Track & Field Revs Up for In-State Rivals ASU and NAU

Jan. 28, 2004

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Up Next: The University of Arizona's men's and women's track and field teams will travel to Flagstaff, Ariz. for the annual double-dual meet versus the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. The meet will take place on Friday, January 30 and Saturday, January 31, at the J.L. Walkup Skydome on the NAU campus. Action gets underway on Friday at 11 a.m. with the women's pentathlon and men's heptathlon. Saturday's events are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. with the conclusion of the heptathlon and the beginning of individual events.

The Competition: The Arizona track and field teams will face two tough squads from Arizona State and Northern Arizona. In the latest Trackwire rankings, the NAU women came in tied for the No. 25 spot. The other five squads remained unranked.

In the USTCA power rankings, the NAU claims the highest ranking among the men's squads at No. 21. ASU is right behind the Lumberjacks at No. 22, and the Wildcats hail at No. 25. On the women's side, NAU comes in at No. 20. Arizona follows with the No. 23 ranking, and ASU is No. 25.

Trackwire Dandy Dozen: Trackwire statistician Gary Verigin ranks the top 12 athletes in each event based on their performances throughout the season. In the January 27 version of the rankings, four Wildcats found themselves in the Dandy Dozen.

Sophomore Robert Cheseret earned the higest ranking among Arizona athletes. Cheseret sits at No. 4 in the 5,000 meters. The only other male athlete from Arizona was junior Jonah Maiyo in the mile, coming in at No. 12. On the women's side, three Wildcats made the list. Sophomore Angel Perkins was included at No. 10 in the 400 meters. Senior Beth Hoge made the cut in the 3,000 meters, ranked No. 12.

Meet Recaps:Northwest Pole Vault SummitThe Wildcat vaulters kicked off the 2004 season at the annual Northwest Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nev. Some of the world's best vaulters were on hand for what turned out to be a very successful competition for the Wildcats.

Connie Jerz led the way for the UA women, competing in the Elite Women's division. Jerz finished in a ninth-place tie with a height of 13 feet, 2 1/4 inches. Juanita Braun was another top female vaulter for Arizona. Braun finished second in her section at 12 feet, 9 1/2 inches. Chris Chappell begins the season as the top men's vaulter for Arizona. Chappell was tied for 11th in his division at 16 feet, 4 3/4 inches. Adam Zimnisky won his section at 15 feet, 10 3/4 inches, while teammate Sam Jacobson finished tied for fifth in his section at 15 feet, 1 inch.

Western Indoor ClassicThe complete men's and women's squads started the 2004 season in Boise, Idaho at the Western Indoor Classic. The Wildcats came away with three individual titles and 20 Mountain Pacific qualifiying performances.

Angel Perkins won the 60 meters in 7.53 seconds, while teammate Sharifa Jones claimed the 60-meter hurdles title in 8.60 seconds. Jessica Corkill claimed a victory of her own in the long jump with a leap of 18 feet, 9 1/4 inches. Chris Chappell improved his season's best mark with a vault of 16 feet, 6 3/4 inches. Mike Mensah finished third in both the long jump and triple jump, earning MPSF qualifying marks in both events.

Season Preview:The University of Arizona's men's and women's track and field teams are on the prowl this season. Both squads return a number of outstanding performers from the 2003 team. The coaching staff also has brought in a number of high-profile recruits that will propel the Wildcat teams to new heights in 2004.

Fred Harvey, director of cross country and track & field, was busy during the recruiting season. He signed another top rated class of star athletes. Last year, Harvey brought in the No. 4 recruiting class, according to Track & Field News. During the past offseason, he was able to sign several of the nation's top high school athletes, as well as some big name transfers. 'Recruiting is at the core of our success, and I feel that we have a great core at this time,' Harvey explained.

Each event area is filled with a number of talented athletes with the ability to contend on the national level. The Wildcats will be a top team in 2004, and they enter the season with high expectations.

Women's Sprints, Hurdles, RelaysThe Wildcats return triple threat Sharifa Jones. Jones will play a huge role for the UA women as she continues to develop her talent in the long jump, hurdles and relays. Another one to look out for is sophomore Angel Perkins. Perkins was on the verge of doing some big things at the NCAA Championships, but an injury prevented her from competing in the final days of the meet. Perkins rebounded nicely in the coming weeks as she brought home silver medals at both the USA Junior National Championships and the Pan American Junior Championships. Sophomore Marquita Taylor improved greatly towards the end of the season, putting her well on her way to becoming another of Arizona's outstanding sprinters.

Men's Sprints, Hurdles, RelaysThe men's sprints and relays squad may be a youthful bunch in 2004, but they have the talent to compete with the best. Several of last year's top performers will be back with their sights set even higher. The newcomers will add even more depth to the talented squad. Seniors Jevon Mason and Adrain Thomas return as two of last year's top sprinters. Both Mason and Thomas will be looked to for leadership based on their experience and talent. Arizona also returns the likes of junior Jeff Hunter, a 2003 NCAA qualifier. Hunter had an amazing season during 2003, highlighted by setting the school record in the 400m hurdles. Freshmen Dan Cook will add a nice touch to the 2004 squad, having already posted several impressive times during his high school career.

