Feb. 10, 2004
This will be an interesting year for the Cougar women's track and field team. The graduation of All-Americans Whitney Evans (high jump seven times, heptathlon once), Ellannee Richardson (four times hepathlon, relay once), and Anna Blue (5,000m) means a lot of points from a few performers are now gone.
"The women's team has been able to sit back the last three or four years and say, let Whitney and Ellannee do it and they always did," Cougar Head Coach Rick Sloan said. "Now it's up to everybody else to pick up the slack."
WSU isn't exactly starting from scratch in the 2004 season. Five returning women have NCAA experience and nine women have scored at the conference meet. Seniors Monique Jessie and Angelita Green earned their All-American status on the indoor 4x400m relay team in 2003. Sloan, in his ninth season directing the WSU women's team, looks to the returning talent to be a lot better than they have been in the past and step up to fill the points-gap left by the All-Americans' graduation. And few newcomers to the program will be expected to perform at a very high level from the start.
"We have seniors who are capable of more than what they've done their first three years," Sloan said. "The talent and potential is there but we'll have to see how people develop and come along."
The Cougar coaching staff, including new assistant coach Ellannee Richardson, will have the women in the best shape possible, will be committed to keeping people healthy, and get them to the races that matter.
Sloan, long a proponent of head-to-head competition is happy with the NCAA Regional Meet and national advancement standards instituted last season.
"I'm excited on both the men's and women's side to see how we perform and I anticipate it being pretty good," Sloan said. "But success depends on the psyche of both the men's and women's athletes. The staff can only do so much as coaches and then the athletes have to make up their minds and tell themselves, this is what I expect and this is what I want."
Leading the way in the sprints will be senior Tamara Gulley who has impressed the coaches with her work ethic the entire year but will need to be aggressive in the spring races. Gulley ran her PR in the 100m of 11.83 seconds at the 2003 Pac-10 Championships and was the lead leg in the 400m relay, and the third leg on the school record 1600m relay time of 3:33.65.
Bree Skinner is expected to still be a strong competitor in the sprints but has moved more toward the triple jump after last spring's performances. Sophomore Nicole Hatcher will be joined by outstanding freshman racer Nicole McClendon and redshirt junior Teresa Brooks, a three-time state prep champion (100m, 200m, and 400m) makes her long-awaited WSU debut.
Senior captain Monique Jessie is strong and sprinting well so she could race anywhere from the 100m and 200m to the 400m open, and in both relays in addition to her intermediate hurdles specialty.
Freshman Brandi Probasco-Canda ran a 54.07 in high school at the prestigious Golden West meet. She trains with Coach Richardson who is training for the 2004 Olympic Trials while working with the Cougar athletes.
Providing good depth in the 400m are freshman Kameko Wilson, a state 400m champion with a time of 56-seconds flat, and Brooks, and senior Angelita Green, an 800m runner but also an All-American in the 4x400m relay.
In both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, the Cougar women need to replace their consistently reliable anchor of four years, Richardson. Yet, Sloan still thinks both relays should be good areas for WSU. The Cougs have four good people in Gulley, Skinner, McClendon and Hatcher, who can run a reliable time in the 4x100m with good handoffs.
In the 1600m relay, Sloan looks to build a solid squad using freshman Probasco-Canda added to seniors Jessie, Gulley, and Green.
This year will be Angelita Green's final shot at reaching her potential as a great 800m runner. There is not a lot of depth in this event but junior Molly Bull has run in the 2:14 range and freshmen Karen De Martini and Katie Troy will fill in.
The 1500m race looks better depth-wise with Bull, Haley Young, and freshmen DeMartini, Troy, Kelly Ramirez, Kayle Peterson, Grace Coulter, and Natalie Smith, who are all in 4:45 range, and sub-five minute milers. Sophomore Julie Jewett, a walk-on the coaches found when she ran in a PE class on campus, will also give this a go.
In the longer races, senior Ana Cabrera is back after a semester of studying abroad. Cabrera was WSU's number two cross country runner last fall and the Sloan thinks she is capable of dropping her 5000m best time of just under 18-minutes from two years ago down to the 16-minutes zone. She will be joined by junior Julia Corbett in the 10,000m but some freshmen might move up as well.
