Depth and experience mixed with strong newcomers. Not a wish list for Cougar coach Rick Sloan and the WSU track and field staff, but for the 1998 season, a reality.
"We haven't added that many new people to the women's team but have added quality people and they will make a contribution. And I'm looking for the young people from last year to progress and improve to the point where they are even more competitive in the Pac-10 and the NCAA level."
After a solid season of competition with a very young team in 1997, the Cougar women are expected to see strong performances throughout the lineup. All-American Francesca Green returns after sitting out the majority of the 1997 outdoor season with an injured foot. Green's return makes a huge difference with team depth in the sprints, which was a strong area for WSU last year, and also gives the Cougars their number one ace in the long jump, capable of winning most competitions. She could be the number one high jumper but that's how she hurt her toe last year and the Cougar coaching staff doesn't know if they want to take that chance. Evaluation will be continuous throughout the season.
Unfortunately, missing from action this year will be senior hurdle specialist Nicky Booth. Booth was in a car accident during the 1997 Christmas vacation, suffered broken femur and ankle bones in her left leg and will redshirt the indoor and outdoor seasons this year.
Newcomer Agneta Rosenblad joins the Cougar team with impressive numbers from her native Sweden - 20-5 3/4 in the long jump, 14.07 in the 100m hurdles.
Freshman Andrea Thornton will work in the shot, discus and hammer throw, adding to the depth WSU already has in those areas with Molly Moore and Becky Potter.
The Cougar women miss Heidi Shultz, four-year heptathlon competitor and always a strong contributor in a number of areas on the team. Shultz shared her leadership and work ethic both on the track and in the classroom, having achieved NCAA provisional qualifying her senior season and being named to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America third team. Sophomore sprinter LaTroya Mucker is working on the heptathlon and showing a tremendous athletic ability.
- The entire sprint corps is back from last year and what a year it was. Washington State had a strong showing at the 1997 Pac-10 Championships in the dashes (second, third, sixth in the 100m, third, fifth and sixth in the 200m) and placed second in the short relay. All without the services of speedster Francesca Green, out of action with a medical redshirt but back for the 1998 season at full strength. In 1997, junior Tamika Brown led a group of three talented freshmen - Sharika Higgins, Attrina Higgins and LaTroya Mucker. Now a year older, hopefully a year wiser, and a year stronger as well, Coach Sloan expects great things out the women's sprint corps. He is also looking to take some of the sprinters and rotate them around to get them some 400m work. "They know what to expect from a collegiate program with year-round training and I think that will make a big difference to them. With the depth and the quality that we have, the strength of the team will fall again in that sprint area."
- Middle Distance
- The Cougars will have good depth and strength in the 800m. Alshia Booterbaugh is back for her sophomore year after running 2:08.02 last year and placing seventh in the Pac-10 meet. Dana Pevovar Zlateff ran 2:10.88 last year and had a good workout in the fall. Sophomore Lisa Schaures is in top condition after running cross country this fall and looks very good. The addition of freshman Charlotte Neel will be very helpful. Neel was third in the state 800m, running 2:12.69. She was mainly a soccer player in high school and Coach Sloan looks at Neel as a very strong athlete with an untapped potential. "Charlotte Neel is going to do some outstanding things in the 800m."
- The long-time standard-bearers of WSU long distance racing, Sara Council and Annemarie Hobbs, have graduated. Senior Kim Schmolka and junior Joanne Hunsinger had very solid cross country seasons and Coach Sloan believes they will step in immediately and help in the 1500m and 3000m races. Freshmen Megan Maynard and Crystal Malgesini had good cross country seasons and Coach Sloan hopes that carries over to the track, giving WSU depth in the 3000m. Booterbaugh and Zlateff will step up from the 800m and also see duty in the 1500m on occasion.
- The Cougars ran a school record 44.97 in short relay last year with three freshmen and Tamika Brown as a junior. With Green back in the mix, WSU could potentially put an all-sophomore relay team together and run in the mid-44s if not lower. "The way Tamika ran last year, there's no way we can think about not having her on that relay, she's a great third leg for us. Five women who are all very skilled and fast. That's going to be an exciting area for us."
