Track & Field Hosts Pac-10 Championships

May 11, 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, which run Friday, May 14 through Saturday, May 15. Friday's field events begin at 2:30 p.m., with running events set to begin at 5:15 p.m. On Saturday, field events begin at 3 p.m., followed by running events at 6 p.m. The meet will take place at Arizona's home track and field complex, the Roy P. Drachman Stadium, located at 15 Street and Plumer Avenue.

The Competition: The Pac-10 Conference has produced a large number of the world's elite track and field athletes. This year will be no different, with a large group of contenders for NCAA titles.

On the team front, the UCLA women have dominated the Pac-10 Championships, winning ten of eleven titles, including seven straight. The men's team titles have been spread around the conference more than the women's. This year's title is up for grabs with a number of strong squads entering the meet. The Stanford men have won two of the last three titles. Arizona has never won a team title on the men's or women's side.

Individually, the competition is always fierce in every event. A number of Pac-10 athletes are strong contenders for a national title in Austin, Texas in June. The Wildcats have a number of athletes entering the meet ranked in the top ten.

As Arizona's Pac-10 rivals descend upon Tucson, the Wildcats are gearing up for a strong meet. Both UA squads will look to have a number of big performances on their home track.

Arizona's Championships Contenders:
Robert Cheseret -
The sophomore native of Kenya has been one of the strongest assets for the Arizona men in 2004. Cheseret ranks second in the nation in the 5,000 meters and fourth in the country in the 10,000 meters. Cheseret broke the Arizona school record in the 5,000 meters with a time of 13:22.65. He is the conference leader in the 5,000 meters, and ranks second in the 10,000 meters.

Angel Perkins - Perkins has been a standout athlete for the UA women since she arrived as a freshman for the 2003 season. Last year, Perkins Pac-10 Championships did not end the way she would have liked due to a false start in the 400 meters final. This year, Perkins looks to make up for that with a strong finish. The sophomore from California is ranked third in the 400 meters and sixth in the 200 meters among conference qualifiers.

Matt Wagner - Wagner rejoined the Wildcats in 2004 after sitting out the 2003 season with an injury. He has not wasted a moment of the season with a number of strong performances. In his final season with Arizona, Wagner is the top qualifier in the javelin with a mark of 240 feet, 10 inches, almost 20 feet better than the second-best qualifier. Wagner will look to close out his collegiate career with a Pac-10 title and prepare for the NCAA Regional and national championship meets.

Connie Jerz - Jerz has been considered a national contender for the NCAA title since the season began. She has had a very steady season all year. At the NCAA Indoor Championships, she placed third. Jerz finished second at last year's NCAA Championships and is currently ranked sixth in the country.

J.R. Harrison - Harrison has had a very successful senior season. After redshirting the 2003 outdoor season, he has come on strong in his final collegiate season. Harrison has consistently cleared the 50-foot barrier. He currently ranks third in the conference. He is considered a legitimate threat at the conference and national levels.

Rachel Varner - In her sophomore season, Varner has hit the national radar. At the Triton Invitational in La Jolla, Calif., she hit a big throw in discus. Her mark of 190 feet, 1inch moved her into the No. 3 spot in the country, where she currently sits. Varner followed that performance up with several other big throws, consistently hitting over 175 feet. She is the top-ranked discus thrower in the conference.

Kevin Opalka - Opalka returned to the Wildcats for his final season after redshirting in 2003. He quickly regained his form and became the top men's vaulter for Arizona. He enters the conference championships with the fifth-best performance. In 2002, Opalka finished fifth at the Pac-10 Championships.

Sharifa Jones - Just as she did in 2003, Jones is peaking during the championship season. During the indoor season, Jones rattled off three school records in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing with a best of 8.18 seconds. She has been on the verge of doing the same during the outdoor season. She clocked a wind-aided time of 13.13 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, a time that ranks second in the conference and seventh nationally. She is equally capable of earning the top spot in the long jump competition. She has a season-best jump of 20 feet, 10 inches from the indoor season. She is also a member of the 4x100-meter relay squad that has the fifth-best time in the conference.

Adam Kuehl - In his first collegiate season, Kuehl has been a very consistent performer for the Wildcat men. Kuehl currently ranks second in the conference in the discus throw with a mark of 186 feet (56.69m). He will face off with last year's champion, Dan Ames of UCLA, who leads the conference with a throw of 190-5. Kuehl is also ranked 10th in the shot put in the conference.

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 11, both squads hold on to the No. 20 ranking.

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.

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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