Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Washington State University men's track & field preview (part 1)

This is the first of a two-part preview of the Washington State University men's track & field team. Thanks to the WSU sports information department for this preview.

Cougars Track and Field Head Coach Rick Sloan (35th year at WSU, 14th year as head coach) is excited about the men's team because he can go through nearly every event and name frontline people who he expects to do well at the conference level and beyond.

"Some of the people on the team developed nicely and became big performers for us at the end of the year," Sloan said. "Some of the new people can come in and contribute right away this year. I'm excited to see how we develop and how we compete when we start putting the uniform on."

While depth varies from event to event, overall the WSU 2008 men's team has variety and does not have any areas where there isn't a stopper. The sprints and hurdles are deep and good. The throws have good top line competitors but need the other people behind them to fill in that depth.

"We have at least one person in every event that is pretty good," Sloan said. "From a championship level, our top people are all going to be in scoring positions and that bodes well for the Cougs."

Two-time all-American discus thrower Matt Lamb returns lighter and ready to three-peat. Senior captain Jon Jeffreys is anxious to return to the NCAA meet in the javelin. Also seeking a return to NCAA competition are Rickey Moody (long jump/decathlon), Robert Williams (110m hurdles), Justin Woods (100m/200m) and Moreno Zapata (triple jump). "Our schedule suits us very well," Sloan said. "We have the meets in place to bring our level of performance up. The whole idea is to get ready for the championships season at the end of April and the months of May and June. Not everybody will compete every weekend. We'll utilize the meets that we need to and train when we have to and expect to be ready and at our very best at the end of the year."

This season a new hammer throw area will debut at Mooberry Track Complex at the south end of the field. The hammer will now be in a location that is more visible and there will be spectator stands and indicator boards to accommodate viewers in the other grandstands.

The WSU men's sprint team is recognized as a power in the Pac-10, and Sloan is quick to attribute this success to assistant coaches Ellannee Richardson and Mark Macdonald.

"We are getting people who aren't the national leaders in events but with the system they have put in place, people are coming in and showing tremendous improvement, like James McSwain and Jaycee Robertson, and becoming NCAA sprinters and Pac-10 scorers," Sloan said. "I look at this group and think that we're going to be good in that area again."

At the top of the list is junior Justin Woods who has done a tremendous job in the 100m and 200m. Woods has competed at the NCAA Championships both years of his collegiate career. In-coming freshman hurdler Jeshua Anderson, is big and strong and fits into the WSU sprint model.

"We think of Jeshua as an intermediate hurdler but he is an outstanding sprinter too, in the 100m, 200m and open 400m," Sloan said.

Two more freshmen adding to the Cougars sprints depth are André Jennings and Marlon Murray. Jennings had injury problems throughout his high school career but Sloan thinks if he maintains his health, he'll make a contribution. Murray has good credentials but had misfortune in high school, running out of his lane at the state meet. Decathletes Rickey Moody, Kyle Schauble and Trevor Habberstad, will add more depth to the sprints corps.

The 200m looks a lot like the 100m with everyone a solid performer with Woods and Anderson having run under 21 seconds.

"We have good depth and good quality in the 100m and 200m," Sloan said. "If we can pass the stick well, our relay should be very fast too."

Anderson's open 400m racing will be indoors but he will primarily run hurdles outdoors. Sophomore Reny Follett did a great job at the Pac-10 meet last year, running out of lane one and achieving a time under 48 seconds for the first time. Sloan is impressed with Follett's fall training and sees him as a very strong runner ready for this season. Devin Timpson has also had a great fall of training and should contribute in both the open 400m and on the 1600m relay. The longer relay will utilize some of the 800m runners coming down to fill out the squad.

The 800m is an area of excitement for the Cougar men with sophomores Luke Lemenager and Bob Hewitt-Gaffney ready to return to the track after spending their freshmen year adjusting to collegiate training. Both have trained a little bit differently but both have trained very well.

"My anticipation is that we will have a couple of guys under 1:50," Sloan said. "Bob will look at 800m and probably come down and run some 400m and relay work. Luke probably works more 800m up to the 1500m, and I expect Luke to be our top 1500m runner this year. On paper he is the top guy returning but o he is mentally committed to run 1500m he will be very successful there."

Dominic Smargiassi will primarily be a 1500m runner but may become more of a 3000m and 5000m racer as the season progresses. WSU's depth in the 1500m will come from athletes already in other events.

Freshmen Sean Coyle, David Hickerson and Peter Miller are outstanding high school runners from last year who are expected to do a great job up and down the ladder, from 800m all the way out to 5000m. Their versatility can help the team find success.

Drew Polley, Dan Geib, and Chris Williams are WSU's top 10k runners but can come down and run a good 5k for the Cougs. Alex Grant has the top time in the 5000m but will likely be counted on as a steeplechaser more than this distance.

NEXT: The WSU hurdles, and field events

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