'Cats Head to Cal for Pac-10s
May 13, 2010
BERKELEY, Calif. - Championship season is underway for The University of Arizona's men's and women's track and field teams and Berkeley, Calif., is the location as both look for their first ever conference titles this weekend.
Two weeks removed from a successful showing the UA-ASU-NAU Double Dual Meet that unofficially kicked off the track and field postseason, the Wildcats will look to continue the momentum at Edwards Stadium Saturday and Sunday.
The UA women have done their fair share of streak-ending this season, putting an end to some runs that weren't necessarily to brag about. The women's cross country team ended an eight year NCAA National Championship appearance drought while the ladies on the track team stifled a nine-year losing streak to ASU in the Dual.
With those streaks ended, the squad will look to get one more monkey off their back: finish in the upper echelon in the conference. The UA has not fared better than sixth since 1997 but this year's team is among the strongest conference squads the school has had since that time and their third place finish at the Mount Pacific Sports Federation Championships indoors shows just how far the team has come.
The UA men will look to brush off back-to-back eighth place conference finishes from the past two years this weekend as well.
Events begin Saturday at 9:15 a.m. with the women's hammer throw and will continue through the weekend into Sunday. You can follow along with all the action live at www.arizonaathletics.com with a live blog that can be accessed here.
Road To Nationals
Those familiar with the road to nationals in the past should take heed to the new protocol for advancing to the 2010 NCAA National Championships in Eugene. In years past, athletes would qualify for their respective regional competitions where they would have to finish in the top five to advance to the NCAA Championships. That is no longer the case. The NCAA track and field programs have been split into two groups – the East and the West. These two groups will compete at their respective sites later this month in what essentially serves as a first and second round elimination process to qualify for nationals.
The top 48 athletes from each division (top 24 multi-eventers and relays) will advance to their Regional semi-final where they will compete in a two day competition that will decide who advances to Eugene. The UA squad will send their best to Austin to compete in this event. The top 48 will dwindle to 24 after a first round of preliminaries and in the second round, only the top 12 of that remaining 24 will advance to the NCAA Championships. In years past, an athlete with a good enough time could still making the Championship even without finishing well at Regionals. This is no longer the case, and one misstep, one false start or one too many fouls could now be the difference between a shot at glory and going home in time for summer break.
If the season were the end today, 19 UA women in 22 events and both relays would advance while nine men in 10 events would move on.
Jumping the Brig
The tune of the 2010 women’s season has been that of outstanding freshman and one need look no far than high jumper Brigetta Barrett for proof of that. Fresh out of high school, the youngster has posted the top mark in the conference this season at 1.89m (6-2 ¼) which also matches her career best. Barrett was the MPSF indoor high jump champion and already has the seventh best outdoor mark in school happens. And jumping over highly placed bars is not Barrett’s only talent; she also sings the National Anthem at UA home meets.\
While Barrett may have the top mark in the conference during this outdoor season, it’s important to remember that the Wildcats also lay claim to another pretty decent high jumper in Liz Patterson. You know, the two-time NCAA National Champion Liz Patterson? Patterson got a late start to the high jump this season, as coaches wanted to make sure she was in prime shape after winning the indoor title. With a couple meets under her belt now, Patterson will look to climb back to the top and don’t be surprised to see a one-two Wildcat sweep this weekend.
Holden Down the Fort
All coaches hope to see there athletes steadily improve across their collegiate careers and no athlete may define this principle more than junior LaTisha Holden. They say the Dual Meets can bring the best out of your athletes as they head to the championship season and Holden demonstrated that en route to a 13.34 victory and personal best in the 100-meter hurdles. The time puts Holden in the number 12 spot in the West Region and sets up what may be the most exciting event of the upcoming weekend. Cal’s Kimyon Broom, UCLA’s Lindsay Rowe, USC’s Shalina Clarke and ASU’s Jasmine Cheney all have NCAA Championship experience and Holden – whose time ranks right up with the aforementioned athletes - would love to add her name to that list this season as well.
Teen Moline Hurdling Expectations
So she’s not your average freshman, but redshirt frosh Georganne Moline has wasted no time getting her name into the record books. Moline has already posted victories in four of five 400-meter hurdle races this season – including a decisive 58.19 victory at the Double Dual that rocketed her up to the sixth best mark in UA history. Moline was one of the fastest athletes in Arizona prep history (literally, the second best 300m hurdle mark ever) and UA coaches have been expecting these results even after she sat out her true freshman outdoor season with injuries.
Redshirt junior Christina Rodgers came on the scene strong as a sophomore, earning All-Conference and All-Region honors in the 800-meters. Injuries sidelined her for what would have been her true junior year and it could have been a lot to expect her to jump right back up to that level. Respond to the pressure, she has though, clocking the 11th fastest time in the West this season at 2:06.72 and earning All-Conference honors indoors. This comes in addition to running the first leg on the women’s 4x400-meter relay, where she has been pivotal in the teams run to having the second fastest relay in school history. This included an eye-popping 54 second split in the first relay of the season on the UA’s B-team, prompting UA head coach Fred Harvey to move her to the squad’s A-list.
