Feb. 10, 2004
Rick Sloan predicts his 10th season as head coach of the Washington State track and field team will be a very interesting year for both the men's and women's programs.
"I think we have talented people on both of our teams who have underachieved either last year or for their career," Sloan said. "Our challenge to the team this year is we want them to do what they are capable of doing."
Sloan, in his 31st year with the program overall, has been extremely pleased with the pre-season preparation work.
"I can't remember a year, and there have been a lot of them, where we have worked as diligently and as hard in our preparation, and there was never any complaining about how hard we were working," Sloan said. "I noticed in the workouts that people are putting their best efforts into it."
Physical fitness is not the only preparation the Cougar coaches are working on for 2004.
"It doesn't matter how fit we are, it's what the mindset is going into competition," Sloan said. "Expectation plays a vital role in success."
The Cougar men lost one All-American when intermediate hurdler Eric Dudley graduated, but have redshirt sophomore decathlete Darion Powell, a 2003 All-American, as well as Pac-10 sprint champion Anthony Buchanan returning this spring.
Senior thrower and team captain Tim Gehring leads a solid returning group, including ten men who have scored at past conference championship meets. Add in the ten newcomers who boast of state championships and there is a solid base of talent on the Cougar men's team.
"Overall, we have good talent in our running events but we compete in the Pac-10 Conference and everybody's got talent across the board," Sloan said. "We are going to have to get better for us to be a competitive team. My hope is that this year we stay healthy and compete like we're capable."
The sprints will be a strong area for the men in general but especially so in the 100m and 200m dashes.
"Anthony Buchanan is a fantastic sprinter," Sloan said. "The end of the year is the most important time to be running fast and be healthy and I think we have to do a little better job of making sure that he is both mentally and physically ready to go when it really matters, at the Pac-10s, at the Regionals and at the NCAAs."
A trio of sprinters/long jumpers will provide solid depth in the dashes: junior transfer Alex Jones, sophomores James McSwain and Martin Boston and freshman Jarrell Nelson. Also returning in the sprints are Dan Brink, Darion Powell and Lamarr Kirk.
Sprints coaches Mark Macdonald and Ellannee Richardson have Dione Cason returning after his much anticipated sophomore season in 2003 never got underway because of injury. Senior Qieed Ishmael will join Kirk, Brink and Powell will provide depth in the quarter mile when called on.
The prediction of a good 100m event should translate once again to a fast 4x100m relay. The talent is definitely there and making good connections with good stick passes should result in another sub-40 flat relay team again this year, according to Sloan.
Senior transfer Steven Barrus comes to WSU from BYU as a graduate student who has run the 1500m in 3-minutes, 45 seconds and is a great addition adding more strength in the middle distance range, especially in the 1500m.
Senior Ian Johnson is a versatile racer and valuable member of the distance team, running every event from the 800m to the 5000m, including a great steeplechase last spring.
Sophomore Ryan Freimuth will be joined in the distance races from 1500m to 5000m in length by freshmen Geoff Casazza, Chris Concha and Williams.
Sophomore Danny Wolf, injured last year during the indoor season and redshirted the outdoor season, came back with a great 2003 cross country season. Known for his tenacious work ethic and "run in front" race tactics, Wolf's health and intelligent racing will be the keys to his success and Coach Jason Drake's nearly full-time job.
"Danny has the talent and potential to be one of the NCAA's top runners," Sloan said.
Junior Mike Heidt and a slew of freshmen will contribute in the 5k and 10k races. Andrew Jones is an outstanding runner who was a Footlocker cross country finalist and should do very well on the track as well. Other distance rookies are Daniel Fredrick, Alex Grant, and Matt Knoff.
The Cougar steeplechase leader is Johnson who ran a lifetime best time of 9:07.97, to clinch the dual win over Washington last year. Wolf has gotten his feet wet a few times and more than likely, all the freshmen will run the steeplechase once or twice this year to see who can be successful and get points.