Coach Sloan expects the 4x400m relay to develop during the season. "We should be faster, if we get some experience under their belts and some confidence, there are any number of people who can step in." Mucker is the ace here and Sloan feels that Brown, could run a great leg in spite of her fear of the event. Sharika Higgins is also being considered to step up and do a terrific job. Attrina Higgins ran in place of Booth at the conference meet for the Cougar's best time of the 1997 and may take her place again in 1998. Other runners Coach Sloan looks to are Nicole Henderson (56.00 time in the 400m), middle distance runner Neel, and newcomer Heather Silvey from Ricks College (58.00 in the 400m). "We'll know who our guns are when we have a meet where we need to win that relay to win the meet, then we'll know who we're going to go to. Hopefully we can get down to 3:40 if we get everybody clicking on the same day."
- This is the Cougar women's weakest area in 1998. Booth had a disastrous season last year with injuries, looked good early then developed a foot problem and that limited her for the whole year. She still ran a personal best in the intermediate hurdles in the Pac-10 prelims after missing as much practice and the foot injury. Booth was performing and feeling good in fall practice but her medical redshirt will leave the Cougar women short-handed in both hurdles. Rosenblad is an untested competitor in the 100m hurdles, with sophomores Lucita Zapata and Autumn Wood ready to fill in on occasion. Wood will have to be the primary person in the 400m hurdles.
- In the high jump, sophomore Cathy McNeely will be back with the team after the basketball season and leaped a 1997 best of 5-9. Green's freshman year mark of 5-10 is tops but she is in a wait and see mode about this event. Sloan is anxious to see how Mucker does in this event. "I know she has the strength and the explosive power to be a good high jumper, we'll just have to see how well she learns the techniques. She might be a pretty decent jumper for us."
Green's back for her sophomore season after long jumping 20-10 1/2 as the 1996 Pac-10 champ and All-American. Rosenblad's 20-5 3/4 mark as a prep athlete in Sweden will give the Cougars unparalled depth in this event. Other newcomers in the long and triple jump areas are Cecily Clinkenbeard and Itoro Elijah. Elijah joins senior Kirstin Koch, the Cougar's lead in the triple.
The women's pole vault is a new event for the Cougars and the nation. Only freshman Jessica Goodall vaulted in high school, reaching 10-0 at Portland's Franklin High. Junior Tauni Bainbridge, a triple jumper from last year, tried this event in the Fall practice and shows reasonable good skills. Candice Heggie, men's sprinter Colan Sewell's sister, was a sprinter in high school but speed is an important aspect for this event. "Who succeeds here will be determined by who has the ability to generate speed down the runway carrying that pole. It is a shorter, lighter pole than men use, 11 to 13 feet long and the flex is lighter. This is a challenge for me as a coach. We're teaching from the ground up."
- The Cougars have good front line people and good depth all the way through the throws. Thornton and Potter will be the main competitors in the shot put. Moore may still throw on occasion but will concentrate on the javelin and hammer where she is the WSU record-holder at 163-2.
In the javelin, WSU has a good front line and good depth all the way through. Sophomores Molly Monroe and Anna Church return in the javelin after good rookie seasons. Moore's experience includes a fourth place finish in the conference meet two years ago.
Sophomore Becky Potter returns to lead in the discus and while still learning the event, Coach Sloan believes her strength and great lever system should equal a great year. Junior Kristen Ogle will throw both the discus and the hammer.
While Moore is the current school record holder in the hammer, Ogle and Potter held that title for stints last season. Newcomer Thornton threw hammer over 140 feet in high school so comes in with background. "We're looking forward to the contribution that Andrea's going to make."
- Sophomore sprinter and 400m runner LaTroya Mucker went through a heptathlon last spring. She jumped 17 feet in the long jump but didn't look like a long jumper. But Coach Sloan, renown for his multi-events coaching, recognized her combination of strength and speed and her ability to learns new techniques. "She's a very quick learner. I'm amazed at her coachability - she has it all. I'll tell her one thing and then later in the practice tell her another thing and she keeps the first thing and adds the second one to it. And the next time we work on that event, those two things are still in place so we don't have to start at the bottom and work up again. She's been a lot of fun to work with in these different events. She's obviously still going to be our 400m gun and sprints, but she could be dynamite in the heptathlon."