Washington State has a strong nucleus coming back from last year's team which finished only six points away from being third the conference meet behind USC and UCLA.
"I think we have the returning people in place and some new people that are going to make some significant contributions that can improve on last year's finish," said head coach Rick Sloan.
The strength of Cougar newcomers address the areas of weakness last season and include a sprinter, a hurdler, a middle distance runner and a thrower. Sophomore Felton Charles is an outstanding sprinter from Oakland who sat out last year and this will be his first year of competition. Freshman Arend Watkins ran 13.84 in the high hurdles as a prep hurdler in San Jose. Watkins is tall, long-legged and will make an easy adjustment to college highs according to Coach Sloan. "I expect Watkins to run some great times for WSU."
Freshman John Cote from Lindbergh High in Renton, is the all-time state leader in the 800m and was number three in the nation last year with a time of 1:49.41.
Thrower Vinnie Pecht from West Valley High in Spokane, was the nation's number two discus thrower with a 207 mark last year. He was the all-time state leader in the discus and will provide a one-two punch with All-American Ian Waltz.
Back in the program after sitting out as medical redshirts are junior All-American decathlete Leo Slack and senior high jumper Chris Mosley who scored in all three Pac-10 meets his freshman through junior seasons.
Slack who suffered from an abdominal strain and injured shoulder last season, brings so much to the team as far as his diversity - 6-10 3/4 in the high jump, 25-0 in the long jump, 15-9 in the pole vault, and Coach Sloan expects him to run some good hurdles races. As a prep athlete in Kennewick, Slack was the state champion in the javelin and Sloan wants to bring him back in that area. His strength is the decathlon, where he was Pac-10 champion two years ago and a two-time All-American.
Junior thrower Ian Waltz and senior triple jumper Hilary Mawindi, contributed 20 points and 18 points respectively in the Pac-10 meet last year. Junior distance runner Bernard Lagat also contributed 18 points and went on to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA 1500m.
Sloan: "Overall, for the men's team, it will be an exciting year for us. We have a couple of areas where we are not as strong as I'd like us to be but with 12.6 scholarships, its hard to cover the boards. For the most part, we have good depth and good strength in most of the events. We have high goals set for ourselves and we're working hard right now to attain them."
- The Cougar men's sprints corps will be very young again this season with no seniors and three juniors but versatility with most able to go from 100m to 400m. The sprint veterans are sophomore Guillermo Macias, who Coach Sloan says will see more action in the 400m than the shorter dashes, and junior Colon Sewell. Newcomer Felton Charles leads all dashers with a 10.3 hand time in the 100m and a 20.89w in the 200m. He will be a significant improvement to our sprint corps and will compete in the 100m, 200m and 400m.
Clay Thomas is a junior transfer from Grays Harbor Community College who has run 10.6 and 22.26 in the 100m and 200m events.
Charles is the leading candidate in the deep 400m event, having clocked in at 46.68 as a prep athlete but had injuries in high school so has not had much experience training. Coach Sloan feels that when he gets stronger, he'll improve. Macias placed eighth in last year's Pac-10 meet and has a personal best time of 47.67. Two 800m runners have good relay split times (Cote's 46.6, and Rasto Kiplangat's 47.2), giving the Cougars some flexibility in this event.
- Middle Distance
- This will be a strong area for the Cougar men with three NCAA qualifiers from last year back on board. In the 800m, Rasto Kiplangat is back for his senior year after posting an NCAA provisional time of 1:48.28. WSU's dominating 1500m runner, Bernard Lagat placed fourth at the NCAA Championships last spring and is back for his junior track season. Senior Eric Kamau will see action primarily in the 1500m where he finished 10th at the NCAA 1997 meet but can turn a 1:50 in the 800m.
The 800m event is a deep area for the WSU men so Coach Sloan expects to move people around and use flexibility. Lagat ran a 1:49.46 in the 800m last year and also clocked in a relay leg of 1:47 at Penn Relays. Freshman John Cote's time of 1:49.41 as a prep runner last year led the state of Washington in the 800m. Jesse Carlson, a transfer from Northern Arizona who comes in as a freshman in eligibility, has run a 1:53.93 in high school. Josh Mattson, Rob Harris, Tony Olson round out the WSU squad in this event.
Lagat and Kamau look to repeat their one-two finish in the 1500m at Pac-10 Meet and return to the NCAA Championship. Lagat already has a string of All-American certificates and he's only been here one year. Mattson may move up and Jon Murray may move down to run this distance. New people in 1500m are freshmen Eric Allwine and Justin Murray, coming off very strong cross country seasons.
