Track and Field: 2010 Men's Preview
Jan. 13, 2010
For a newcomer to the sport, track and field may appear as the ultimate individual sport. Understandably so, if you consider that the majority of impressions are formed from the viewing of the Olympics – where the coverage does indeed focus on exceptional individual accomplishments. But take a step back and view the sport from a collegiate level and you run into a whole new ball game. Not only is track and field one of the ultimate team sports, it’s about as complicated as team sports go as well. A good conference team may not necessarily make a good regional team. A good regional team is not necessarily going to be the team at nationals. And for all intents and purposes, your best teams at the National Championships may have horrible conference teams.
With collegiate track and field, coaches must put together the best possible group of athletes possible to be competitive in 20 different events. Yes, that’s 20 events. Some will make the claim that track and field is nothing compared to a sport like football. Well, for all intents and purposes, a good football team is determined by putting together players to play in 22 positions on a field over the course of a game. And by following the same logic, a good track and field team relies very much on fielding the top athletes in 20 different positions. And that’s just the start.
A good team is a product of all the pieces. And how you put those pieces together is the determining factor of how good your team will be. Some coaches may choose to put all their marbles into the sprints, much like football coaches rely on their high-powered offenses to win them games. Or perhaps, coaches will rely on the field athletes to jump, throw and pole vault their team to victory, like a defensive coach goes for the less flashy grind-it-out style approach. And then many coaches look for a balance across their sprints, distance and field events to make the most complete team. However you wish to look at it, track and field is no less than a team sport than anything else you can think to name.
And for UA track and field head coach Fred Harvey, finding the best way to put those pieces of the puzzle together is the task at hand. The 2010 season will mark the 23rd season for Harvey at Arizona and eighth as head coach. And just like every year, he is faced with the task of putting together the product of his mastery. A complete team, competitive in all events with coaches that can help them achieve the greatest accomplishments.
With a squad of seasoned veterans and the talent of the youthful freshmen, the UA men’s and women’s track and field programs are ready to kick off the year and will look to ensure all those pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
Men’s Team Preview
Sprints, Hurdles and Relays
There will be no senior returning for the UA sprinters this season and that may typically raise some flags for the casual fan. However, the team is now led by a new coach and returns a couple of athletes who have shown some promise during their underclassmen years.
Francesca Green will take over the role previously occupied by Dawn Boxley (who in turn has taken Green’s former position as Director of Operations) as the UA Assistant Coach whose focus is the sprinters. Green, an accomplished athlete in her own right, had several years of coaching experience at her alma mater at Washington State and is excited to get her hands back into things.
This year’s squad features just two juniors as the most elderly athletes in Kyle Alston and Aaron Seminiski.. Alston is also the lone member of the sprinting team with National Championship experience, having competed there at the 2008 NCAA National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa on the men’s 4x100-meter relay squad.
Seminski broke the 11 second mark for the first time during his sophomore year and also was very active in helping the UA 4 x 100-meter relay team into the finals at the NCAA West Regional Championships.
Sophomore Chris McSwain showed glimpses of what he can be last season, finishing on top of the depth chart in the 100-meters despite being just a freshman. McSwain has been named a captain to this year’s squad and will carry the added responsibility of leading his team in addition to improving as a sprinter.
Redshirt freshman Nico Reaves will step in as the team’s top 400-meter runner, despite not having run a r ace in college. Sophomore Armand Rhone returns with an extra year of experience and freshmen Mike Ness and Julian Gerdes will add depth to the team.
In the hurdles, Chris Titsworth rejoins the Wildcats for a final year of indoor eligibility while senior DeLoyd Gray will be the only full-time hurdler this season. Titsworth is an All-Region 400-meter hurdler outdoors.
Gray has come fractions of a second short of making it into the NCAA West Regionals in 110-meter hurdles the past couple years and will look to but will look to make his senior campaign the year that counts.
With such a young team, it’s hard to know what to expect as far as the relays are concerned. In the 4 x 100-meters, one thing for sure is that there will be at least two new faces on the squad after losing senior Xuehan Xiong and Chris Titsworth off of last season’s All-Conference team. Seminski saw time in the role last season but it remains to be seen how things will pan out this year.
The same can be said about the 4x400-meter relay squad, though the addition of Reaves will certainly benefit the team in that sense.
The University of Arizona has a history of producing great distance runners and from the early look of things, 2010 will be no exception. After a relative dry spell of a whole two years, Arizona distance is back on the map and in a big way.
