2004 Track and Field Season Outlook
Jan. 14, 2004
The clichï¿½ is used all the time; 'Defense wins championships.' Some would argue for the need of a solid offense as well. For the 2004 Arizona State track and field teams, in a sport without offense and defense, the Sun Devils will have to rely on another 'D' to push them toward the pinnacle of the championship standings: depth.
Several veterans, ones with championship gold and All-America honors, return to the track this spring in hopes of duplicating the success they have attained in recent years. Add to that group the talents of other returning athletes, as well as the prospect of success the rookies bring to the table, and the outlook for the 2004 season looks bright for the Sun Devils. Especially the women.
'I am very excited about our women's chances this year,' Greg Kraft, the eighth-year head coach of the program, said. 'We are going to be counting on some of our younger athletes to come in and have an immediate impact on us this year. The women are coming off their highest point total in a Pac-10 Championship last year. We return two Pac-10 champions in Cassandra Reed (400m) and Sandra Orsund (discus) and, coupling that with a nice recruiting class, I feel we will be stronger and more improved than we were last year.'
Most notably on the women's side is the additions of two redshirt athletes, two freshmen and two transfers that should help the team's cause in 2004.
'New to the program this year is freshman Jacquelyn Johnson, a state record holder in high jump, long jump and triple jump. We expect her to compete for Pac-10 titles in the heptathlon and high jump, score in the hurdle events and run on our relay team. We also have added arguably the top high school thrower in the nation in Jessica Pressley.
'We have added depth in the sprints with the additions of Christina Hardeman (DeAnza CC) and Marcia Smith (Clemson), two of our transfers,' Kraft said. 'We do have to contend with the losses of three-time long jump champion Tiffany Greer and two-time steeplechase winner Lisa Aguilera, but I feel we have the athletes to make up for the points Greer and Aguilera scored last year. In my mind, Johnson should be able to counter the point total that Greer would have earned. When you add Anna Masinelli and Amy Hastings (both redshirts a year ago), they more than make up for the loss of Aguilera, who scored 13 points last year. I feel both women will score at least 13 points or more.'
The area of the team that Kraft feels will have the largest impact on the women's race is not the sprints or the distance, however. It is in the strength of the throws.
'Our throwers may be the strength of our team and I really like our balance,' Kraft said. 'I think our sprinters and field events could each score 60 points for the team. I will look to the distance runners to push us over the edge. They have had great success in cross country, taking second place the last two years, and we need that to translate into success on the track.'
Where the women will look for the newcomers to really spark the team, the men still hang their hopes of success on the returning veterans, especially that of the 4x400m relay team.
'The team will only go as far as the mile relay can take us,' Kraft said. 'Our team has matured and we have a nice junior class that needs to step up and become Pac-10 champions in order for us to be successful.'
In order to be successful in the team race, Kraft sees the team needing to post triple digits in the points race, something the Sun Devil men have achieved three of the last four seasons.
'We had a run of three years in a row in excess of 100 points (at the Pac-10 meet),' Kraft said. 'When you do that, generally speaking, it puts you in a position to challenge for a Top 3 finish. Last year was the first time we dropped under that point (82 points) and that relegated us to fifth. This year, we have a great group of returning athletes and a solid recruiting class that could return us to the 100 point mark. I think it will come down to five teams, which we should be among, that have the ability to score over 110 points with 130 points being about the score needed to win the conference.'
A combination of experience and talented youth comprise the sprints group this year and expectations are high for another successful season from both the men and women's mile relays.
'We have added three outstanding recruits this year,' Kraft said. 'We have Domenik Peterson, the first student-athlete to win the same event four times at the Missouri state meet (400m) and Steven Koehnemann is probably the most exciting sprint prospect to come out of the state of Arizona since Marcus Brunson. We also have Bruno Gï¿½es from Brazil, who has almost identical marks as Koehnemann. Those two guys give us flexibility so we won't have to use the same guys every race in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.'
But the main area of the sprinters that will be relied upon heavily is the 4x400m relay team that clocked a 3:02 in the event last year, giving them the fastest time heading into the outdoor nationals. All four members of the relay, which earned indoor All-America honors in 2003, return.
'When you look at the 4x400m team coming back, you have Lewis Banda, the returning Pac-10 400m champion as a freshman,' Kraft said. 'He was sick at regionals and Jason Barton stepped up and won that race. Then you have Seth Amoo, who is arguably the best relay runner out of the group, returning as the conference runner-up in the 200m and 400m. Steve Fitch also is a solid runner. All of them together have the balance and the depth to lead the team and we will only go as far as they can take us.'
The women are no slouches either. Pac-10 400m champion Cassandra Reed is back and, adding to that, the talent of several returnees and experienced newcomers, the women could be in line to bring the Sun Devils toward the top of the standings.
'The women are significantly improved with the runners we have returning,' Kraft said. 'Cassandra (Reed) has matured into a true leader in the program both on and off the track. The most improved person on the team, Kandace Tucker, will help provide a solid 1-2 punch that I am very excited about. Christina Hardeman, who has a wealth of experience with numerous wins, and Marcia Smith, a member of Clemson's NCAA championship 4x400m relay team a few years ago, will compliment them. Add to that returning All-American Seneca Holmes in the hurdles and Arizona record holder in the hurdles Jacquelyn Johnson, the women's sprints could be very successful this year.'
'Young, yet experienced' best describes the women's distance corps this year following another successful season in cross country. After placing second in the conference meet for the second season in a row, the women are perched to use their balanced depth to earn points for the team in a championship setting.
