Track and field championships previews for Arizona-Oregon State
Some of the most talented track and field athletes in recent years have worn an Arizona jersey, including Olympians Brigetta Barrett and Georgeanne Moline, as well as Lawi Lalang, one of the most dominant distance runners in collegiate history, and Nick Ross, three-time Pac-12 Champion in the high jump. The question for the Wildcats is who would be stepping in to fill those large shoes left behind.
A big factor in the Wildcats’ successes this weekend will be the Kibet siblings, Collins and Elvin. Both have carried the squad in the distance events with sophomore Collins having a very good season in the 800 meters and a solid one in the 1500 meters, as well. Older sister and a senior, Elvin set the school record in the 5,000 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays a month ago and is in the top-10 in the country for the 5K and 10K.
Recently crowned the Pac-12 decathlete champion, redshirt junior Pau Tonnesen and fellow decathlete junior Harrison Ivie have been a big addition to the team this year with the duo giving UA the early lead heading into the weekend, combining for 12 points.
Arizona got a big boost to their sprint corps with the addition of Pete Lauderdale II, a transfer. Individually, he has a top-25 mark in the 400 meters. Lauderdale helped Arizona post a top-15 time in the country in the 4x400 meter relay, along with Blake Eichler, Bryce Houston and Miles Parish. Elchler is also a transfer who arrived in Tucson last year and is now eligible to compete.
Arkansas State transfer Kristina Aubert has a top-25 time in the country for the 10,000 meters and has been a good training partner for Elvin Kibet.
Gerhard de Beer, also a football player, and Aaron Castle have put up strong performances in the throws and are contenders in their respective events. De Beer is top in the Pac-12 in the discus and ranks in the top 15 in the country. Castle has had a great year as well, top-25 in the nation in the shot put.
The Sun Devils have also had a number of impactful athletes graduate, including field athletes Anna Jelmini, Christabel Nettey and Jordan Clarke. But ASU has looked to seniors Shelby Houlihan and Bryan McBride to lead the team.
Houlihan No. 12 in the 1500 meter in the country and has emerged as one of the top middle-distance runners in the nation. She won the event at the NCAA Championships last year and is going for her a third-straight Conference title.
McBride broke the 38-year-old school record in the high jump on May 2 at the Duel in the Desert, clearing 2.30m (7-6.50). It was also one of the top marks in Pac-12 history. He earned Pac-12 Field Athlete of the Week honors and has set outdoor personal bests in both the long jump and triple jump at the meet.
Redshirt-Freshman Magdalyn Ewen leads ASU with top-marks in the discus and hammer this season, and also has marks in the school record book in the shot put.
Junior Jamol James ran the second-fastest 100-meter dash time in program history at 10.15 and also leads the team in the 200 meters, runs on the 4x100-meter relay team and has ASU’s No. 2 mark this season in the long jump at 7.44m (24-5.00).
Junior Ahmed Hassan it the team’s top shot putter, posting a team-best mark of 18.68m (61-3.50). Sophomore Keyasia Tibbs has recorded a team-high 12.38m (40-7.50) in the triple jump, which also ranks fourth all-time in school history.
The majority of the Bears’ impact will be seen in the distance events, with junior Thomas Joyce headlining. A two-time Pac-12 Track Athlete of the Week this season, he ranks in the top five in the country in both the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters. The 1,500-meter race will be a stacked race, however, with six of the top-20 runners in the nation participating, while the 5,000-meter is even more competitive as seven of the top-20 distance runners will be in the race.
On the men’s side, the Bears’ depth can be seen in the field events, with long jumpers Walter Jones and Jonte Grante posting two of the top eight marks in the Pac-12 this season, and sophomores Ethan Cochran and Brenden Song recording two of the top eight throws in the discus.
On the women’s side, freshman Bethan Knights has had a strong debut campaign and looks to score points in the 5,000-meter run. In the triple jump, Cal has three potential finalists with freshman Kiare Tanner (12.62m/41-5) boasting the third-best distance in the Pac-12 and just within two inches of the league leader Stanford freshman Marisa Kwiatkowski (12.67m/41-7)
The Buffs have made their biggest mark in he steeplechase since joining the league four years ago, winning the women’s title three times, with a pair of Olympians taking the individual crown (Shalaya Kipp in 2012 and 2014, and Emma Coburn in 2013). Colorado will figure significantly in both events, again, boasting the top women’s competitor in the event in the Conference in freshman Erin Clark (10:10.62) and the top two on the men’s side - senior Blake Theroux (8:43.77) and freshman Adam Peterman (8:48.68).
Senior Alex Kizirian looks to contend for a podium spot in the hammer throw after recording the best mark in the event in school history (64.71m/212-4). Sprinters redshirt freshman Ana Holland and Eilieen Gehring have been battling in the 200 meters. Holland broke the school record in the event (23.54), a record which was held by Gehring (23.80). Holland is also tied for third in the school record book in the 100 with a time of 11.69.
Oregon goes into the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships with a target on its back, as it has the last several years after winning eight-consecutive men’s titles and six-straight women’s crowns. This year will be no different as the Ducks aim to continue the streak on both sides. In addition, the men are the defending NCAA Champion in the outdoor, a title they won last year for the first time in 30 years. And this season, the Ducks field strong contenders again with plenty of individual and national champions on both sides.
Oregon returns three Pac-12 Champions that combined for five event wins last season: Jenna Prandini (100/200/long jump), Jillian Weir (hammer), Sam Crouser (javelin).
Redshirt junior Jenna Prandini has set two world-leading times this season in 100 (10.92) and the 200 (22.42), recording the fastest 100-meter time in Pac-12 history while her 200-meter time is top-three. The Athlete of the Meet last year, she became only the fourth athlete in Conference history to win at least three individual titles in one year.
National Champions Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins will be looking for their first Pac-12 titles. The two have combined to win seven NCAA Championships combined, indoors and outdoors. Cheserek finished second to former Arizona distance runner Lawi Lalang in which the two were neck-and-neck from the start to finish of the 1,500-meter race, with Lalang edging out Cheserek by just .16 seconds for the individual title. The duo posted the seventh- and ninth-best times in collegiate history, making it one of the fastest races in collegiate history.
The Oregon men got a jump start with five points from Dakotah Keys and Mitch Modin in the decathlon. The Oregon women come in with eight points thanks to heptathlete Ashlee Moore.
The Beavers field an inexperienced squad that includes 15 athletes that did not compete last year. OSU will look to veterans junior Michele Turney, who scored last year in the triple jump, and redshirt sophomore Sarah Almen, who was third in the same event in 2013.
Junior Kara Hallock, sophomore Melissa Ausman and freshman Sam McKinnon look to make the biggest impact and hope to score points for the squad and place in the top eight of their respective events, with Hallock’s specialty coming in the long jump, Ausman’s in the discus and McKinnon in the steeplechase.
The Beavers are looking to history after the program was reinstated in 2007 after 18 years without a track program. OSU will have entries in nearly every event for the first time, including the first sprinter and first 4x400 relay team at the Conference meet since 1988.