Women Crack Top-10 In Newest Poll
Feb. 18, 2009
The last time The University of Arizona's women track and field team cracked the top-10 rankings in any poll in any season--indoor or outdoor--was in 2002 when the Wildcats were still coached by Dave Murray and now-head coach Fred Harvey was still the associate head coach. The only other member of the current coaching staff on the 2002 squad is sprint and hurdles coach Dawn Boxley. That team was ranked No. 2 in the country in early February of the year and that was the last time the team had enjoyed such success. At least until now.
In the newest rankings released by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches of America, the UA women's squad climbed two positions to the No. 10 position in the country. This marks the first time ever the team has cracked the top-10 under the current ranking formula and the first time since the long gone Trackwire 25 polling system that the team has been ranked as high, period.
Led by a monstrous jump from junior Liz Patterson in the high jump event of the Iowa State University Classic in Ames, Iowa this past weekend, the team is looking at one of it's most impressive campaigns in quite some time.
'We're definitely very excited about the direction that the teams are going and having them constantly climbing into the top-10,' said head coach Harvey who was the sprints and hurdles coach on the 2002 squad. 'The really neat thing is that we were trying to get athletes to peak mentally and physically as we move towards conference and national meet and that's really what has happened for us.'
With the championship season essentially kicking off next weekend in Seattle, Wash. at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships - the indoor equivalent of the Pac-10/West Region Championships - the team can only hope that they have not quite peaked their potential yet. The No. 10 women and No. 24 men can very easily be contenders at the national meet and Harvey fully expects his squad to respond to the call.
'This just show the hard work they have put forth and what their capabilities are,' he said. 'We just have to come out at the conference and national level and do what we can do.'__________
This Week in Track and Field
The No. 10 women's and No. 24. men's UA track and field teams will head up north to take part in an NAU Tune-Up meet as they prepare to get ready for the upcoming indoor championships season.
The meet will consist of several Arizona athletes who are on the outside looking in on the national descending order list in their respective events or those who are right on the bubble and looking for good marks to give them a little breathing room before the final NCAA Indoor Championship competitor list is announced.
Other athletes are just some of the younger athletes or those who have not had an opportunity to compete much this season as Harvey looks to get all his athletes ready for next weekend's MPSF Championships, which will arguably be the UA's biggest meet of the season.
The biggest storyline as far as I'm concerned is on this whole team of men and women there is a very nice cross section of veteran athletes competing at high level and really talented young people that are really grasping what this is all about,' Harvey said. 'They are seeing the level of importance in their training and how they compete each week and you can really see the whole team getting excited about what their possibilities are. I'm really excited for what they're doing as a team.'
Some athletes who could really use a big meet this weekend include Luis Rivera-Morales who is on both ends of the bubble spectrum. In the long jump, he sits 14th in the country and in the triple jumps he is sitting at 16. Only the top-16 athletes in each particular event will advance to the NCAA Championships.
Dutch and Jaci Perryman, Shevell Quinley and Jasmin Day are another batch of athletes looking at the same or similar situations and all will look for big marks in Flagstaff before the weekend is over.
Deserving a Pat on the Back
Junior Liz Patterson has competed in only three high jump events this season. And she has won all of them. Patterson moved her victory streak to four in a row carrying over from last season's NCAA championship victory in the event with another victory last Saturday at the ISU Classic in Ames, Iowa.
What's more important than the winning streak, however, was the fashion in which she accomplished it. Patterson soared into the national lead in her premier event with a all-time personal best of 1.93m (6-4) thanks to a gut checking decision by her coach, Sheldon Blockburger.
Leading up to the impressive jump, Harvey had said it was not on of Patterson's best days. But Patterson was the only athlete to clear 1.81m ( 5-11 1/4), which was far below her personal record of 1.88m (6-2). Instead of gradually working up to that mark with her next jump, Blockburger made the executive decision to bump the bar up to 1.89m (6-2 1/4).
The decision was made to help Patterson get used to making the higher jumps she is going to see at the national level and, with the victory already at hand, Patterson had nothing to lose.
'What happened then was absolutely incredible,' Harvey said. 'As soon as Sheldon moved the bar up to 6-2 1/4 it was like a light bulb turned on in her head and it was a whole different story.'
After missing the first jump at the new height, Patterson cleared the second jump to set her new personal record. But she was not done yet.
With the bar then set at 1.91m (6-3 1/4) and a chance to tie the University of Texas' Destinee Hooker for the national lead, Patterson easily cleared it on her first attempt.
Upwards the bar went to 1.93m (6-4) and all that that would have Patterson would have been the national lead, a facility record, a new personal record and the No. 4 mark in Arizona high jumping history. No Problem. Patterson cleared that bar on her first attempt as well.
Asked afterwards what they were feeding her in Iowa that brought out that kind of performance, Patterson jokingly said 'Wheaties'. The humble Texas native is only the fourth UA athlete since 1990 to clear 1.90m (6-2 ¾) and the first since Erin Aldridge did it in Indianapolis in 1997.
Patterson is the defending outdoor national champion in the event and a huge reason for the women's squad's climb into the top-10. She will have this weekend off as she prepares to lead her team at the MPSF meet in Seattle, but her sights are set on the national championship in College State in three weeks and last Saturday's performance will hopefully be just a preview of things to come.