Track & Field Heads to NCAA West Regional

May 26, 2004

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Up Next: The University of Arizona's men's and women's track and field teams will be back on the road for the final two meets of the 2004 season. First up is the NCAA West Regional in Northridge, Calif. Cal State Northridge will play host to this year's regional meet, which runs May 28-29. Competition is set to begin at 8 a.m. PT on Friday with the women's hammer throw. Saturday's events begin at 8:30 a.m. with the men's javelin throw.

The Competition: The NCAA West Region is filled with tough competition. The Wildcats will be up against some of the country's best athletes as they seek a berth to the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas.

In 2003, both Arizona squads finished ninth in the final team standings at Stanford. UCLA swept the team titles in the first year with the regional format. The Bruins will be strong favorites to claim the team titles again after they swept the Pac-10 team titles in Tucson.

The Wildcats will send 26 athletes to this year's meet (14 men, 12 women). Several of the UA women will be quite busy as they are schedule to compete in up to four events.

Looking Forward: The final meet of the 2004 season is the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas. This year's meet will take place June 9-12 at the University of Texas' Mike A. Myers Stadium. The top five finishers in each event at the four NCAA Regional Championships will automatically earn a berth to the NCAA Championships. A small number of at-large bids will be awarded to complete the field.

Wildcats' NCAA Regional Preview
Arizona Men On The Track:
In the running events for the men, the Wildcats expect to see a number of exceptional performances. In the sprints, senior Jevon Mason will contend for a bid to the NCAA Championships in the 400 meters. Mason sprinted to an incredible fourth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships with a time of 45.82 seconds. Three Wildcats will take to the track in the distance races. Junior Josh Ludwig will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He has a season's best time of 8:57.52, which ranks 11th in the field of competitors. Much of the focus for the men's squad will be put on the 5,000 meters. Senior Kyle Goklish and sophomore sensation Robert Cheseret will toe the line for the Wildcats. Cheseret entres the race with the fastest time in the region at 13:22.65, an Arizona school record. Goklish ranks 11th with his time of 14:12.05.

Wildcat Men In The Field Events: Ten Wildcats will represent the men's squad in the field events. In the pole vault, Arizona will have a trio of strong competitors. Junior Kevin Opalka leads the way with an outdoor best of 17-6 1/2 (5.35m). Junior Chris Chappell isn't far behind with his best outdoor vault of 17-3 1/2 (5.27m). Chappell will be the first vaulter of the competition. The third Wildcat is sophomore Sam Jacobson. Jacobson qualified with a clearance of 16-4 3/4 (5.00m). In the long jump, Junior Mark Ramos will take to the runway. Ramos ranks ninth with a seed mark of 24-5 (7.44m). Freshman Daniel Marshall and senior J.R. Harrison will take part in the triple jump competition. Marshall earned his qualifying mark of 50-11 (15.52m) at the Pac-10 Championships, where he placed fourth. Harrison has been one of Arizona's best triple jumpers in school history. He ranks fourth in the field with a seasonal best leap of 52-1 3/4 (15.89m).

In the throws, Arizona will have four athletes competing. Freshmen Adam Kuehl and Jarred Sola will compete in the men's shot put. Kuehl comes in ranked 15th with a throw of 57-8 1/4 (17.58m), while Sola is ranked 18th with a mark of 55-10 1/2 (17.03m). In the discus, the Wildcats will also look to Kuehl. As a freshman, he has the third-best qualifying throw in the region at 186-0 (56.69m). Senior Ryan Moore will compete in the hammer throw. Moore enters with a seasonal best mark of 190-10 (58.16m). Senior Matt Wagner returned to the Wildcats for his final collegiate season, and he has been a huge asset all year long. Wagner is the top qualifier in the javelin with a throw of 240-10 (73.40m).

Arizona Women On The Track: In the running events, the UA women will look to four very talented athletes in the individual races. Sophomore Angel Perkins has proven that she can compete with the best after her performance at the Pac-10 Championships. After a disappointing performance in the prelims, Perkins came back to finish third in the 400 meters with a season's best time of 52.14 seconds. The time ranks her third in the regional field behind the two athletes that finished ahead of her at the Pac-10 meet. Two Wildcats will compete in the 100-meter hurdles. Junior Sharifa Jones is expected to be a strong contender. Jones set the Arizona school record at the Pac-10 Championships with a time of 13.10 seconds, which ranks fourth heading into the regional meet. She will be joined by freshman Tiffany McDonald, who qualified with a time of 13.77 seconds. Junior Chelsea Powell will run in the 400-meter hurdles. Powell ran a time of 59.95 seconds to qualify, which ranks her 11th in the region.