Matt Mason arrived in Pullman for second semester after transferring from Long Beach State. Mason, from Marietta, Ga., started his career at Florida State and brings outstanding time of 14.05 in the high hurdles and 50.80 in the intermediate hurdles. Mason could be just what the coaches needed to replace the graduated Dudley.
Powell, the All-American decathlete, returns with best time of 14.52 seconds in the highs and after developing more power, should drop that time this year. Sophomores Josh Leyk and Eric Nygard provide depth.
Freshmen John Cassleman, Barry Leavitt and Brandon Brownell were state hurdles champions and frosh Tyler Fischback and Bob Frey will fill in in both the highs and intermediates.
"I think John Cassleman is a very exciting athlete who will be a better 400m hurdler than he was a 300m hurdler," Sloan said of the son of former Cougar women's track and field coaches Jessica and Rob Cassleman. "John is a very talented and intelligent person who doesn't seem to fatigue in the last 100m on the straight away but gets his stride going and continues running right around the curve at the same pace. He will be successful right away."
"Byers thinks he can go 18-feet this year and that is half the battle," Sloan said. "Paul will respond to that and compete to stay at the same level so they are good for each other. I think we're going to be pretty good."
The high jump is a little bit of a question mark for the Cougs. Senior Matt Alverson didn't have a great year and was hurt with a hamstring injury almost the entire 2003 season after high jumping 7-1 early in his WSU career. Redshirt sophomore Pat Harrigan jumped very well as a freshman, third in the conference at 7-0 1/2, but last year had a genetic default in his ankle surgically repaired so he sat out all year. Decathletes David Turpin and Powell will serve as back-ups in this event.
Coach Kris Grimes has a great stable of competitors in the long jump with Matt Mason leaping an outstanding PR of 25-feet, 7 1/4 inches, and four more over 24-feet with the potential to go 25 to 26-feet. Alex Jones, a junior college transfer, has a 24-5 best long jump. Sophomore Martin Boston had a great summer on the US Junior Team, and competed at the Pan American Junior Meet. Jamil Smith, WSU's number one triple jumper, can be a great long jumper as well and provides depth along with Powell leap over 24-feet in 2004, as is McSwain and Brownell.
Smith, a junior who placed third in the triple jump at the Pac-10 meet as a freshman, battled injuries last year but Sloan expects to see him get the marks to be an NCAA competitor. Adding depth in the triple jump are senior Peter Rizzardi and sophomore Ben Hampton. In the throwing events, senior Tim Gehring returns for the Cougars as the team captain and a Pac-10 scorer in both the shot put and hammer.
"Tim's done a great job over his career, developing both as a competitor in his training and his performances," Sloan said. "He is going to be a good, strong leader for this group." Senior Sam Lightbody is the returning leader in the discus after finishing in sixth place at the Pac-10 Championships last spring with at throw of 180-9. His throwing will be limited because of his participation in the football team's spring practice schedule.
Throws Coach Debra Farwell is very excited about the young group of shot put and discus throwers and their progress in the fall training sessions. Redshirt freshmen Cameron Neel and Mike Schramm (injuries) as well as true freshman Drew Ulrick look promising in this event.
Redshirt junior Thad Cullinan, a walk-on three years ago, is the Cougars' number two hammer thrower after developing well last year. Freshman Keith Tyler, a high school hammer thrower, will redshirt in 2004.
Javelin thrower Curt Borland, a senior, is the Cougars' number one guy with a best toss of 216-8 and leads a good strong core in this event. Freshman Ryan Scott and redshirt sophomores Brett Ortgiesen and Kyle Mitchell will provide the depth in this event.
All-American decathlete Darion Powell returns for his redshirt sophomore year after an NCAA performance of 7,511 points and fourth place as a freshman.
"Darion's big, fast, and strong and I think he's going to have a great season," Sloan said. "We have to be careful about pounding him too hard and maintain his health. He will be one of the important factors at the NCAA meet."
Freshman Brandon Brownell joins senior David Turpin, a Pac-10 scorer last year (8th place, 6,826 points) and WSU could have three athletes scoring at the conference meet this year.