Twelve 'Cats on The Big Stage
June 9, 2009
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Big. Huge. Those were the two words senior pole vaulter Nick Mossberg used to summarize the NCAA National Outdoor Championships. As far as collegiate meets are concerned, it does not get any bigger than this weekend for the UA track and field team as they will send 12 to Fayetteville, Ark. for the next four days with their eyes on national championship glory.
For some athletes, like Mossberg, this will be the last time they hit the track for a collegiate event. Megan Howard, Zack Lloyd, Luis Rivera-Morales, Jordan Powell, Irine Lagat, and Shevell Quinley represent the UA seniors in the competition this year, showing just how important the veteran's are to this squad. For some of those listed above, this could be the last meet they compete in period while others may go on to promising careers in the sport post-collegiately. Either way, this is the last chance for any of them to take home National Title accolades.
Last year, the UA's Liz Patterson shocked many in the track and field world as she came to this meet and upset the heavy favorite in Sharon Day to claim the women's high jump title. Patterson returns for Arizona this year, only a junior, looking for a repeat. She was the runner-up indoors but has remained mostly under the radar this outdoor season. That may be how she likes it though, as that's the exact position she found herself in in Des Moines, Iowa when she pulled off the impressive upset.
Others on the UA squad may look to follow in Patterson's footsteps of last year as it could be said that no UA athlete is a 'favorite' to win in any of the events they are slotted to compete in. But crazier things have happened and all that matters is who comes up to compete on that particular day.
This year's squad certainly has it's fair share of competitors, however, that will certainly be favorites for All-American status. Lloyd enters the meet ranked second in the country in the shot put, Rivera-Morales fourth in the long jump, Mossberg fifth in the pole vault, and Patterson fifth in the high jump. Gabriella Duclos, Powell, Howard and Quinley have also earned All-American honors during their time as Wildcats and will undoubtedly be looking to repeat.
Rivera-Morales bring an interesting streak to the meet that will be worth keeping watch on. The senior has not lost a long jump event to a collegiate competitor this season. While that certainly does not mean that the national championship is a give-in, it does add a sense of intrigue to the competition as he will look to finish off his senior year with a perfect record.
And with all the talk about the seniors on this UA squad, it may be easy to forget the two freshmen also along for the ride. Abdi Hassan is the school freshman record holder in the 1500-meters and earned a spot here by being an automatic qualifier at the NCAA West Region Championships. Competiting against some of the best 1500-meter runners in the country in the Pac-10, Hassan should be more than prepared for what the NCAA Championships are going to bring.
Taylor Freeman also will see action at the national championships during just her first season at the UA as she earned an at-large bid to compete in the discus championships.
It will be an all field-event affair tomorrow as the UA athletes kick off events with Lloyd in the shot put qualifying round at 3 p.m. with the long jump, women's shot put, men's and women's pole vault and women's high jump qualifying to follow.