid cross country seasons and that training should pay off on the track this spring. Lawrence, Kelly Ramirez and Natalie Smith bring experience in the longer races. Ramirez was a Pac-10 scorer in the 10k and had her best cross country season so Sloan is looking for that experience to pay dividends on the track.
The Cougars' top three hurdlers are heptathletes Diana Pickler, Julie Pickler and Katie Miller. Diana reached her lifetime best of 13.68 last year. Julie came close to her lifetime best of 13.79w during the NCAA heptathlon when she ran 14.07.
Rounding out the 100m hurdles are freshman Angelica Flynn, the state 4A champion in the hurdles with a time of 14.71, and Lorraine King, who has run 14.8 but will see more time as an intermediate hurdler.
'Look for both Picklers to be down in the mid 13s if not faster and Katie Miller to be in the low 14s this year,' Sloan predicts.
Meghan Leonard had a great season in the steeplechase, setting the freshman school record and reaching the NCAA Regional qualifying standard. The Cougars' steeple corps includes Lawrence and Kayle Peterson, both former school record-holders. That record may be in jeopardy again as freshman Marisa Sandoval is a strong runner with the body-type needed to learn the event and excel in it too.
'We have three proven strong performers but we need to see all three make a significant drop in times to be competitive in this conference and I think they are capable of doing that,' Sloan said.
The WSU high jump corps will be very strong with five accomplished jumpers. Senior Robin Mikesh, returns to defend her Pac-10 high jump title after reaching 5-10 last year. Sloan sees continued progress in Mikesh's high jumping and expects her to challenge the six-foot barrier this year. Heptathletes Diana and Julie Pickler cleared 5-9 1/4 and Katie Miller cleared 5-7 1/4 so they will high jump when needed. Sophomore McKinnon Hanson cleared 5-7 at the conference meet and continues to progress this year.
There are only two Cougar women pole vaulters but both are good, making this another very strong event for WSU. Two-time All-American Tamara Diles has the school record of 14-3 1/4 and has made significant adjustments in her running and vaulting technique. Sloan, who is coaching the vaulters this year, expects the hard-working Diles to reach a PR this year with some high heights.
Freshman Tiffany Maskulinski, the top prep pole vaulter and the only high school girl to ever clear 14-feet outdoors, has joined the Cougar team. Sloan has seen her get stronger in fall training and expects that to contribute to even higher heights at WSU.
'I don't know if there is another school in the country with a one-two punch like this in the pole vault,' Sloan said.
Coach Sloan expects to have five WSU women long jumping in the mid-19-foot range and a few leaping at the 20-foot distance this year. Leading the way in this strong event are the WSU heptathletes; all three accomplished long jumpers. Sophomore Sarah Burns did not jump as well as her prep PR of 19-6 3/4 so reaching 20-feet, if not further, is a point of emphasis for this season. Freshman Catie Schuetzle, a very gifted and talented state long jump champion, is developing her technique and getting prepared to compete at the collegiate level.
Burns and Kaylee Gardner are back in the triple jump, both 40-footers who competed at the NCAA Regional meet. Schuetzle is working on technical development is capable of reaching beyond her prep state meet second place leap of 39-feet.
'Catie's a natural jumper and a very good jumper who has to learn how to use those talents effectively with her technique,' Sloan said. 'I think she is going to be an outstanding horizontal jumper for the Cougs.'
After a brief volleyball career at WSU McKenzie Burgess Garberg returned to throwing last year and produced some good performances as the season progressed.
'McKenzie's a very good athlete but I think she's going to be an outstanding thrower in shot, discus and hammer, doing all three successfully for us,' Sloan said.
Jessica Zita was in a transition last year, improving her marks while still learning the shot, discus and hammer. Zita, a strong thrower, is expected to continue to move forward this year in all three events. Freshman Katie Corder is in the developmental stages of learning the hammer and will probably redshirt this season.
The WSU javelin record-holder, Jenna Dean, returns for her senior season. Last spring Dean demonstrated big improvement, finishing second in Pac-10 as well as throwing in the NCAA Regional and national championships.
'Jenna worked hard in fall training and I think she easily has the capacity and talent to be an NCAA scorer for us,' Sloan said.
Throws coach Debra Fawell saw Jasmine McCormack javelin throw as a high school junior and saw a very live arm and a lot of talent, the physical tools to be an outstanding thrower. Once she develops her run-up and gets her technique down, she can be a very good javelin thrower. Brett Bogachus and Shannon Posey are freshmen walk-ons who are expected to develop into strong throwers.
WOMEN'S MULTI EVENTS
The heptathlon is one of the strongest areas on the Cougars team with three conference scorers including conference champion Julie Pickler.
Sloan looks for senior Katie Miller to have an outstanding season. Miller approached her off-season conditioning and technical development work with a sense of urgency as her motivation to complete her collegiate career with strong performances.
Junior All-Americans Julie and Diana Pickler have reached success at the conference and national level but are not satisfied to keep things status quo.
'I'm always looking to say hey that's a nice job, what can we do to get better the next time out?' Sloan said. 'With those two we are looking to take it up to another level. With the development of heptathletes, it's not just about one thing but across the board that you're trying to develop the skill level in every event. They're all leaders; all very highly motivated, very competitive and hard workers. When people start believing that they can compete and that they deserve to have this level of success because of the sacrifices they've made, great things happen.'