Jan. 12, 2007
Washington State Head Coach Rick Sloan anticipates a good season for the 2007 Cougar women's track and field team with returning All-Americans Diana Pickler, Julie Pickler and Haley Paul leading the way and promising newcomers ready to compete in the WSU uniforms.
"We have some new people that I am excited to watch and some veterans who have been around for a lot of years who are going to light it up and do a great job for us," Sloan said.
Cougar women returnees with NCAA experience includes Diana Pickler and Julie Pickler in the heptathlon, Paul in the 5000m, Brandi Probasco-Canda in the 400m dash, and McKinnon Hanson in the high jump. Additional veterans returning with Pac-10 scoring on their resumes include Sara Trané in the 400m hurdles, McKenzie Garberg in the discus, Sarah Burns and Kaylee Gardner in the triple jump, Collier Lawrence and Kayle Peterson in the steeplechase, and Kelly Ramirez in the 10,000m.
A couple of champions are among the newcomers: Princess Joy Griffey, Washington state 2005 champ in the 100m and 200m dashes, and Lisa Egami, 800m junior champion from British Columbia. Additionally, freshman Chelsea VanDeBrake had an impressive cross country debut season in a Cougar uniform.
The Pickler twins will have an impact in nearly every event this year but Sloan will manage their training and keep the emphasis on the heptathlon competition.
"Our training efforts, for the whole team, will be geared toward being healthy and ready to compete at our peak during the later part of the outdoor season which is our championship season," Sloan said. "The dual meet against the Huskies, the Pac-10 Championships and the NCAA West Regional and national meets are all competitions where the Cougars need to be at their best physically and we are gearing the training with the goal of having our best performances then."
There is a lot of excitement about freshman sprinter Princess Joy Griffey who reached marks of 11.66w and 24.15 as a high school junior, but was hurt her entire senior year. Griffey's evolution back to a strong and powerful physical presence on the track has also involved developing the mental confidence in her previously injured leg so that she can start performing again. Griffey will join junior La Shawnda Porter for a one-two punch in the 100m and 200m dashes. Porter had a break-through season last year and dropped her marks down to under 11.9 and the low 24s, running with some consistency at those marks at the end of the year.
"A mental change with a level of commitment went up for La Shawnda when she decided, `I want to be a fast runner, I'm going to do what it takes,'" Sloan said. "It paid off for her, she had great success and now she's very excited about this year. I think she'll have great success this year."
Jeanne Newman spent most of her freshman year battling injuries but the Cougar coaches have high hopes for her in the sprints this season. The Picklers might see 200m dash duty in championship meets but will definitely be on the 4x100m relay.
"Julie and Diana have both gotten stronger and faster in the past couple years. Putting them on a relay team with Porter and Griffey, who are legitimate sprinters, there is a chance for us to break the school record of 44.50 and that is what we'll be after," Sloan said.
Senior Brandi Probasco-Canda had a great 400m dash season last year, scoring in the conference and getting to the NCAA meet. Her commitment to improving in her final year is already evident in her early training and the goal to run under 54-seconds looks good. Lorraine King is primarily a 400m hurdler but will join Probasco-Canda and the Picklers for the 1600m relay in championship meets at the end of the season. Sloan envisions the 4x400m relay time in the low 3:30s this spring. Nicole McClendon and Selena Galaviz will provide good depth in the 400m dash.
Freshman Lisa Egami and her 800m time of 2:08 bring new excitement to this event for the Cougar women. Sara Trané trains for the intermediate hurdles by running the 800m indoors and has a PR time of 2:10. Haley Paul's range covers the 800m, but she performs better at the 1500m, 3000m and the 5000m races. Freshmen Anna Layman and Stephanie Sipes are penciled in at the 800m but Layman's goal is to stay healthy and compete all season and Sipes will see more racing in the longer distances.
Isley Gonzalez is coming off a great cross country season and Sloan predicts that momentum will carry over into PR times in the 1500m and 5k on the track. Marisa Sandoval dropped down to 4:37.5 last year in the 1500m but struggled with a hamstring injury that kept her from Fall 2006 cross country competition. Karen DeMartini has the talent and shown the potential to run well but has been injury-plagued thus far. Becky Williams and Piper Marshall will provide good depth in the 1500m.
Sloan envisions a speedy distance medley relay that could include Egami and Trané, Paul, Gonzalez, and Probasco-Canda, or a variety of others. "It's not out of the question that a WSU DMR could be an NCAA qualifying team indoors," Sloan said.
