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T&F Secures Top-Level Talents For 2014-15

Feb 7, 2014

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State track and field team has added five elite talents to its roster, as Head Coach Kelly Sullivan officially announced the signings of McKenzie Byrd (Hermiston HS; Oregon), Kerissa D’Arpino (North Valley HS; Oregon), Venessa D’Arpino (North Valley HS; Oregon), Nicole Goecke (Praire HS; Washington) and Sam McKinnon (Mountain View HS; Idaho) to National Letters of Intent on Friday.

“A lot of congratulations on these signings go to our staff and the young women on the team,” Sullivan said. “All of them did a brilliant job of showing these five and their families the amazing nature of the community of Corvallis and Oregon State University. McKenize, Kerissa, Venessa, Nicole and Sam all come from wonderful families and significant high school programs and, like the rest of our team, each are great students. It’s going to be exciting to watch these five compete as seniors this spring and I have no doubt that their personal marks will continue to improve.”

McKenzie Byrd – Hermiston HS (Oregon)

McKenzie Byrd has competed in a number of events in 3+ years at Hermiston High School, including the 100, 200, 400, shot put, discus, javelin, high jump and long jump. At last year’s OSAA 5A State Championships, Byrd won the javelin title with a throw of 134’ 6” and finished second in both the shot put (39’ 4.50”) and high jump (5’ 4”). She won all but one of her javelin competitions in 2013, took shot put titles in eight out of 11 meets and was victorious six times in eight tries in the high jump. She owns a shot put PR of 41’ 10.75”, a discus best of 113’ 5” and a javelin PR of 139’ 3”.

“I chose Oregon State based on my first impression from my visit,” Byrd said. “When we were walking past Reser Stadium, Assistant Coach Collin Cram was walking with me and I looked behind to see my grandfather and dad, who have physical impairments that effect the way they walk, were far behind. But Assistant Coach Travis Floeck was right there walking with them. That really showed me that not only did they care about me, but they cared about my family as well, and that hit home.”

Kerissa D’ Arpino – North Valley HS (Oregon)

One of two twin sprinters from North Valley High School in Grants Pass, Kerissa D’Arpino has finished in the top three at the OSAA 4A State Championships in the 100 and 200 each of the past two seasons and also was second in last year’s 400m final. In 2013, D’Arpino came in second in both the 200 and 400 at the state meet, PR’ing in both races with times of 24.39 and 55.66. She came in third in the 100, crossing the finish line in 12.25, which was two tenths of a second off her PR in the event (12.05) from the Skyline Conference Championships on May 18. Her personal bests at each of the aforementioned distances would already place in the top five all-time at Oregon State.

D’Arpino was also named to the 2013 Oregonian Class 4A Girls Soccer All-State Second Team. Along with her sister, Venessa, the two picked OSU over three other Pac-12 schools that they visited.

“The reason I chose Oregon State was because of the amazing atmosphere, people and coaching staff,” D’Arpino said. “It was the perfect fit and I could not see myself anywhere else. I am looking forward to everything and am excited for the training which will help me become a better sprinter. I want fans to know that OSU does have a sprint team and that we are setting the bar high.”

Venessa D’ Arpino – North Valley HS (Oregon)

The other member of OSU’s new lightning-quick duo, Venessa D’Arpino set state meet records in the 100 (12.04 seconds), 200 (24.11 seconds) and 400 (54.68 seconds) last season. Those PR’s would currently be fifth (100m), third (200m) and second (400m) on Oregon State’s all-time list. In 2015, D’Arpino and her sister will join current OSU junior and Lane CC transfer Allie Church to give the Beavers their first dedicated sprints team since the late 1980’s.

D’Arpino is a finalist for 4A-3A-2A-1A Female Prep Athlete of the Year, which will be presented at the annual Oregon Sports Awards at Nike headquarters near Beaverton. A multi-sport athlete in high school, she was also selected to the 2013 Oregonian Class 4A Girls Soccer All-State First Team.

“I chose to go to Oregon State because I instantly felt like I belonged,” D’Arpino said. “I loved the team and the amazing staff. I am looking forward to competing for OSU because of the amazing opportunities ahead with the growth of the sprint program.”

“We really focused on kick starting our sprint and relay program as well as our multi-event future with this recruiting class,” Sullivan added. “I’m very pleased to say that we not only accomplished that, but also signed three major in-state talents, two of the finest female sprinters in Oregon high school history and a future great multi-event athlete. We hope to add more to this trio as we continue forward this spring, but this group is a fantastic start.”

Nicole Goecke - Prairie HS (Washington)

Nicole Goecke has finished in the top 10 in the last two WIAA 3A State Cross Country Championships. She was third this past November with a 5,000m time of 18:13.05, seventh in 2012 (18:53.1) and has a PR at the distance of 18:05.9. She ran arguably her best cross country race at the Sundodger Invite this past September, when she finished second with a time of 17:44.48 on the near-5K course (4,922m). At the Nike BorderClash in Beaverton on Nov. 23, Goecke finished seventh in 16:21. 

On the track, Goecke has also been a top-10 finisher in the 1,600m at the state meet the past two seasons. Her PR of 4:55.78 this past May placed fifth and her time of 5:05.19 at the conclusion of the 2012 outdoor campaign was seventh.

She’s also been a three-year starter on the Prairie High School girls basketball team, which won the WIAA 3A State Championship in 2012 and is currently 16-3 overall and 9-0 in Great St. Helen’s League action this season.

“I chose Oregon State because I immediately connected with the coaches and the team,” Goecke said. “The campus is beautiful and OSU is a great university with an amazing business program. Running in the Pac-12 will allow me to compete against some of the best in the country. I am most looking forward to joining the energy and excitement around the team at OSU. Their passion is contagious. I love the way the coaches believe in their runners and I think they are the best people to get me where I want to go!”

Sam McKinnon - Mountain View HS (Idaho)

Sam McKinnon, who won the 1,600m at the 2013 Idaho 5A State Championships with the PR of 5:01.87, has also made quite a name for herself after the fall cross country season. She was name Idaho Gatorade Girls XC Runner of the Year after racing to a Class 5A individual state championship with a time of 18:26.31, beating the second-place finisher by nearly 40 seconds to claim Mountain View’s first cross country state championship, boys or girls. She also broke the 18-minute mark at the District III championships at 17:55.07, the first Idaho female to do so since 2008.

A 2013 First Team All-State selection, McKinnon captured fifth place at the 2013 Nike Cross Northwest championships, clocking an 18:14.5 to earn a berth in the 2013 Nike Cross Nationals Final, where she placed 22nd in 18:00.1.

Nearly two weeks ago, McKinnon became the first female runner in Idaho high school history to run the indoor mile in less than five minutes. She won the New Balance Boise Indoor Invitational in 4 minutes, 59.25 seconds on Saturday, Jan. 25. That performance earned her a berth in the prestigious New Balance Indoor Grand Prix Mile in Boston on Feb. 8.

“I chose Oregon State because I fell in love with the team, coaching staff and Corvallis on my visit,” McKinnon said. “The second I walked on campus I knew OSU was a perfect fit for me. I am so excited to become a part of something truly phenomenal!”

“Another necessity with this class was to add two to three elite middle distance/distance women to an already young and talented cross country and track group,” Sullivan added. “We are thrilled we were able to sign both Sam and Nicole, as both have incredible upsides and an extremely bright future at Oregon State.”