Senior Mohamud Ige finished up the most recent cross country season with All-American honors and is looking like the athlete that was so dominant in high school and his first couple years in junior college. Ige will ride the momentum of being Arizona’s 18th cross country All-American into his final year on the track.
In the middle distance, Abdi Hassan took the Pac-10 by storm last season in the 1500-meters as a freshman. Hassan bested a freshman record that had been in place for 22 years in the event and took himself all the way to All-Conference and All-Region honors on his way to a National Championship appearance and will be a force in the event this season.
He will be joined in the event by redshirt senior Dylan Fitzpatrick, who also set an impressive personal record last season on his way to a NCAA West Regional qualification.
James Eichberger – another of last year’s freshmen - also showed a lot of promise last season on his way to a regional qualification in the 800-meters. The sophomore was one of the fastest middle distance runners in Arizona prep school history and showed last season that that kind of performance could be carried on at the next level.
He is joined in the event by junior and junior captain Jordan Mara. Mara has come ever-so close to regional qualifications during his first two seasons and has been one of the most impressive Wildcats in the classroom as well, earning several awards for academic achievement.
Senior Brian MacArthur enters his final season following an impressive junior year that saw him qualify for the West Regional Championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
Other athletes looking to make a splash in the distance events this year include the freshmen tandem of Noe Ramirez and Rory McLeod, sophomore Greg York and junior Zack Hauer.
Jumps, Pole Vault and Multi-Events
If any area would stand out this season for the amount of young and returning talent, it may me the Arizona jumps squad. The combination of some dangerous freshmen and some seasoned veterans will make the group one of the most exciting to watch as the season progresses.
With one year of eligibility left indoors, senior Luis Rivera-Morales will return to further set himself apart as one of the greatest long jumpers the UA has seen. One of only two athletes in UA history who holds top 10 marks in both the long and triple jumpers (the other being former Olympian and current UA administrator Gayle Hopkins), Rivera-Morales will be one of the top returning jumpers in the nation for the indoor season. Rivera-Morales bounced back from being the last person out of last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships to one of the elite jumpers in the outdoor season, sweeping the long and triple jump events at the conference championships on his way to an All-American finish in the long jump in Fayetteville.
And as one elite Rivera-Morales leaves, another one is just getting started. Freshman Edgar Rivera-Morales is one of the elite high jumping products out of Mexico. Edgar was the number one high school jumper in the country and a competitor at the Junior Pan-American games in Trinidad and Tobago, where he finished in second place. Rivera-Morales holds a personal record of 7-3 in the event.
In addition to the Rivera-Morales’, the UA welcome another sensational freshman in California state champion, Nick Ross. Ross comes to Arizona with the second best high school mark of 2009, also achieving the height of 7-3. Ross is also a 50-foot jumper in the triple jump and gives the UA quite a threat in those two events.
Fellow freshmen and two-time Junior Olympian Justin Sutter will also join the long jumping ranks for the Wildcats while Stefanos Michael looks to return to form after an impressive 2009 season that saw him earn All-Conference honors in the triple jump both indoors and outdoors.
In the pole vault, the UA return two NCAA West Regional qualifiers in senior Dutch Perryman and junior Jimmy Coffin. Perryman had an impressive indoor campaign last season, posting a lifetime best of 5.20m early in the season. The two will look to use that experience to fill the void left by departed senior Nick Mossberg, an All-Region vaulter with the fourth best mark in UA history in the event.
In the multi-events, Chris McGovern returns for his third season as the UA decathlete. McGovern earned All-Conference honors last season and has consistently improved week in and week out in the event and could very well be a force in the Pac-10 this season.
It may be hard to see the positive in losing an four-time All-American and school record holder in the shot put like the UA did with the loss of Zack Lloyd to graduation after last season. But there still remain plenty of promising aspects to this years throwing squad that shouldn’t be so quick to be forgotten.
Korion Morris returns for his redshirt junior campaign after an impressive year that saw him set personal bests in both the shot put and discus throw, the latter of which earned Morris All-Conference honors.
In addition to Morris, the UA also returns two sophomore West Regional qualifiers in the hammer throw in Tomaz Bogovic and Tyler Johnson. Bogovic only narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships last season but still took home All-Conference and All-Region accolades along the way.
The UA lost some key athletes to graduation last season, and will lose at least two more after the indoor season this year. However, the quality of the youth and the returning members of last year’s team can not be overlooked. The UA men are riding a 6-year streak of finishing in the top-25 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and - with the proper work ethic and the right mindset – could very well keep that pattern going for yet another season.