Women's Middle and Long DistanceThe distance squad is ready to roll through the 2004 season. Last year's group was very young with very little experience. Now that several athletes have become accustomed to collegiate competition, they will begin to climb to the top of the performance lists. Senior Beth Hoge is a sure leader for this group. Hoge was an NCAA qualifier in the NCAA Championships last year. The Wildcats also will enjoy the talent of redshirt sophomore Adrienne Goeller. Goeller is a strong endurance runner, and she will be very important in the long races like the 10,000 meters. Redshirt senior Nicole Gurnicz is back for her final year in an Arizona uniform. Gurnicz struggled a bit in 2003, but she is expected to be back in top form for 2004.

Men's Middle and Long DistanceThe men's middle distance and distance squads will be a truly talented squad this season. A number of returnees are back and ready to go. The team's top returnee is sophomore Robert Cheseret. Cheseret took the national scene by storm with his speed and endurance, and it led him to a third-place finish in the 5,000m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He is expecting to improve upon that performance and head straight for the top. Kyle Goklish returns for one more outdoor season. He was the eighth-place finisher in the 10,000m at the Pac-10 Championships and narrowly missed a trip to the NCAA Championships in June. In the middle distance, look for the likes of Aaron Powell. Powell was one of the Wildcats' most consistent runners in 2003. Arizona will look for him to take that next step and contend at the conference and regional level in the 800m and 1,500m. Junior college transfer Jonah Maiyo will jump right in and join the top returnees. Maiyo had two impressive years at the junior college level and is ready to show that off with the Wildcats. Freshman Kenny Frank will be another Wildcat to watch for in 2004. After a strong high school career, Frank is poised to make an impact for the Wildcats. Jeremy Johnson, a transfer from New Mexico, will join the Wildcats as well. Look for him to add quite a bit of depth and talent to the squad.

Women's ThrowsThe women's throws squad continues to add some of the nation's top athletes year after year. The 2004 season could be one of the biggest in Arizona history with the group that will take the field this year. One of the top returning athletes is senior Ilona Rutjes. She competed as a Wildcat for the first time in 2003 after a tremendous junior college career. She is expected to be a strong contender for the discus national title in June. The Wildcats will also enjoy the talents of sisters Amber and Rachel Varner. Both are expected to play important roles for the Wildcat women. Billie-Jo Grant, the nation's top high school discus thrower, will join the women's squad in 2004. Grant was the California state champion in the discus and runner-up in the shot put. Grant is expected to make an immediate impact, especially in the discus.

Men's ThrowsThe Wildcats will be stocked with talent in the throws, especially after the addition of two key recruits. Junior Sean Shields will be back and ready for another strong season. He had a great indoor season in 2003, but was hampered by injury during the outdoor season. Arizona will enjoy the strength of redshirt freshman Adam Kuehl, the reigning USA Junior National Champion in the discus. Kuehl sat out last year in order to save a redshirt season. Redshirt senior Matt Wagner will also rejoin the Wildcats. Wagner suffered an injury in his throwing arm at the beginning of last season and had to sit out the whole year. Redshirt senior Ryan Moore also will compete in his final season for the Wildcats. Moore has been a constant on the Arizona throws squad for the past couple of years. The Wildcats bring in two exciting throwers for the 2004 season. Talavou Avegalio and Jarred Sola will be two of the top true freshmen throwers in the country.

Women's Pole Vault and JumpsIn the pole vault, the UA women have more depth than any team could ever ask for entering the season. Senior Connie Jerz will headline the 2004 squad after posting a runner-up finish at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Senior Juanita Braun will join Jerz as one the Wildcats' top vaulters. Braun is ready to continue the huge strides she made at the end of last season. In the other jumps, the Wildcats have started to develop quite a group of athletes. Junior Sharifa Jones is the team's top returning long jumper. She earned a big personal best at the Tucson Elite meet last year with a leap of 21-3 �. CoCoa Sanford and Jessica Corkill will also provide a lot of talent to the jumps squad. Corkill was a MPSF qualifier last year in the long jump, while Sanford showed a lot of potential in the triple jump.

Men's Pole Vault and JumpsThe Arizona's men's pole vaulters and jumpers are ready for some exciting things to happen during the 2004 season. National qualifiers Mike Mortensen and Kevin Opalka will lead the vaulters. Both have had outstanding performances in recent season, and are expected to be two of the top vaulters in the country. Redshirt junior Chris Chappell is also ready for a strong 2004 season, benefitting from a redshirt season last year. Junior Mark Ramos will be the top returning long jumper, while redshirt senior J.R. Harrison will be the team's top triple jumper. Both have the ability to be national level jumpers, and they should reach those heights in 2004. The talent of senior Mike Mensah will be an asset the Wildcats enjoy during the 2004 season. Mensah is expecting to have a big senior season. He should be a scorer at the Pac-10 Championships as well as challenge for a spot at the NCAA meet.


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