Track and Field: 2010 Women's Season Preview

Jan. 19, 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 the athletes 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.

 

Women’s Track and Field Preview

 

Sprint, Hurdles and Relays

 

If one were to take a glance at last year’s depth chart in the sprints and hurdles and then look over this years’, you would be hard-pressed to find any difference – and rightfully so.  The 2009 Wildcat women’s sprinting and hurdling squads are a dead ringer for last year’s team, with no athletes lost to graduation.

 

Leading the way this season are a pair of hurdlers in junior LaTisha Holden and sophomore Dahlys Marshall.  The two tore up the track last season, both earning All-Conference honors indoors at the Mount Pacific Sports Federation Championships.  Outdoors, Holden climbed to number five all-time at Arizona in the 100-meter hurdles with her time of 13.46 set at the NCAA West Regional Championships where she garnered All-Region accolades.  Marshall earned All-Conference honors outdoors as well, and the two create quite a dynamic one-two punch in the high hurdles.

 

In the intermediate hurdles, Arizona will look to see what they have in redshirt freshman Georganne Moline this season.  Moline – who competed in the 400-meters indoors last year – missed last season due to injury and will look to bounce back in her first true outdoor campaign this year.  Moline holds the second fastest mark in Arizona high school history ain the 300-meter hurdles and performed well in the 400-meters indoors last year.  She is joined in the 400-meter hurdles by redshirt sophomore Rebecca Nelson and redshirt freshman Ashley Rohweder, both of whom were very impressive high school runners.  Together, they add an important dynamic to a squad that has spent several years looking for depth in the event.

 

In the quarter-mile, Arizona returns several athletes who could very well make a difference at the conference level.  Junior Deanna Sullivan, who holds the 10th best time in Arizona history in the event, returns alongside redshirt sophomore Echos Blevins and sophomore Andrea Menhennet.  All have shown glimpses of brilliance in their young careers and will look for breakout seasons in 2010.

 

That kind of depth in the event could also play a key role for the UA squad in the 4x400-meter relay.  Blevins and Sullivan are already part of the sixth best relay time in the school’s history in 2008 and with the addition of Menhennet and perhaps 800-meter runner Christina Rodgers – also a member of that 2008 team – this could become a very strong event for the Wildcats.

 

Middle Distance/Distance

 

Perhaps no squad on the UA roster – either men or women – will see as drastic of a turnaround from year to year as the women’s middle and long distance runners.  Arizona has already seen what may be one of the top recruiting classes in the nation turn the distance program around for the best, as 2009 saw the women’s cross country team head to it’s first NCAA National Championship appearance in eight years and youth was the tale of the tape as far as that occasion was concerned.  With on a junior and two sophomores returning from last year’s squad, no less than seven Arizona freshmen helped push the team over the top.

 

Junior Maggie Callahan returns as the most senior member of the team and has lived up to the billing thus far in the 2009-10 season.  Callahan earned All-Conference and All-Region honors during the cross country season and returns as the UA’s number four runner all-time in the 3000-meter steeplechase – earning All-Conference honors in the event last season.

 

Along with Callahan comes the UA freshman record holder and third best steeplechaser in school history in sophomore Hannah Moen.  Moen barely missed out on a national championship berth last season as she earned All-Conference and All-Region honors in the event and gradually improved as the season progressed.

 

Fellow sophomore of the same name, Hanna Henson, also returns for Arizona.  Henson played a pivotal role as being a ‘senior’ member of the 2009 cross country squad despite only being a sophomore.  Henson will play a key role for the Wildcats in the longer distance races this season.

 

And that leads to the magnificent class of freshman.  It’s hard to pick a starting point in a bunch that includes two Footlocker Finalists, multiple state champions and an overall abundance of talent.  Lauren Smith and Jennifer Bergman lead the way for the youngsters, both competing in the High School Footlocker Nationals as seniors at their respective schools  Both also were key players in the Wildcat’s run to the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships with Bergman actually finishing as the first Wildcat across the line in the event.

 

Behind the two comes a slew of other young athletes.  Cami Jackson comes in as the home-state hero after earning multiple Arizona All-State honors during her tenure at Mesa Mountain View.  Elizabeth Apgar is a multiple-time CIF San Diego Section Champion out of California and owns Lincoln High School distance Triple Crown with schools records in the 800-, 1600- and 3200-meters.

 

Megan Meyer comes in as another of the top California distance runners and Melanie McGrath is the hometown sweetheart, helping to lead Tucson’s Catalina High School to the 2007 Arizona Cross Country Team Championship.  In addition to the aforementioned athletes, Chloe Allen, Alyssa Graziano, Kat Howard, Magda Mankel and Alexandra Myers also represent to new talented faces to the 2009-10 squad.

