Wildcat Track & Field Prepares for 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships
June 4, 2003
Up Next: The UA men's and women's track and field teams will gear up for their final NCAA meet of the 2003 season. The NCAA Outdoor Championships will take place June 11-15 at Sacramento State University. The Wildcats will take 13 athletes to this year's meet, including eight who earned automatic qualifiers at the NCAA West Regional.
The Competition: The NCAA Outdoor Championships feature the nation's top collegiate track and field athletes as they attempt to reach their ultimate goal of a national title. This year's meet will include national powerhouses such as as LSU, UCLA, Arkansas and Stanford. The UA men's squad will include four athletes, while the Arizona women will be represented by nine athletes.
Scouting the Wildcats: NCAA Championships
Robert Cheseret: Cheseret has emerged as one of the top distance runners in the nation during the 2003 season. Joining the Wildcats midway through the 2002-2003 academic year, Cheseret quickly became a strong performer for the men's team. His talent extends throughout the range of distance events. He earned NCAA Regional and Pac-10 qualifying times in the 800 meters, 1500 meters and 5000 meters. Cheseret also set the Arizona freshman record in the 5,000 meters with a time of 13:45.88. At the Pac-10 Championships, he led for a majority of the 5,000 meters final, only to be passed by Louie Luchini of Stanford in the final 100 meters. Cheseret was the runner-up in a time of 14:07.40. At the NCAA West Regional, Cheseret fought fatigue throughout the race and finished seventh in a time of 14:01.47. Cheseret earned a wild-card berth into the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and enters the meet with the fifth-fastest time in the field of 26 runners.
Jeff Hunter: In his sophomore season with the Wildcats, Hunter has made some huge strides. He has been a prominent performer in both the high and intermediate hurdles, as well as being a member of both relay squads. Hunter will represent the Wildcats in the 110 meter high hurdles at the NCAA Championships. He ran a season's best time of 13.76 seconds in the preliminaries at the Pac-10 Championships. Hunter set a school record in the 400 meter intermediate hurdles at the Pac-10 Championships with a time of 50.47 seconds, earning him a 4th place finish. Hunter was also the lead-off runner in both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays for the Wildcats.
Sean Shields: Shields has again been a force to be reckoned with during the 2003 season, as he was in his first year with the Wildcats in 2002. He set the indoor school record in the shot put at the Boise Elite Invitational in February with a throw of 64 feet, 3 inches (19.58m). Shields has battled injury during the outdoor season, but has again found himself at the top of his game during championship season. At the Pac-10 Championships, Shields was second in the discus with a toss of 188-10 (57.55m). Then, at the NCAA West Regional, Shields posted two second-place finishes in the shot put and discus. Heading into the NCAA Championships, Shields has posted the ninth-best mark of the field in the shot put.
Rich Legarra: Legarra will be competing in his final meet in a Wildcat uniform next week. He has been a consistent and reliable performer for the Wildcats throughout the 2003 season. Legarra was the fifth-place finisher in the hammer at the Pac-10 Championships, finishing with a best throw of 199-3 (60.74m). He followed that up with another fifth-place finish at the NCAA West Regional in the hammer. Legarra also earned a wild-card berth in the discus after posting a season's best mark of 188-10 3/4 (57.58m).
Seynabou Ndiaye: The senior sprinter from Senegal has been a dominant force for the Wildcats. She has not only helped the Wildcats out on the track, but also as a team leader with proven experience to help out the young squad. Ndiaye will compete in the 100 meters after finishing third at the NCAA West Regional. She finished in a season's best time of 11.57 seconds, only one-hundredth of a second off of second place. Ndiaye has posted a very successful season for the Wildcats to date. She constantly saw herself improving week after week, and looks to make one more strong showing for Arizona at the NCAA Championships.
Beth Hoge: Hoge has come on strong for the Wildcats at close of the 2003 season. After battling injury throughout the indoor season and making her comeback at the start of the outdoor season, Hoge has made a push to get her to the NCAA Championships. She posted a fifth-place finish in both the 1500m and 5000m at the Pac-10 Championships. Then, at the NCAA West Regional, Hoge made a push in the final 300 meters of the 5,000 meters final to claim a fifth-place finish and an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships.
Sharifa Jones: The sophomore transfer from the University of Michigan has made huge strides under head coach Fred Harvey. Jones was able to put her long jumping abilities to use for the Wildcats, where she has posted a season's best leap of 21 feet, 3 1/2 inches (6.49m). She earned an automatic bid with a third-place finish at the NCAA West Regional. Jones also earned a wild-card berth in the 100 meter hurdles after posting a season's best time of 13.36 seconds at the Pac-10 Championships. She looks to continue her success with a strong showing at the NCAA Championships.