'When you look at the success they have had over the last two years in cross country as the conference runners-up, it was all done with a very young group,' Kraft said. 'Probably the most significant contributors in that group are going to be the Top 3 finishers on that team of Amy Hastings (2003 USA Junior 5,000m champion), Desiree Davila (2003 NCAA 5,000m finalist) and Anna Masinelli (all-Pac-10 cross country), who we feel could be the next great steepler for us.'
And the steeple is where it will start for the team. The conference has held a women's 3,000m steeplechase event each of the last three years with ASU holding a monopoly as Lisa Aguilera (twice) and Kelly MacDonald have combined to keep the gold in Tempe.
'With the work of Coach Drenth, we look for Hastings or Masinelli to continue that tradition of success in the steeple. Outside of the event, others will need to step up and help out the team, like returning scorers Jessica Scalzo, Alvina Begay and Jessie McLaughlin.'
On the men's side, one returning runner is seen to be the key to the distance team's success.
'I feel we are only going to go as far as Juan Reyes,' Kraft said. 'He is a proven national caliber runner. There is no doubt in my mind that he can run with anyone one in our conference as well in the nation.'
Reyes will not be alone as several athletes are more than capable to bring home some points for the Devils.
'We are excited about Aaron Aguayo, who has a tremendous competitive spirit, and Roger Cahill, who has a great kick,' Kraft said. 'They will compliment this group, as will J.J. Duke, the 2001 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year in cross country. One of our additions is Casey Burchill, the third man on Colorado's cross country team this year and a scorer in the steeplechase at the Big XII meet. We feel he and Ryan Warrenburg will combine to do well in the steeplechase, which is an event Arizona State has traditionally done well in.'
On both sides of the roster, the men and women's distance team will look to use a slight advantage to their favor this year when the conference meet rolls around.
'We train in the heat and are used to competing in it,' Kraft said. 'I know our distance runners are looking forward to competing in the heat of Arizona at the end of May when we head to Tucson for the Pac-10 Championships hosted by Arizona.'
With the departure of three-time Pac-10 long jump champion Tiffany Greer, the women's jumps would appear to be not as strong as in years past. But with the return of two conference placers and the hopes of a freshman, this year's squad may be just as strong.
'We are very thin on the women's side this year and will rely on Jackie Johnson to have an impact here for us immediately,' Kraft said. 'As the state record holder in several events, including the high jump, we feel she will. Johnson should be a contender in the high jump as well as a prospect in the long jump as a freshman. Added to that are the third and fifth place long jumpers at the conference meet in Porchea Carroll and Tinishia Johnson, both of which have greatly improved since last season.'
Where the women will rest most of their hopes on the talents of a rookie, the men will look to a trio of veterans to secure points for the team.
'We look for the juniors on the men's side to really step up this year,' Kraft said. 'We will need Trevell Quinley, Asokah Muhammad and Ryan Zimmerman to become an impact at the Pac-10 Championships this year.'
Quinley has earned All-America honors twice in the long jump, with his most recent honor coming during the last indoor season. Both Muhammad and Zimmerman will look to increase the numbers they produced a year ago in order to attain their first national accolades in 2004.
Pole vault has been a part of every Arizona State meet for some time now, though Arizona State has not been a part of the competition in the event. That will all change this season as pole vault returns to the Sun Devils. Several key recruits and transfers will help reestablish the event at ASU as the vaulters look to gain points for the Sun Devils in their championship aspirations.
'I am excited to have Brandon Glenn and Steven Dolk, two local products that ranked among the top in the nation last year in the pole vault, with us this year,' Kraft said. 'We look for them to have an immediate impact and we should be significantly better in the conference meet and hopefully at the national meets as well.'
Heading into the season, the throwing corps looks to be a tale of opposites. With the return of Pac-10 Champion Sandra Orsund in the discus and several key additions to the team, the Sun Devil women are poised to be a strong force in the team race this year. The men, however, enter the season with the least amount of veterans in its ranks and will rely upon a very green group of student-athletes.
'This area could become the strength of our women's team,' Kraft said. 'We return a Pac-10 champion in Sandra Orsund, who came out of nowhere to throw over 180 feet and defeat the defending conference and national champion at the same time last year. Julia Pedersen (shot put and discus) also returns and has already improved from the end of last year. We also have two great additions in the No. 3 thrower in the country last year in Jessica Pressley in the shot put and discus and Jennifer Kowacz, a transfer from Northern Arizona, who gives us tremendous depth in all three of the primary throwing events.
'For the men, this is our youngest area and is made up of mostly redshirts and walk-ons,' Kraft said. 'Coach Dumble has assembled a group of guys with a tremendous work ethic and passion for the sport and that is a direct reflection on their coach. Individually, I think Travis Jones can score for us at the conference meet in the hammer, and we are optimistic about several of the younger throwers like Andrew Smith, Jason Kravitz and Chris Duncan. We feel they still need time to develop and are about a year away from really contributing to the team. As redshirts, I feel that is a realistic timeline for them.'
Another new addition to the competition list for the Sun Devils this year will be the multi events of the decathlon and heptathlon. Though it has been a few years since the team has fielded an athlete in either event, the talents of several additions should be enough to garner some extra points for the team. For the men, Ryan Ehler will look to lead the way following a freshman campaign in 2003 in which he secured junior college All-America honors while competing for Mesa Community College. Joshua Kinnaman also will be in the mix for the Sun Devils.
On the women's, Jacquelyn Johnson's name appears again. The coaching staff feels with her talents and the records she set in high school in several events (high jump and hurdles), she will be a national contender in the heptathlon in 2004.
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