 

And even will all the talent listed above, it may be the return of Christina Rodgers in the 800-meters that could be one of the more important factors over the course of the season.  Rodgers, sidelined for the entirety of what would have been her junior season, returns in 2010 as the school’s number two runner all-time in the 800-meters. Rodgers brings to the team NCAA track and field national championship experience as well, having competed there during her breakout sophomore season.  Rodger’s experience and leadership and the way she bounces back from injury could be one of the biggest storylines of the 2010 season.

 

Jumps, Pole Vault and Multi-Events

 

If the Arizona men’s jumping team seemed impressive, then one need look no further then the Wildcat’s women jumpers to be equally impressed.  High jumpers Liz Patterson and Jasmin Day return the only All-American presence on this year’s women’s team and they welcome to their domain one of the top high school jumpers in the country this season.

 

Patterson is coming back from a career year during her junior season.  After winning the NCAA National Championship in the high jump during her sophomore season, Patterson bounced back to finish second nationally indoors and outdoors last year.  While some may look at it as a step down, the fact of the matter is that Patterson set personal records indoors and outdoors and posted the third best jump in Arizona history at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championship where she finished second to eventual Bowerman finalist Destinee Hooker of Texas.  This season, Patterson’s name is the one listed on the Bowerman Watchlist and will undoubtedly post some exciting performances as the season goes on.

 

Day returns as a two-time All-American in her own right and you will also find her name on Arizona’s all-time top ten list in the event.  The two have provided a formidable one-two punch over their first three seasons, sweeping plenty of meets along the way. 

 

They will add to their armada this year as they welcome freshman Brigetta Barrett to the ranks.  Barrett owns the distinction of being a state champion high jumper in two states (Texas and New York) and was one of the top recruits in the event in the country coming out of high school.  Alongside, Barrett is junior college transfer Courtney Hayes and between the four – one would be hard-pressed to find a more complete and deep high jumping program at any school.

 

With the departure of one of the all-time great Arizona athletes in Shevell Quinley last season, one may find it hard to replace that void.  But incoming freshman Lisa Egarter appears more than primed to do so.  The youngster of Austria is the national champion in her home country in the high jump and qualified for the World Junior Championships in the heptathlon in 2008.  Her career best score of 5314 in the event would have been good for 17th place at last year’s NCAA Championships.

 

Sophomore Samantha Berryman also returns in the multi-events for Arizona this season and freshmen Alex Weatherly (pole vault) and Tera Besancon (high jump) will also see action for the Wildcats.

 

Throws

 

The loss of two All-Americans will hurt any program when it comes to track and field, but the loss is a lot more bearable when you bring in two impressive freshmen to fill the void as the Wildcats have done this season with their throwers.

 

Sophomore Taylor Freeman heads an impressive group of underclassmen in 2010 in her second season wearing the red and blue.  Freeman was an All-Region performer in the discus last season and qualified for the Regional Championships in the shot put as well.  Freeman finished just shy of cracking into the 2009 NCAA Championships in the discus and also was just short of cracking Arizona’s all-time top 10 in the event, but those goals are well within reach this season.

 

Behind Freeman are a tandem of freshmen who could very well also find their names among the elite Arizona lists before all is said and done.  Canadian phenomenon Julie Labonte is a Junior Pan-American Games medalist in the shot put and was the gold medal winner of the event at the 2009 Canada Games.

 

Joining Labonte and Freeman is Alyssa Hasslen, one of the top high school products out of Oregon.  Hasslen holds the second best shot put mark in state high school history and is a multiple-time state champion in the shot put and discus.  Hasslen also competed at the US Junior Nationals last season, finishing fifth.

 

In the javelin, Leigh Bernstein returns after her redshirt year as a junior this season.  Bernstein currently sits second on the UA’s all-time list under the new javelin.  She is joined by freshman Asia Easley in the event.

 

Senior and All-Conference shot putter Kelsey Jessup and All-Conference hammer thrower Kendra Walworth also return for the Wildcats this year. Taylor Bush and Omatayo Talabi round out a very deep 2010 throwing squad.

 

In Review

 

If one thing stands out about the 2010 University of Arizona women’s track and field squad, it’s the depth of the team.  The Wildcats have opportunities to put up points in nearly any event they get themselves involved in and have the depth to put forth bunches of points in some events – such as the high jump or throws.  The team has its fair share of experience, talented youth, All-Americans, high school state champions and a collegiate National Champion all to their name and it will be very exciting to see how such an already talented team will improve as the season progresses.

 

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