Pac-10 Multi-Events Await Wildcat Track & Field

May 5, 2004

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Up Next: The University of Arizona's men's and women's track and field teams will play host to the 2004 Pacific-10 Track & Field Championships over the next two weekends. First up for the Wildcats is the Pac-10 Combined Events Championships, which run May 7-8. The women's heptathlon and the men's decathlon will be contested at Roy P. Drachman Stadium. Friday's action is set to get underway at 4 p.m., while Saturday's competition will begin at 3 p.m. Points awarded will contribute to the team's conference championship total.

The Competition: The Pac-10 has produced some of the nation's finest heptathletes and decathletes in recent years. The level of competition remains high as a number of athletes descend upon Tucson for this year's Pac-10 Championships.

Last year proved to be an especially strong year in the multi-events within the conference. Ellannee Richardson of Washington State took home top honors in the heptathlon with a score of 5,766 points. Stanford's Lillian Bush finished second with 5,519 points.

On the men's side, Santiago Lorenzo claimed the decathlon title with 7,564 points. Washington State's Darion Powell was runner-up with 7,386 points.

This year's qualifying marks set the stage for a very competitive weekend. Oregon's Andy Young enters the meet with the top decathlon score at 7,179 points. In the heptatlon, California's Brooke Meredith has posted the top qualifying score of 5,511 points.

For Arizona, the Wildcats will enter two women in the heptathlon. Junior Amanda Underwood has the sixth-best score to date in the conference. She posted a score of 4,547 points at the Mt. SAC Relays Heptathlon. Junior Jessica Corkill will also compete alongside Underwood. Corkill has yet to compete this year, but she has looked very strong in training leading up to this weekend's competition.

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 men are tied for 17th with 16 points. The UA women dropped out of the top-25.

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 May 5, the Wildcat women sit at No. 18, while the UA men are No. 19.

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 continues 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.

The young Kenyan is just beginning to leave his mark on the NCAA track & field world. At the Mt. SAC Relays, Cheseret was the top collegian in the 5,000 meters, finishing second overall. He eclipsed the Arizona school record with a blistering fast time of 13:22.65.

Cheseret's two dominating performances now rank first on the 2004 outdoor performance lists. His time of 3:43.03 in the 1,500 meters also ranks as the seventh-best performance this year.

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 April 14, 2004.

Senior Connie Jerz has been a big performer for the UA women, coming in at No. 10 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 11th 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. 20 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 ninth 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. 11in 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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