Connie Jerz: The first-year Wildcat has been an incredible asset for Arizona. Jerz came onto the scene at the beginning of the outdoor season and won her first three meets. She went on to finish fourth at the Pac-10 Championships with a vault of 13-3 1/2 (4.05m). She struggled at the NCAA West Regional, but earned a wild-card berth into the NCAA Championships. Jerz's best mark of the 2003 season was a 13-11 1/4 (4.35m) vault at the Tucson Elite Classic.
Amy Linnen: The junior standout vaulter sat out during the beginning of the outdoor season due to a foot injury. After returning to the lineup, Linnen struggled until the NCAA West Regional. At the regional, Linnen got back on track with a fifth-place finish at a height of 13-6 1/4 (4.12m), earning her an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. The mark was her best of the outdoor season. She posted a season-high 14-5 (4.39m) during the indoor season.
Ilona Rutjes: The junior-college transfer came to the Wildcats with a great ability to perform. Rutjes holds the junior-college discus record and was the 2002 junior college national champion. As a Wildcat, Rutjes has been working up to some big throws all season. She hit her first big one at the Pac-10 Championships, where she finished third with a toss of 178-6 (54.42m). She went on to a seventh-place finish at the NCAA West Regional. Rutjes earned a wild-card berth to the NCAA Championships based on her season's performances.
Julie DeMarni: DeMarni has been a strong and consistent performer for the Wildcats during her two-year career at Arizona. She holds the school's javelin record at 165-10 (50.55m), which she hit at the 2002 Pac-10 Championships. In the 2003 season, DeMarni has been at it again, helping the Wildcats out with her big throws. She finished third at the Pac-10 Championships with a throw of 158-0 (48.17m). She struggled a bit at the NCAA West Regional, but was able to claim a wild-card berth into the NCAA Championships. DeMarni will be looking for a strong performance as she closes out her collegiate career with Arizona.
Women's 4x100 Meter Relay: The squad is made up of sophomore Sharifa Jones, freshman Angel Perkins, freshman Marquita Taylor and senior Seynabou Ndiaye. The squad has been on a roll as the 2003 season comes to a close. They clocked a season's best time of 44.86 seconds at the double-dual meet with Arizona State and Northern Arizona. At the Pac-10 Championships, the squad finished third in 45.02 seconds behind USC and Arizona State. Then, at the NCAA West Regional, the Wildcats finished second in 45.12 seconds behind in-state rival Arizona State. The second-place finish earned the squad an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
2003 Season Outlook: The 2003 track and field season brings about a lot of changes for the University of Arizona. Former associate head coach Fred Harvey has moved up to Director of Track & Field and Cross Country. For the first time in 35 years, the Wildcats have a new cross country/distance coach in James Li for the first time in 35 years, and the team is loaded with a lot of young, freshman talent. But not everything is new for the Wildcats as the team also returns some of its top performers from the 2002 season, including Amy Linnen, Beth Hoge, Chelsea Powell, Julie DeMarni, Matt Lea, Mark Anderson, J.R. Harrison, Mike Mortensen and Sean Shields.
The final standings at the 2002 NCAA Outdoor Championships may not have had Arizona where they expected to finish, but the outlook for the coming season couldn't be better.
On the men's side, the future looks very bright. The Wildcats will return seven NCAA qualifiers, one All-American, ten All-Pac-10 performers and three out of four members of both relay teams, which were runners-up at the Pac-10 Championships. The Wildcat men return All-Pac-10 and NCAA performers in every event area.
The Arizona women head into the 2003 season with a fresh, new look. They return a good number of core athletes, including five NCAA qualifiers, one All-American and three All-Pac-10 performers. The squad will feature some of last year's top performers in every event area.
The talent of the freshman recruiting class is another thing to take note of when the 2003 version of the track and field team heads to competition in early January. 'All in all, I feel we had, for the second consecutive year, one of our top recruiting classes,' commented head coach Fred Harvey. In the past two years, the Wildcats have recruited several of the top athletes out of California and Texas, along with some of the top track and field athletes in state of Arizona history. 'Recruiting is the core of our success, and I feel that we have a great core at this time,' Harvey explained.
