March 5, 2002
The Cougar men's track and field team will show a balance of returnees and newcomers, all contenders ready to bring the program back to prominence in the Pacific-10 Conference. Rick Sloan, in his eighth year as head coach and 29th year with the Cougar track and field program, and his staff have gathered some of the finest student-athletes to don the crimson and gray unitards. Washington State will be hosting the Pac-10 Championships this spring (May 18-19, 2002), so track and field fans will be treated to a great season of action at the Mooberry Track Complex.
The Cougar men will find leadership in senior Eric Dudley, the defending Pac-10 intermediate hurdles champion, fifth-place finisher at NCAAs and first team national academic All-American.
"Eric's got everything you want in a student-athlete," Sloan said. "I'm excited about seeing him finish up here at home. He can repeat as Pac-10 champion and go on and make a run at the national title. I know Eric also wants that school record in the intermediate hurdles and I hope that he gets it."
Sprinter Anthony Buchanan performed at a very high standard last season as a freshman, especially considering he had to split time last spring with football. His top time in the 100m dash in 10.25 seconds and he ran very well at the NCAA prelims, just missing All-America honors by thousandths of a second. Buchanan will join returning sprinters Anson Henry and Dan Brink, and newcomer, Bennie Chapman from Texas, to comprise a 4x100m relay team with NCAA potential.
Freshmen with Pac-10 potential include Pat Harrigan (Reno, Nev.), Jon Manthey (Federal Way, Wash.), Darion Powell (Seattle), Billy Reamer (Spokane, Wash.), Jamil Smith (Palmdale, Calif.), and Kyle Mitchell (Walla Walla, Wash.). Harrigan has only high jumped for a year but cleared seven feet in high school and has shown consistent improvement during fall training at WSU. An 800m runner, Manthey's effortless, gliding stride has been compared to Bernard Lagat's. Manthey clocked 1:47 in prep relay legs and has the potential to be a sub-1:50 runner as a freshman.
Powell stands 6-4 with body strength beyond his age. While at Lake Washington High, he was the State high hurdles champion, and won the national indoor pentathlon twice. Powell topped all prep decathletes for All-America honors (6,737 points) and is expected to perform well as a freshman. Another freshman decathlete joining the Cougars is Billy Reamer, a Mead High graduate who finished second at the state championships and has the third best prep performance nationally this year (6,463 points).
Smith was the California State champion in the long jump and his triple jump of 50-10 3/4 ranked second best nationally making him a prep All-American. Sloan says he is one of the best high school triple jumpers ever recruited to WSU.
Mitchell is another State champion in the Cougar fold this year, throwing the javelin with an impressive arm and needing some technique work. Piero Vojvodic is a junior from Peru whom Sloan describes as a very gifted athlete without a lot of formal instruction. Potentially a 52-footer in the triple jump and seven-footer in the high jump, he can be productive in points for the Cougs.
"We have some outstanding performers at the top ends of some of our events with good coverage and depth overall," Sloan said. "We need the new people to raise that level of performance and take over leaderships roles in some of the areas. And we need the returning people to raise their level of performance as well."
"Years back, we took over the women's program and brought it up through the ranks and we are pretty representative now," Sloan said. "The men's program fell back a little bit after years of being up at the top. Our objective is to keep moving up the ladder and bring that program back up to prominence in the Pac-10 as well. We're not afraid to do the work, we just need to attract the student-athletes to the program that will help us do that."
This will be a very strong area for the Cougar men, not only in quality but in depth and experience. Beginning with two returning NCAA performers in Henry and Buchanan. Newcomer Chatman provides good speed (10.33) and promises to be an outstanding indoor and outdoor runner. Sophomore Dan Brink is back and will be primarily a short sprinter. Buchanan, Henry, Chatman and Brink will all run the 100m and 200m.
Dudley brings the top 400m dash time of 47.84i but sophomore Qieed Ishmael and several newcomers should provide the excitement here. Ishmael ran consistently in the low 48s and after training hard during the fall, may drop down to 47s or 46s this year. Freshman Dione Cason (48.2) will share the front line duties with Ishmael in this event. Freshmen and Scott Kuklinski and A.J. Edwards are walk-ons who can develop into scoring contributors.
MIDDLE DISTANCE / DISTANCE
The Cougars have a good range of runners in the 800m with no established leader but several athletes who could develop and become strong contributors to the team at the Pac-10 level. Manthey brings a prep time of 1:52.35, followed by senior Jacob Hazelquist and freshman Dione Cason. Jon Welsh, the versatile senior, is more of a long distance specialist but has jumped in and run some good times.