Bull and Cabrera have had some success in the steeplechase and all the freshman women will be given the opportunity to try this event.
Switching to the hurdles events, senior Tamara Gulley is the 100m event leader.
"Tamara can do a great job for us in the hurdles and in the sprints as well," Sloan said. "But she needs to throw caution to the wind."
Heptathletes Diana and Julie Pickler are very competitive and outstanding hurdlers. During the fall training sessions, both look very good with Julie back from a foot injury that caused her to redshirt her outdoor season.
Senior team captain Monique Jessie was an NCAA participant in the 400m hurdles last spring and looks like a strong candidate for a return trip. Senior Louise Akesson, also a multi-events competitor on occasion, will run the 100m hurdles but will primarily race in the intermediates.
With Whitney Evans, last year's NCAA high jump champion, gone from the Cougars' roster, sophomore Robin Mikesh will be the ace in this event. Mikesh came on strong at the end of the year with her 5-8 3/4 clearance for a fourth place conference finish. Both Picklers are consistent 5-6 jumpers and will provide depth. LaToya Harris, a three-time All-Pac-10 volleyball selection, has joined the Cougar track team and will try the high jump.
Veteran pole vaulters Tamara Diles and Karla McGee return and are joined by freshman walk-on Audrea Nolan. Both Diles, a redshirt sophomore, and McGee, a senior, have cleared the bar at over 13-feet in early practice sessions.
The Pickler twins are WSU's top long jumpers this year. Julie wasn't able to compete last year outdoors, but Diana showed good consistency over 19-feet. Senior Blessing Ufodiama achieved a 19-foot long jump indoors but will primarily compete in the triple jump where she is a three-year scorer in the conference championships, including a third-place finish in 2003.
"We need Blessing to exceed her high school triple jump mark of 41-11 and she is more than capable of doing it," Sloan said.
Bree Skinner found some success triple jumping indoors as a junior and continued to train for the triple jump with Coach Kris Grimes. She finished fifth at the Pac-10 Championships, went on to the NCAA Regionals where she finished fourth with a leap of 41-0 1/2, and made it to the national meet. After a surprising first year in the event, the coaches are hopefully Skinner can build on that success as a senior. Freshman Kaylee Gardner rounds out the long and triple jump roster.
Throwing events have a good mix of vets and newcomers. Shannon Rance is back for her final season and has a 51-foot best effort in the shot put.
Junior Marie Muai is the returning leader in the discus with a 167-10 best throw followed by Rance's 150-foot best effort. Sloan feels Muai has great potential to be an outstanding thrower at the Pac-10 level if she continues to develop her technique and her confidence level.
Muai's 175-5 in the hammer just edges out junior Sammy Jo Missel's top toss of 173-2 among the returnees. Depth in the hammer will come from redshirt freshman Sarah Hineline.
Junior javelin thrower Rachel Bertholf had an outstanding year in 2003, coming within two inches of getting to the NCAA Championships. Jenna Dean had a great freshman debut with a throw of 148-1, and a seventh place at the conference meet. Sophomore Kate Syring, incoming freshman Sami Fisher and redshirt freshman Karla Pfaff show good potential for development in the javelin.
In spite of losing four-time hepathlon All-American and school record-holder Ellannee Richardson, Sloan is very optimistic about the multi-events. Diana Pickler is back for her sophomore year after a fourth-place finish at the Pac-10 Meet and a good showing at the NCAA Championships.
Diana's twin sister, Julie Pickler, is back for the outdoor season after suffering a foot injury and sitting out last spring. Julie will redshirt the 2004 indoor season to even her eligibility and she will be a freshman during the outdoor season this year.
"Both Diana and Julie are coming along well," Sloan said. "Keeping them healthy and technically sound is the main focus and if we are able to accomplish that, they will both perform very well at the NCAA level indoors and out."
New this year is the indoor heptathlon for men and the indoor pentathlon for women. The seven events for men (versus 10 in the outdoor decathlon) and five events for women (versus seven in the outdoor heptathlon) give the multi-events athletes a competition to prepare for during the indoor season.