Sunday, January 13, 2008

Washington State University womens track & field preview (part 2)

This is part 2 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 high hurdles will relay on heptathletes Angela Jensen and Jalisa Williams who have run 14.09 and 14.10, respectively. Angelica Flynn will contribute in the 100m hurdles as well with a 14.33 PR time.

Junior Lorraine King returns to lead the intermediate hurdlers after dropping her time to just over a minute last year. Her objective this year is make the big jump and drop down to well under a minute in the 400m hurdles which should contribute strongly to the team success in the open 400m and the relay as well. Multi-events newcomer Jalisa Williams ran a high school intermediate hurdles time of 42.90 but will concentrate on the heptathlon events this year. Freshmen Caroline Hedel and Veronica Elseroad-Wall come in with good times from high school and solid fall training. Sloan looks for them to make the adjustment out to 400m hurdles and hopefully make a contribution to WSU immediately.

The steeplechase is the strongest and deepest running event for the Cougars. Pac-10 champion Sara Trané (above, /photo by Paul Merca) leads the trio of returnees with the school-record time of 10:19.89, and is coming off a very good cross country season. Meghan Leonard also had a good harrier season and because of her tough, competitive nature, look for her to drop her time down significantly. Sloan expects senior Collier Lawrence to have a sense of urgency that will propel this very talented athlete to realize her full potential in this event and significantly improve her time.

"Up front, three very strong steeplechasers for the Cougs and we expect all three of them to score at the 2008 Pac-10 Conference championships," Sloan said.

The high jump corps will be led by freshman Ebba Jungmark, a 6-3 1/2 world championship competitor last August at Osaka. Backing her up will be senior McKinnon Hanson and freshmen jumpers Maria Creech and Amanda Stewart. Hanson had a strong sophomore season with a 5-8 3/4 jump and made it to the NCAA Championships but dropped back just a little bit as a junior. Sloan said Hanson has already exhibited signs she is back on track this year and he expects a PR height from her this year. The freshmen will add good depth to the event with continued development will become contributors at the championship level.

"Ebba is an athlete who is going to make a huge impact at all levels right from the start. She is already a very accomplished high jumper," Sloan said.

The Cougar women have good depth in the pole vault but so far no one really stands out as the needed 13-foot ace in the event. Freshman Alexa Huestis and sophomore Kendall Mays both have the top clearances at 12-0 with Jessica Fuller, Hilary Moore and Chelsea Nicholas in the 11-foot plus range. Sloan said the plan is to keep training them and working with them in hopes that more than one makes the technical adjustments and moves up to that height this season.

Catie Schuetzle is the top long jumper after leaping 19-6 1/4 last spring but Sloan thinks she is capable of jumping over 20-feet this year. Freshman Candace Missouri has jumped 18-8 1/2 and gives the Cougs depth in the event.

The triple jump will have a strong one-two punch for WSU with Sarah Burns and Schuetzle both reaching PRs over 41-feet last year. Missouri is a very talented athlete who can learn the techniques and can be a very good triple jumper for the WSU women. Her competition emphasis will be to long jump, be on the 400m relay, and then to triple jump.

The Cougar women's throws are quite good but not very deep, consisting of basically the same people over and over again. Within the shot put, discus and hammer, seniors McKenzie Garberg and Jessica Zita are the top two performers and only two performers. Garberg, an All-American in the discus last spring, is very strong in all three events and will be a contributor at all levels in all events. Zita will be expected to provide depth in the discus and hammer on a dual meet basis but will primarily be a shot puter.

"We have good strength and if the two athletes are good, that is all you need in an event," Sloan said. "I'm looking for both of them to have great final seasons. Last year McKenzie became competitive at a higher level and now we're looking for her to make another big jump. Jessica was a little inconsistent but had the big throws from time to time and knows she is capable of doing that. It is not out of the question that we have a couple of 50-foot shot puters on the team which is very good."

The addition of javelin thrower Marissa Tschida, last year's national junior champion, is a big bonus for the women's team. Tschida threw 158-7 last spring and again threw over 158 to win the US National Junior Championship. Junior Jasmine McCormack threw over 141-feet last year and, with Tschida, will give the Cougars a one-two punch as a good, solid javelin corps.

"Marissa is a tough Montana girl who gets out there and competes very, very well," Sloan said. "She will be learning new techniques and may have to take a small step backward before she can start moving forward. How quickly she adjusts will determine how successful she is at the end of the year."

After a combined nine All-America certificates in the past three years, Washington State will not have a Pickler in uniform for the multi-events competitions. Freshmen Angela Jensen from Tacoma, Wash., and Jalisa Williams from Pasadena, Calif., have joined the program and are working with Sloan to learn the techniques and nuances of competing in the indoor pentathlon and the outdoor heptathlon.

"We're starting all over again and we have two good athletes in Angela and Jalisa," Sloan said. "They have been working hard all fall on developing their skills. I think they are going to be good, it is just going to take us a little while to get everything developed and to that championship level."

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