Paul, a 2005 cross country All-American, participated in the NCAA 5000m last year but struggled through much of the outdoor track season. Sloan's goal for Paul is getting her back to the national meet, having her run a great race and get into the scoring category. Providing good depth in the 5k are Kelly Ramirez, Gonzalez, steeplechaser Collier Lawrence and Alyssa Modrell.
Freshman Chelsea VanDeBrake had an impressive cross country season and has shown good ability and good potential in the longer distances. Ramirez has shown her strength in the longer distances and was a conference scorer two years ago in the 10,000m.
The steeplechase has three solid performers in Megan Leonard, Lawrence and Kayle Peterson. All have strong marks and have the ability to be Pac-10 scorers this year: Lawrence scored at the 2006 conference meet while Peterson scored in 2004.
"We need to see the steeplechasers drop those times and I think they are capable of doing that," Sloan said. "They have the potential of representing us at the conference and even at the regional and national level this year."
The Picklers are WSU's top 100m hurdlers with Diana coming off a PR time of 13.64 seconds set at the USA Track & Field Championships last June. Julie Pickler ran a PR time of 13.78 at the Pac-10 Heptathlon Championships last May, in spite of a hurt foot. Angelica Flynn provide additional support in this race.
The intermediate hurdles have a one-two punch in sophomores Sara Trané and Lorraine King. Trané placed fourth at the 2006 Pac-10 Championships while King spent the season learning the event and has looked very strong in the fall training.
The high jump will be a strong event for the Cougars with good top line people and good depth as well. While heptathletes Diana and Julie Pickler are on the top of the high jump depth chart, they will probably only compete in the event at the Husky dual meet and the Pac-10 Championships. The Cougars do have Pac-10 scorer and NCAA participant McKinnon Hanson returning and Sloan is encouraged by her progress. Freshman Natasha Montgomery is still in a developmental stage.
The pole vault will be a work in progress with a three promising newcomers wearing crimson and gray after sophomore Tiffany Maskulinski moved home and transferred to the University at Buffalo. Freshmen Kendall Mays and Chelsea Nicholas join junior transfer Jessica Fuller in anchoring the pole vault event.
The Picklers, each with long jump PRs of just under 20-feet, are the leaders in this event and Sloan expects both to surpass that mark this year. Junior triple jumper Sarah Burns will get back into the long jump and should continue to improve. Sophomore Catie Schuetzle had a good freshman year with a best leap of 19-6, and with good consistency she will continue to go farther.
"It is possible that we will have three or four 20-foot long jumpers this year so that will be a strong event for us," Sloan said.
Burns has the best returning triple jump mark of 40-7 1/2, followed by Kaylee Gardner and Schuetzle. Because of their hard work, Sloan predicts that all three can be consistently over the 40-foot mark, developing out over 41- or even 42-feet this season, making this a good strong event for the Cougars.
Redshirt junior McKenzie Garberg is WSU's ace in the throws, with the best returning marks in the discus (166-1) and hammer (190-7), and a strong shot put mark (46-5 1/2). Last year Garberg finished fifth in the Pac-10 discus and Sloan is also impressed with her progress in the hammer. Junior Jessica Zita has a shot put PR of 47-5 and is consistently improving in the all the throws. Coach Debra Farwell is impressed with the improved strength and technical progress of Garberg and Zita through the fall training.
Sophomore Jasmine McCormack spent her freshman year as a transition year, learning the javelin and the coaches feel she has the potential to easily surpass her PR of 144-feet this year. Diana Pickler reached a PR of 135-4 last season and Julie Pickler is close behind, providing good depth in the event.
Diana Pickler and Julie Pickler return for their senior years at WSU, having reached All-American status in the multi-events three times each. Diana Pickler placed third at the NCAA Championships and went on to set the school heptathlon record of 5,855 points with her fifth place finish at the USA Track & Field Championships. Julie Pickler, in spite of struggling with chronic plantar fascitis, finished second in the Pac-10 heptathlon and went on to a fifth-place NCAA finish.
Julie Pickler had a surgical procedure on her plantar fascia in November 2006, and is working with Sloan to manage her training and not be limited by the injured foot. Her post-surgery rehabilitation included work in the weight room on machines that increased her strength and that should translate to a good spring.
"My hope would be that the two of them are battling for a national title at the end of this season," Sloan said. "With health and the ability to train properly and get through things that their natural development I'm hoping both of them will get over 6000 points and if that's the case we're racing people when we go to the line in the 800m for the national championship. That's where we want to be - prepared physically and mentally going to the line and say we're racing for the championship.