- In the 5000m/10,000m events, Lagat, and Kamau will be joined by Murray and Brad Treat, a redshirt freshman back after a leg injury last year. Treat had a very good cross country season so will be a strong factor in the distance races once outdoors. Junior Chris Charles and senior Randy Edens round out the Cougar field in the longer distances. Sloan: "We need the middle of the pack people from last year to step up and do the job this year - to be leaders."
In the steeplechase Coach Sloan has two surprises with Josh Mattson and David Jungk both running in the 9:13 -9:15 range. Both are back for their senior years and are looking forward to seeing improvement in their times. Kiplangat, Lagat and Allwine are possible entrants in this 3,000m race too.
- The addition of Felton Charles brings a quicker pace to the 400m relay. For the better part of last year triple jumper Hilary Mawindi was used in the short relay but that may not happen in 1998. Sloan: "We have a handful of people who are all in that same area and we have to see who can handle the stick and is fast. The only consistent factor is that Felton Charles will be on both relays somewhere."
As for the 1600m relay, the Cougar men don't have many pure quarter-milers other than Macias and Felton Charles. A lineup could include Charles, Macias, Cote and Kiplangat with an estimated time of 3:08.
The distance medley relay lineup of Kamau, Macias, Kiplangat and Lagat, who ran a school-record time of 9:34.03 and finished second at the NCAA Indoor Championship, may be fine-tuned this year. Coach Sloan said Felton Charles and Cote may be added into the mix, for a national championship team. Capitalizing on the depth at 800m, the Cougars may we could put a 4x800m relay team that could, "knock somebody's socks off."
- This is the short stack in the Cougar depth chart for 1998. Arend Watkins will be primary hurdler in the 110m highs, with Leo Slack the number two man in this event. Junior Trevor Wyckoff looks to be strongest guy in the 400m intermediates with a best time of 54.20. Teamed with Rick Smith, another junior, Coach Sloan expects these hurdlers to knock times down and score big points for WSU.
- In the pole vault, WSU has several athletes in the middle range of high 15s, low 16s. Sophomore Billy Jesse was the top Cougar vaulter last year at 16-0 3/4. Decathlete Leo Slack follows at 15-9, along with sophomores Lex Katich and Tony Boitano.
Chris Mosley gets a second-chance at his senior season and another chance at the Pac-10 title in the high jump. With a top mark of 7-0 1/2, Mosley is back after recovering from knee tendon problems last season. Sophomores Craig Allen and Chris Rushing, both with 6-11 best marks, and Slack's 6-10 3/4, gives WSU good depth and makes this a strong event for Cougs in '98.
The long jump should be a dynamite event for the WSU men. Hilary Mawindi is back for his senior year after winning the Pac-10 title, qualifying but not placing at the NCAA Championship, and posting a best mark of 25-6 3/4. Slack's lifetime best of 25-0 follows Mawindi with sophomore Demetrius Murray's 23-3 3/4 giving the Cougars even more experience here.
Mawindi, who finished second in the triple jump at the Pac-10s last year, leads a strong contingent in this event. Two more Cougs will provide experience in scoring at the conference meet in the triple - Murray placed sixth at the 1997 Pac-10s, and Mosley has a 50-4 1/2 win-aided best mark and has placed in three previous Pac-10s. Sloan: "We have good front line people and good depth in the long and triple jumps."
- Pac-10 shot put and discus champion and All-American Ian Waltz returns for his junior year looking to repeat and continue attaining improved marks. Slim in numbers in the shot, junior Kevin Moore will fill in on occasion.
The Cougar men have more depth in the discus than shot and good quality people. Moore scored in the Pac-10 meet in the discus as a freshman and has a best mark of 178-10. Sophomore B.J. Schade has a 177-3 best throw but will emphasize the hammer this year. Freshmen Vinnie Pecht from Spokane and Cameron Graves from Shoreline were top prep stars with Pecht the high school all-time Washington state leader at 207-2, and Graves the state AAA champion at 184-0.
The hammer lineup reads Schade and Moore. Schade finished eighth in the hammer at the Pac-10 meet with Moore just a little behind him. Though small in numbers, Coach Sloan is not worried. "We'll have a good one-two punch."
Senior Matt Stadelman came on very strong last year and had second place sewn up at Pac-10s with a PR and NCAA qualifying throw of 219-10 until the final throw of the meet when USC's Kjaereng got by him with a PR of 221. He should be very strong and we hope he steps that up another notch this year. Slack's 197-5 backs up Stadelman and newcomers Bryan Jones and Ryan Nichols showed good promise in fall practices.
- Leo Slack, 1996 Pac-10 Champion and two-time All-American returns off his medical redshirt for his junior year. With a lifetime-best of 7,743 points, Slack is ready to make a strong comeback in 1998.