Welsh and sophomore Ian Johnson did a great job last year in the 1500m, with Johnson finishing eighth at the 2001 Pac-10 Championships. Johnson had a great cross country season last fall and is finally fit and strong and appears to be over the mononucleosis that plagued him the past two years.
Welsh is also the top Cougar in the steeplechase (8:55.78), finishing third at the Pac-10s last spring while junior Kyle Barker placed fifth in the same race (8:57.71). Senior Scott Johnson has seen improvement in this event and dropped his time to 9:04.75 last season and needs to continue to lower his time this year.
In the 5,000m and 10,000m races, look for sophomore Will Thrift, senior Oscar Franco-Parra and Welsh to be the front line competitors. Franco-Parra finished fifth in the 10k at the Pac-10s and was the sole Cougar man to compete at the NCAA Cross Country Championships last fall (61st). Freshmen Dan Wolf and Mike Heidt got their feet wet during the cross country season and will provide depth in the longer distances.
"Last year, distance was a question mark and they performed very well indoors and out," Sloan said. "Whenever we needed our distance corps to perform, they took their performances up a notch. They were strong contributors to our team success throughout the entire year at all levels."
Senior Eric Dudley is the WSU top returning runner in both the highs and the intermediates. Dudley has run a top time of 14.18w, followed by decathlete Steve Dwyer's 14.40w. Dwyer's goal will be to show consistency and to stay healthy through both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Powell, the freshman decathlete, is also an outstanding hurdler. Dudley, Dwyer and Powell will give the Cougars a good one-two-three punch in the high hurdles.
Dudley, All-American in the 400m intermediate hurdles, will shoulder this event nearly solo with his time of 50.28. Dwyer rarely practices for the intermediates but does a good job (53.81) when called upon to run them. Powell will also be called on to run this event occasionally, relying on his solid high school career.
The 4x100m relay team looks to be comprised of Henry, Buchanan, Chatman and Brink, and has NCAA potential.
"Our 4x100m relay looks very strong so we should be scoring some points at the Pac-10 and hopefully the NCAAs as well," Sloan said.
Dudley, Brink and Ishmael return from last year's 4x400m relay team and any number of newcomers could step in to complete the team.
Junior Rick Collins cleared 16-9 1/4 for the WSU indoor freshman record but needs to move to the next level this season and get over 17 feet. Senior Ryan Turner and junior Justin Nikbakhsh-Tali provide depth.
The high jump will have a new lineup beginning with Harrigan, a seven-footer jumper in high school whose mark was tied for 12th nationally last season after high jumping for only a little over one year. Junior Vojvodic has cleared 6-11 and with Harrigan can provide the very potent one-two punch for the Cougars. Joel Gordon, a redshirt sophomore, jumped 6-10 at Community Colleges of Spokane. Dwyer came on very strong at the conference meet last year and hopefully can stay at the 6-9 to 6-10 height.
The long jump will probably not be a Cougar stronghold going into spring but the triple jump will be very strong. Freshman Jamil Smith has the leading long jump mark of 23-8 but is a prep All-American in the triple jump with a mark of 50-10 3/4 (second nationally). Vojvodic has a lifetime best triple jump of 51-3 3/4. Sophomore Brian Graham, Harrigan and the decathletes - Dwyer and Powell - will round out the long jump. Nikbakhsh-Tali, Graham and sophomore Peter Rizzardi give front liners Vojvodic and Smith good depth in the triple jump.
Sophomore Tim Gehring invested in very hard work last fall and has shown a lot of improvement in both the shot put and hammer. Shaun Straka returns for his sophomore year in the shot put after his initial year as defensive tackle on the Cougar football team practice squad.
Strength and depth bode well in the javelin. Curt Borland (216-8) begins his sophomore season after elbow surgery last summer. WSU has two more throwers with marks over 200-feet: junior Matt McGee (204-0), a transfer from College of Marin, and sophomore Nate Cummings who threw 200-3 during his freshman redshirt season. Freshman Mitchell was the State champion and tossed 199-5 while in high school, and freshman Billy Reamer, a decathlete, has thrown 191-7.
Senior Steve Dwyer is coming off two fourth-place finishes in the Pac-10 and crossed over the 7100 barrier (7169) last spring. Prep All-American Powell has been soaking in all the technique training from Coach Sloan and has the potential to be an outstanding decathlete and an NCAA performer as a frosh. Reamer is a walk-on and has proven to be a very pleasant surprise for Sloan with his strength and explosive talent.