The 2003 season is expected to be another successful one for the Wildcats. With the returnees from last year's teams and the incoming recruiting class, the tradition of success in the Arizona track and field program is sure to continue under the new leadership of Harvey. The new and fresh look for this year's squads is sure to improve on the already-great reputation of what is known as Arizona track and field.
2002 In Review: The University of Arizona's men's and women's track and field teams continued the tradition of excellence as they ended the 2002 season at the NCAA Championships in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The meet was highlighted by some of the team's top contributors from the season.
Senior Brianna Glenn once again had a busy NCAA meet and proved to be one of the most talented and versatile athletes in the nation. Glenn placed in three events at the national meet, earning All-America honors in the long jump, 100 meters and 200 meters. She placed third in the long jump, fourth in the 100 meters and sixth in the 200 meters.
Senior Angela Foster earned her second All-America honor in the hammer throw. She placed eighth in the hammer with a throw of 200 feet, 3 inches. Foster played an integral part in the team's recent success at the national level and will be missed greatly.
In her first year as a Wildcat, junior Julie DeMarni qualified for the NCAA Championships and placed 16th overall in the javelin. She is also the new school record-holder in the javelin. After another year under her belt, DeMarni should contribute greatly at the national level.
Sophomore Beth Hoge made her debut at the NCAA Championships this past spring. Hoge finished 13th in the 5,000 meters. She is the team's top returning distance runner and will contribute greatly over the next to years to the Wildcat cross country and track and field teams.
Sophomore Amy Linnen currently holds the collegiate record in the indoor pole vault at 14 feet, 10-ï¿½ inches, as well as the World Junior record at the same mark. She placed 13th at the USAT&F meet. Linnen has established herself as truly one of the finest vaulters in the nation. She is an up and coming athlete on the world level.
Senior Mike Kenyon competed in both the 200 meters and the 400 meters at the NCAA Championships, bringing home All-American honors in both events. He placed 11th in the 200 meters and seventh in the 400 meters. He then went on to compete at the USAT&F meet where he placed fifth in the 400m, qualifying him for the relay pool at the World Cup.
Sophomore Mike Mortensen made his debut at the NCAA Championships in the pole vault. He vaulted 16 feet, 10-3 ï¿½ inches to claim 14th place. His highest vault of the year was 17 feet, 7 inches, which is almost a foot higher than his previous best. Mortensen is anticipated to be very successful over the next two years.
Freshman Sean Shields was a huge addition to the team this past season. He placed ninth at the NCAA Championships, earning his second All-American honors as a freshman. He earned his first honor at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Shields then went on to compete in the USA Junior National meet, where he placed first in the shot put, setting a new World Junior record and American Junior record with a throw of 67 feet, 9 inches. He was also second in the discus. He then went on the World Junior meet where he placed second in the shot put and eighth in the discus. In the next three years, he could develop into one of the finest athletes ever to compete at the University of Arizona.
The 2001-2002 cross country and track and field seasons were a time for the Wildcats to say good bye to one of the namesakes of the program. Dave Murray retired as the Director of Track and Field and Cross Country after 35 years of coaching at the University of Arizona. His shoes will be filled by former Associate Head Coach Fred Harvey. Harvey is entering his 16th season with the Wildcats and enters his new position ready to lead the Wildcats to more successful ventures. He has coached many All-Americans, several national champions, and several Olympians. He has recently been selected to be the head coach of Team USA's men's team at the 2003 Pan American Games.
The 2001-2002 season ended successfully for the Wildcats. The teams look forward to beginning a new era of Wildcat track and field in 2003 under a new head coach and with many exciting possibilities with the talent of the athletes.
The Coaches: Head coach Fred Harvey (16th year, Cal Poly-SLO, '82) begins his first year as the Wildcats' leader. Harvey has coached several world-class athletes, such as Patrick Nduwimana, a 2000 Olympic semifinalist and Arizona track and field veteran. Assistant coach Tom Hays (6th year, Kansas, '89) is one of the top pole vault coaches in the nation and will direct the Wildcat jumpers this season. Assistant coach John Frazier (3rd year, UCLA, '86) was an addition to last year's coaching staff. The Wildcat throwers will be led by coach Frazier. Assistant coach Dawn Mortensen (6th year, Arizona, '96) was a standout sprinter for the Wildcats in the 1990s and works with the Arizona sprinters and hurdlers. Assistant coach James Li (1st year, Beijing Institute of Physical Education) joins the Wildcat coaching staff to coach the distance runners. Li also heads up the Wildcat cross country teams.
RELATED NEWS & VIDEOS
TOMORROW | 1:00pm PTLive