The Family Julie
The common observer may take one look at Julie Labonté and not notice anything out of the ordinary. But the freshman out of Saint Justine, Quebec is well on her way to greatness and you only need to check the UA record books to see why. In just her second outdoor meet as a Wildcat, Labonté scored the third best throw in Arizona history at 16.82m (52-2 ¼). To put that into perspective, the only two athletes ahead of her are multiple-time national champions and Olympians Meg Ritchie and Carla Garrett – oft regarded as two of the most prominent women throwers in collegiate history. Not too shabby company for a first year of competition.
Julie Stupp wasn't always a track and field runner. In fact, the fifth-year senior had not run a track meet since high school and has spent the past four years in the pool competing for a NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship at Auburn before setting school record for the UA team. Now Stupp is making her mark on the Wildcat track and field squad in the 800-meters. Stupp's best of 2:09.85 sits just outside the all-time Arizona top ten and she has also garnered All-Conference honors indoors.
Dahlys on Her Way to Texas
Sophomore Dahlys Marshall join Holden in the 100-meter hurdles to give the squad some depth. Marshall set a season's best mark of 13.70 at the Dual and would advance to the NCAA West Championships in Austin, Texas in two weeks should the season end today. Despite pretty much guaranteeing her spot, Marshall will look to move up the ladder this weekend with a strong finish at the Conference Championships.
Moen ‘Em Down
Sophomore Hannah Moen had one of the most surprising and successful freshman runs in Arizona history and has only looked to get stronger with a year under her belt. A year removed from setting the freshman record in the steeplechase, Moen currently holds the 18th best mark in the West with her time of 10:28.20, good for fourth on Arizona’s all-time top 10 in the event.
Still Moen ‘Em Down
If Moen’s steeplechase marks weren’t impressive enough, she also skyrocketed up the Wildcat best list earlier this year in the 5000-meters, setting the seventh fastest time in school history in the event at 16:17.31. The mark – set at the 52nd Annual Mt. Sac Relays – was nearly a minute better than her previous best in the event.
A New Meyer In Town
The trend of impressive freshmen continues with Megan Meyer who came on surprisingly strong at the end of the cross country season and carried the momentum into the track and field year. Meyer earned All-Conference honors at the MSPF Championships in 5000-meters and has gone on to set the eighth fastest time in the event in school history outdoors at 16:21.54.
Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia
One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2010 season may be freshman javelin thrower, Asia Easley. A sophomore academically, Easley walked on to the UA squad this season to the tune of a new freshman record on her way to winning the Dual Meet. Her mark of 46.85m (153-8) surpassed teammate Leigh Bernstein frosh record set three years ago and gives Easley the second best mark in school history since the introduction of the new implement.
Rivera-Morales Part Deux
Over the past two-and-a-half years, Wildcat faithful have gotten used to reading about the accomplishments of Luis Rivera-Morales – one of the UA's most accomplished long jumpers. With Luis lost to graduation, however, you can still expect to see the surname for several more years. Luis' brother, Edgar, arrives on the Arizona squad this year as one of the top high school recruits out of Mexico in the high jump. Rivera-Morales splashed on to the scene at the MPSF Championships, winning the conference crown and earning a spot at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Just a freshman, Rivera-Morales has already posted the third best height in Arizona history at 2.23m (7-3 ¾) and currently holds the fourth best mark in the West region this outdoor season.
The Nick of Time
Fresh off an All-American finish at his first ever National Championship, freshman high jumper and long jumper Nick Ross underwent surgery. Some may expect that to set an athlete back a bit, but Ross was back in action just about a month after the surgery and picking up where he left off. Ross matched Rivera-Morales' 2.23m mark at the MPSF championship and the frosh duo provides a powerful one-two punch in conference play. Ross currently sits ninth in the West with a mark of 2.18m (7-1 ¼).
Only a handful of athletes on this year's UA squad can claim National Championship epxerience and redshirt sophomore Abdi Hassan has already been to two. Hassan holds the 15th fastest mark in the region this season in the 1500-meters. Hassan has not neared his personal best yet this season but he came on strong at the end of last year and set the freshman record at the conference championships then.
Tomaz the Train Engine
Sophomore Tomaz Bogovic came on strong as a freshman last year, finishing centimeters shy of a National Championships qualification. The second-year athlete out of Slovenia has continued to be one of the most important members of the squad this season. Bogovic earned All-Conference honors in the weight throw earlier this season and currently holds the 13th best mark in the west in the hammer throw this year at 62.69m (205-8).
