Mt. SAC Relays Up Next for Wildcat Track & Field

April 13, 2004

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Up Next: The University of Arizona's men's and women's track and field teams travel back to Southern California this week for the 46th annual Mt. SAC Relays. The multi-events (men's decathlon and women's heptathlon) will run from Wednesday, April 14 through Thursday April 15 at Azusa Pacific University. The rest of the weekend's competition will begin on Friday, April 16 and run through Sunday, April 18 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.

The Competition: The Mt. SAC Relays are one of track and field's premier events every year. This is the 46th running of the meet and is expected to attract some of the world's top performers as they prepare for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

This is always a very successful event for the Wildcat track and field teams. Last year's event yielded four victories and 22 top-ten performances for Arizona. Winners from last year include: Rich Legarra (discus), Kyle Goklish (10,000m), Sharifa Jones (100m HH) and Seynabou Ndiaye (100m).

Nineteen men and eleven women will represent the Wildcats this year at the Mt. SAC Relays, including two of last year's winners and nine top-ten performers.

National Rankings: Every week, Gary Verigin of Trackwire produces a ranking of the top 25 teams. The rankings predict the scores at the NCAA Championships based on the season's performances to date. In this weeks rankings, the Arizona women are tied for 14th with 15 points. The UA men are tied for 18th with 16 points.

The United States Track Coaches Association also puts together computer rankings based on a team's top two performers in each event. The rankings predict how each team would perform in a dual meet setting. As of April 13, the Wildcat women have ascended to the No. 8 ranking, while the Arizona men sit at No. 18.

Outdoor Season Opens with Four Home Meets:
The Wildcat track and field teams opened up the 2004 season with four home meets throughout the month of March. First off was the Wildcat Classic on Saturday, March 6. Then, the Wildcats played host to a high school/collegiate combined meet at the Willie Williams Classic and Dave Murray Distance Carnival. Arizona continued its series of home meets with a two-day multi events competition at the Mike Maynard Wildcat Combined Events. The Wildcats closed out the month with the Jim Click Shootout against some very tough competition.

To date, the Wildcats have amassed 34 Pac-10 and 19 NCAA qualifying times and marks this season. Arizona is on track to have another very successful postseason appearance. The Wildcats will play host to the 2004 Pac-10 Championships at Roy P. Drachman Stadium. The multi events will take place on May 7-8, followed by the conference championships on May 14-15.

NCAA Indoor Championships In Review: The Wildcats capped off a very successful indoor season at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. on March 12-13. Arizona came home with five All-Americans and one new school record.

Junior Sharifa Jones had a huge meet with back-to-back performances in the long jump and 60-meter high hurdles. With her two events happening at almost the same time, Jones had to be quick about nailing down a big jump in the long jump. On her second attempt, she came up with a mark of 19 feet, 8 1/4 inches to secure 11th place and All-American status.

Jones then set herself up for the preliminaries of the high hurdles. Jones didn't qualify for the final, but she ran the ninth-fastest time and set the school record for the third time this season with a time of 8.18 seconds.

Senior Connie Jerz finished off the indoor season in style with a third-place finish in the pole vault. She cleared 13 feet, 7 1/4 inches, earning All-America honors in the process.

Senior Kyle Goklish capped off his season with a 12th-place finish in the 5,000 meters final. He clocked a time of 14:14.74 and earned All-America status. The men's distance medley relay finished ninth with a time of 9:41.61.

In the second and final day, the Wildcats had two men competing. Junior Chris Chappell was unable to clear the first height in the pole vault, but it was a good experience nonetheless. Sophomore Robert Cheseret finished fourth in the 3,000-meter final with a time of 8:04.28, adding his name to the list of Arizona All-Americans.

Looking Back at the MPSF Championships:
Both the men's and women's teams had exceptional team performances at this past weekend's MPSF Championships. The men made a strong charge on the final day of competition, moving up from fifth to fourth place in the final standings. The women maintained their fifth-place standing throughout the meet.

After careful analysis by head coach Fred Harvey, the Wildcats have a lot to be proud of after the meet. According to the numbers, the Wildcats won five individual titles, set two meet records, had seven NCAA qualifying performances, set one school record, had 21 personal records and 29 season's best performances.

Sharifa Jones improved the school record in the 60-meter hurdles to 8.24 seconds (NCAA provisional), a record she already held. Jones was also one of the five champions, winning the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 10 inches. Angel Perkins was the other individual champion for the UA women, claiming victory in the 60 meters with a time of 7.45 seconds.

