Saturday, January 12, 2008

Washington State University womens track & field preview (part 1)

This is part 1 of a two-part series previewing the 2008 Washington State University women's track & field team, which opens their season January 18-19 with the WSU Indoor meet in Pullman. Special thanks to the Washington State University sports information staff for this preview.

The graduation of four-time All-American Diana Pickler (left, shown competing at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka /photo by Paul Merca) and five-time All-American Julie Pickler has left a void not only in the Cougars' heptathlon corps but also in the seven individual events and both relays they competed in.

Cougars Head Coach Rick Sloan (35th year at WSU, 14th year as head coach) knows the end of the eligibility of Picklers impacts the program significantly but unlike how the end of Ellannee Richardson's eligibility impacted the program when the Picklers joined the program. At this point WSU doesn't have that level of athlete.

"When you have people who are able to score at a national meet year after year and also score Pac-10 points or in a Husky dual meet in a variety of different events, the loss of their athletic skills and talents and what they bring to the program, will certainly be missed," Sloan said. "But we gather and regroup and move forward and I think we have some new people in the program and some people returning who I think have turned a page in their career and are ready to move their level of performance up and be competitive at the Pac-10 and hopefully at the NCAA level."

Returning strength for the Cougar women includes All-Americans McKenzie Garberg (discus) and Haley Paul (cross country), Pac-10 steeplechase champion Sara Trané and previous conference scorers Sarah Burns (triple jump), McKinnon Hanson (high jump), Lorraine King (400m hurdles), Collier Lawrence and Meghan Leonard (steeplechase), and La Shawnda Porter-Red (200m). Sloan also looks for senior Jessica Zita (shot put) and sophomore Princess Joy Griffey (sprints) to have breakout seasons. Newcomers sure to garner attention are Ebba Jungmark, a freshman high jumper from Sweden who competed at the 2007 World Championships and has a personal-best clearance of 6-3 1/2, and last year's No. 1 junior javelin thrower, Marissa Tschida, who threw 158-7.

"We are excited about the rest our people because of the potential they have shown," Sloan said. "Hopefully they work hard, develop, and get to a point where they can compete at a Pac-10 level."

The WSU women's sprint corps looks to be strong in 2008 and the short relay will reflect that strength with a prediction of fast times.

Princess Joy Griffey came on strong at the end of her freshman season which was a transitional one after coming off an injury-ridden final year of high school. Sloan said there was some hesitancy in her preparation and competition last year but that is completely gone through the fall and indoor training.

"Princess Joy has been absolutely phenomenal and very, very strong," Sloan said. "She has been doing things in training that would indicate she is going to have an outstanding year. Our goal is to continue training her, keeping her strong and try to maintain her health throughout the year, but right now that doesn't seem to be an issue. Getting through the season without an injury has increased her confidence and her effort from a training standpoint and from a competitive standpoint as well."

Griffey has the top returning 100m time followed by La Shawnda Porter-Red. Add in freshmen Candace Missouri and maybe Angela Jensen for the 400m relay. In the 200m, Porter-Red is the top runner but will be challenged by Griffey.

The fastest 400m runner is actually intermediate hurdler Lorraine King. Selena Galaviz is the sole primary open 400m runner with the depth runners either coming up from sprints (Porter-Red) or coming over from intermediate hurdles. The 4x400m relay will be comprised of people from different event areas with King the only returnee from last year's squad.

Sloan looks for improvement in the middle distances and distance areas for the Cougar women this year.

Sophomore Lisa Egami will see duty in the 800m and 1500m. After acclimating to collegiate training during her freshman year Sloan predicts Egami can move down well under the 2:10 range for the 800m and faster in the 1500m. Sara Trané has run well in the 800m but will be working more in the 1500m and steeplechase as the season progresses.

Anna Layman is training again after sitting out last year because of stress injuries which has plagued her nearly her whole track and field career. Now healthy and training more within the sprint group doing more interval, the talented Layman should remain fit and healthy which Sloan feels will provide dividends for the team.

Haley Paul is back off of an injury redshirt spring and part of the fall. With an effective range from 800m through 5000m, Paul began the new year training at full strength and should be in peak form for the end of the outdoor season. Her lifetime-best time of 16:20.86 came two years ago and she competed in the 5k at the 2006 NCAA Championships.

Marisa Sandoval dropped her 1500m time last year and with good health and consistent training is expected to drop below a time of 4:30 this year.

Senior Isley Gonzalez is coming off an outstanding cross country season and will be the go-to person for the 5000m with Meghan Leonard and Collier Lawrence concentrating on the steeplechase.

"I am hopeful the training and effort Isley made during the fall will carry through the winter months so we see her run the times that we've always expected from her as a 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m runner on the track," Sloan said. "Based off what her accomplishments were in cross country the 5000m might be where she can really make an impact in the championships."

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