Cobb No Ordinary Ear
Football players competing in track and field is not a rare occurrence as many athletes use the season to tune their form, shape and intensity during the football offseason. Junior Travis Cobb was the first Wildcat to take a kick return back for a touchdown this season since Chris McCalister did it in 2001. His return on the opening kick during a home game against Washington State set the tone for an eventual rout of the Cougars. Now, Cobb is taking his game to the track and gives the UA men some much needed depth at in the sprints and relays. Cobb had not run a track meet since high school but has posted several respectable finishes in his short time with the UA team and will look to burst onto the scene during this weekends sprinting events.
Lookin’ for Mo’
Senior Mohamud Ige came to Arizona with high expectations and in the 2009-10 season, he has not disappointed. Ige kicked off the cross country season with an impressive win at the Dave Murray Invitational only to be hobbled by a freak trampling incident at the Notre Dame Invite two weeks later. Ige bounced back to finish 10th at the NCAA West Regional Championships and went on to earn All-American accolades at the NCAA National Championships. During the indoor season, Ige took All-Conference honors in the 5000m (3rd) and 3000m (7th) and just missed a NCAA qualification in the former.
Steaks? What Streaks?
Coming into the season, the UA women’s cross country and track and field programs brought some streaks with them, but not the kinds you like to brag about. The UA women’s cross country team had gone eight years without an NCAA National Championship appearance. Perhaps more upsetting to many of the athletes would be the track and field team’s nine-year losing streak to ASU at the Double Dual. But a strong corps of returning athletes and perhaps one of the best freshmen classes in the country put a stop to both streaks this season.
What’s next for the ‘Cats? Well one streak the team certainly will look to end this season will be the 12-year streak the women currently have of not finishing in the upper-echelon on the Pac-10 Conference. The ladies have not finish better than sixth since 1997 (4th) and in 23 Conference Championships, the squad has only finish fourth or better (no 5th place finishes) six times. Their best finish was second at the 1992 Pac-10 Championships.
The women have posted 32 individuals champions since they began competing in the event and have posted at least one individual champion in all but five conference championships.
Men’s Conference History
The men have fared about as well as the UA women in recent years though they statistically have posted a strong finishing percentage throughout history. Since 1979, the UA men have finished in the top five in the conference in 16 of the 31 meets – just a shade over .500. The team is coming off back-to-back eighth place finishes, however, and will look to improve upon that this weekend.
The men have won posted 64 individual conference champions over the years and have only had three years in their history with no individual champion. The squad currently has a six year streak with at least one champion. Statistically, 1989 and 1998 were the UA’s most successful individual years with five champions at each.
Martin Keino and Robert Cheseret are the UA’s most decorated conference champions with six a piece and both are among the distance greats. Keino accomplish his by sweeping the distance races (1500m, 5000, steeple) in both 1993 and 1995. Cheseret performed the 1500m, 5000m and 10000m sweep in 2006 while winning the 10k in 2005 and the 1500m and 5k in 2004.
An International Affair
The UA lays claim to a rich tradition of successful international athletes. This season, the team is home to nine such athletes. Mohamud Ige, Abdi Hassan, Tomaz Bogovic, Lisa Egarter, Deanna Sullivan, Jordan Mara, Julie Labonte, Luis and Edgar Rivera-Morales. All but Egarter (redshirt) and Luis Rivera-Morales (indoors only) are in position for a regional qualification this season and show the continued success of athletes from other countries calling the UA their home
Coaches Deserve Some Love, Too
With all the talk about the athletes, it might be easy to forget those who helped get them where they are. But some people have certainly noticed the job the coaches have done this season with the Mount Pacific Sports Federation naming UA head coach Fred Harvey the Women’s Coach of the Year for his job in taking a team that finished seventh at last year’s indoor conference championships to third and competing for first this year. The USTFCCCA also named assistant coach Sheldon Blockburger as the West Region Women’s Assistant Coach of the year for his work in guiding Liz Patterson to a national title and Brigetta Barrett to a conference title and All-American honors while also taking freshmen multi-eventers Lisa Egarter and Charlene Harber to All-Conference honors in their first MPSF Championships.
Putting the Scholar in Scholar-Athlete
Far to often in collegiate sports, it is forgotten that these kids actually are students and do everything they do while maintaining themselves in the classroom. In the end, they are scholars first and athletes second. The MPSF took note of this in naming nine UA athletes to the MPSF All-Academic Team. Jordan Mara, Aaron Seminski, Stefanos Michael, Luis Rivera-Morales, Jimmy Coffin, Taylor Freeman, Christina Rodgers, Hannah Moen and Maggie Callahan all earned the distinction. For Callahan, it was her second time being named to the team to go with her Honorable Mention for the Pac-10 All-Academic Team last season. The same went for Rivera-Morales. Notable is that these athletes are not scrubs and have been a pivotal part of the UA team through the years in addition to their outstanding achievements on the track.