The Wildcat men were on a roll in the final day of competition. Robert Cheseret rallied back in the final laps of the 3,000-meter final to win in a blistering time of 7:52.00, improving his NCAA automatic qualifying time, while setting the meet record. Kyle Goklish followed suit in the 5,000-meter final. Goklish took the title with a meet record and NCAA provisional qualifying time of 14:09.51. The distance medley relay team won the third men's title, beating out three of the top-12 teams in the country. The quartet cruised to victory in 9:46.97. Josh Ludwig ran the 1,200m, followed by Eric Chavez's 400 meters, Kenny Frank's 800 meters, while Cheseret sealed the win in the 1,600m leg.

Along with NCAA qualifying marks by Jones, Cheseret and Goklish, the Wildcats had three others qualify for the national championships. Connie Jerz improved her provisional-qualifying mark in the pole vault to 13 feet, 2 1/2 inches. Billie Jo Grant also hit a provisional qualifying mark in the shot put, but holds a better mark from earlier in the season. Chris Chappell improved his provisional-qualifyng mark in the pole vault to 17 feet, 9 3/4 inches.

The Wildcats' success and progress during the indoor season is generating a lot of buzz in the program. The men's and women's squads look for it to carry over to the NCAA Indoor Chamionsips on into the outdoor season.

Chasing Cheseret: The Wildcats scored big last year when they were able to attract up and coming distance runner Robert Cheseret. In Cheseret's sophomore season, he continue to make progress as one of the nation's most feared endurance runners. His youth will be a big asset for the Wildcats over the next several seasons.

Cheseret had one of his biggest performances at the Stanford Invitational on March 27. He won the 10,000 meters with a NCAA automatic qualifying time of 28:25.62. The time would easily top the USA best times list, but Cheseret is a native of Kenya.

He will focus on earning qualifying times in several other distance events as the postseason nears. Cheseret was a third-place finisher in the 5,000 meters at the 2003 NCAA Championships as a freshman.

Wildcats Topping National Rankings: Several Arizona Wildcats have found themselves ranked in the top-10 performances by Americans in the 2004 season. According to USAT&F, six Wildcats are among the nation's best. The lists were last updated on March 30, 2004.

Senior Connie Jerz has the highest ranking, coming in at No. 4 in the pole vault. She vaulted a season's best 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches at a home meet to earn the ranking. Jerz's personal best is 14 feet, 1 1/4 inches, a height she cleared at the 2003 NCAA Championships to finish second.

Senior J.R. Harrison has the seventh-best triple jump mark in the country. Harrison leapt 52 feet, 1 3/4 inches on March 19 at the Willie Williams Classic. The jump ranks him at No. 4 on Arizona's all-time list. Senior Kevin Opalka is No. 8 in the pole vault with a clearance of 17 feet, 6 1/2 inches. Senior Matt Wagner has been steadily improving after sitting out the 2003 season due to injury. Wagner had a big throw of 240 feet, 10 inches, a mark that ranks him eighth in the country.

Senior Kyle Goklish's strong finish in the 10,000 meters at the Stanford Invitational earned him the nations' No. 8 ranking. Goklish clocked a time of 28:59.49 to narrowly earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships in June. Sophomore Rachel Varner, the only underclassmen to make the list for the Wildcats, sits at No. 8 in the discus. Varner's big personal best throw of 176 feet, 4 inches has made her a serious contender for a strong postseason run.

Coaching Staff: The Wildcat track and field program has one of the nation's best coaching staffs in the nation. Director of Track & Field/Cross Country Fred Harvey enters his second year as head coach and his 17th year with the program. Harvey works primarily with the sprinters, hurdlers and several jumpers. Assistant coach Dawn Mortensen joined the staff in the Fall of 1997. Mortensen was a sprinter for the Wildcat track and field team in the 1990s, and she now works with the sprinters and hurdlers. Assistant coach John Frazier is in his fourth year with the Wildcats after serving as an assistant coach at the University of Florida. Frazier works with the Wildcat throwers and has produced several of Arizona's most outstanding athletes. James Li joined the program in 2002 to coach the cross country teams and to assist with the distance runner during track season. Li was the head coach at Washington State before coming to Arizona, where he had quite a bit of success. The Wildcats' latest addition is that of Eric Boxley. Boxley acted as a volunteer assistant coach in 2003, and he was added to the full-time staff for the 2004 season. Boxley works with the jumpers and vaulters.

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