The Arizona women qualifed both of their relay teams for this year's regional meet. In the 4x100-meter relay, the Wildcats rank sixth with a time of 44.75 seconds. McDonald, Perkins, sophomore Marquita Taylor and Jones are schedule to run, while freshman Nikki Martin will be the alternate. The 4x400-meter relay squad ranks eighth with a time of 3:42.75. Taylor, Powell, junior Lindsay Scarborough, and Perkins are the expected runners, while Jones will be the alternate.

Wildcat Women In The Field Events: Six women will represent Arizona in the field events. In the women's pole vault, seniors Connie Jerz and Sheena McKay will hit the runway. Jerz ranks third in the conference behind two Pac-10 foes, UCLA's Chelsea Johnson and Washington's Kate Soma. Jerz is peaking at the right time as she cleared her season's best height of 13-10 (4.22m) at the Pac-10 Championships. McKay also hit her seasonal best at the Pac-10 Championships, entering the regional with a clearance of 12-4 1/2 (3.77m). Junior Sharifa Jones will also compete in the long jump. Jones ranks ninth with a jump of 19-3 3/4 (6.04m).

Junior Amber Varner will compete in three throwing events for the Arizona women. She enters the shot put with a seasonal best throw of 48-10 (14.88m). In the discus, she has thrown 158-9 (48.40m), while her seasonal best in the hammer throw is 175-8 (53.54m). Her sophomore sister, Rachel, will be one Wildcat to watch in the discus throw. Rachel is the top qualifier with a throw of 190-1 (57.93m). Also joining Amber in the hammer throw is senior Jackilyn Drake. She enters with a best throw of 181-5 (55.30m).

Pac-10 Championships Review
The 2004 Pac-10 Championships were held on May 14-15 at Arizona's Roy P. Drachman Stadium. The UA men used four individual titles and a number of very strong performances to propel themselves to a fifth-place finish in the team standings. The Wildcat women struggled through the two-day affair and finished ninth.

The Wildcats claimed five Pac-10 individual titles over the course of the meet. Senior Matt Wagner claimed the first title with a win in the javelin throw. Wagner's throw of 233 feet, 4 inches won the title and gave throws coach John Frazier his first Pac-10 champion during his career at Arizona. Wagner's feat was even more impressive because he returned to the Wildcats in 2004 after suffering a devastating injury in the weeks leading up to the 2002 Pac-10 Championships that sidelined him for more than a year.

The big story of the meet for the Arizona men was sophomore Robert Cheseret. Cheseret claimed three individual titles in the distance events. Cheseret first ran the fastest qualifying time in the 1,500 meters preliminaries on Friday afternoon. He went on to win the 10,000 meters in dramatic fashion in the last event on Friday night. On Saturday, Cheseret claimed the 1,500-meter title as he sprinted to the front of the pack with about 300 meters to go. Questionable for the 5,000 meters final, Cheseret surprised the crowd as he toed the line for his third and final event. Sitting in the middle of the pack for a majority of the race, Cheseret sprinted to the front of the pack in the last lap to claim his third Pac-10 title. Cheseret is only the fourth person to claim three conference titles in the distance events, but he is the first to do it in the 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.

The Wildcat women were led by sophomore Rachel Varner. Varner claimed her first Pac-10 title in the discus throw. She won the event with a throw of 178 feet, 4 inches. Varner sits at No. 3 in the NCAA rankings in the discus.

Junior Sharifa Jones also made a big splash for the UA women. In Friday's preliminary action, Jones set the Arizona school record in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.10 seconds. During the indoor season, she set the school record three times in the 60-meter hurdles. She placed fourth in the final on Saturday with a time of 13.20 seconds. Sophomore Angel Perkins battled injury in the 400 meter prelims to barely qualify for the final. But during Saturday's final, she fought through the pain to finish third with a seasonal best time of 52.14 seconds.

Other top UA finishers include:
Adam Kuehl Men's Discus 2nd 183 feet, 2 inchesConnie Jerz Women's Pole Vault 3rd 13 feet, 10 inchesChris Chappell Men's Pole Vault 3rd 17 feet, 3 1/2 inchesJ.R. Harrison Men's Triple Jump 3rd 50 feet, 11 inchesJevon Mason Men's 400m 4th 45.82 secondsDaniel Marshall Men's Triple Jump 4th 50 feet, 11 inchesJosh Ludwig Men's 3,000m SC 4th 8:59.47Kyle Goklish Men's 5,000m 5th 14:21.95

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.

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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