Track Set to Kick Off Regionals
Feb. 25, 2010
SEATTLE – Crunch time is upon The University of Arizona's track and field programs as they are in Seattle preparing for this weekend's Mount Pacific Sports Federation Championships.
The No. 16 women's and No. 18 men's squad enter this week's meet at Dempsey Indoor with high expectations after an impressive start to the season that has seen 13 athletes earn NCAA qualifying marks and myriad of others come very close.
Those athletes will look to duplicate or better those marks this weekend as conference pride is on the line. The meet represents a glorified conference championship meetdespite the fact it doesn't lay claim to the meet. Teams for Hawaii, Idaho, UC-Irvine and Cal State Northridge are also in competition but not really expected to touch the Pacific 10 schools when the final points are printed.
Both teams enter the weekend ranked in the top three teams in the conference according to the most recent poll released by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association with the men coming in ranked third and the women second.
The meet will take place over the course of Friday and Saturday. Following is a brief preview of what to expect.
Sprints and Hurdles
This writer's personal apology goes out to Chris McSwain, whose impressive performance at last weekend's NAU Tune-Up meet in Flagstaff went unrecognized in the most recent media release. The sophomore sprinter set a personal record in the 60-meters and posted the top 200-meter time in the region with an indoor personal best, making himself a legitimate candidate to perform big things at this weekend's meet.
In the hurdles, junior LaTisha Holden is riding the wave of a breakout season that has seen her set personal bests in the 60-meters each of the last three seasons. On the outside looking in as far as the national championship scene is concerned, Holden will look to keep the streak rolling this weekend. Holden enters with the second best time in the region and sophomore Dahlys Marshall is not far behind with the seventh best mark.
The distance teams could be the dark horses of this years meet as a group that has looked up to the likes of Oregon and Stanford over the past couple years now has the personnel to compete right next to them.
In the 800-meters, Christina Rodgers enters with the top time and one of the top national times to boot in just her first couple weeks of competition since missing all of the last year with injury.
Redshirt sophomore Abdi Hassan also comes into the weekend as one of the top runners in the country in the mile run, having posted sub-four minute marks twice this year.
If there were one group of events you would expect to see domination across the board, it would be here. Of the UA's 13 national qualifiers, six come from the jumping crew.
Luis Rivera-Morales will take part in his last conference meet of his prestigious career at Arizona. Notable is the fact he has won four straight conference titles indoors and outdoors in the long and triple jumps. He will certainly be favored this weekend, having one of only a couple automatic qualifications in the long jump on the national level.
Fellow senior Liz Patterson still has an outdoor season to look forward too, but the Bowerman Watchlist member still has something to prove indoors. She was the national runner-up in the high jump last season and holds the top mark in the country this year. Freshman Brigetta Barrett joins Patterson with an automatic qualification of her own and junior Courtney Hayes sits right on the bubble, giving Arizona the deepest team in the event in the field.
Freshmen phenoms Nick Ross and Edgar Rivera-Morales come into the weekend with the second and third best high jumps in the region as well and look primed for National Championship berths themselves. The two will also join Luis in the triple jump on Saturday.
Again, the tale of two freshmen this season has been about Julie Labonte and Alyssa Hasslen. The two throwers and sophomore Taylor Freeman hold three of the top six marks in the region in the shot put and could bost very valuable points in the event.
Sophomore Tomaz Bogovic could also be expected to score for the Wildcats in the weight throw.
With all that said, anything can happen at a meat such as the MPSF Championships. Many athletes not mentioned above could post big time points for the 'Cats and it will be those performances that represent the difference in the final tally.
You can follow along all the action live on arizonawildcats.com. Arizona SID Jeremy Hawkes will be maintaining a live, interactive blog throughout the weekend for those who wish to follow along. Just see the track and field main page over the next two days and click the appropriate link.
TOMORROW | 12:00pm PTLive