Jan. 8, 2008
Cougars Track and Field Head Coach Rick Sloan (35th year at WSU, 14th year as head coach) is excited about the men's team because he can go through nearly every event and name frontline people who he expects to do well at the conference level and beyond.
"Some of the people on the team developed nicely and became big performers for us at the end of the year," Sloan said. "Some of the new people can come in and contribute right away this year. I'm excited to see how we develop and how we compete when we start putting the uniform on."
While depth varies from event to event, overall the WSU 2008 men's team has variety and does not have any areas where there isn't a stopper. The sprints and hurdles are deep and good. The throws have good top line competitors but need the other people behind them to fill in that depth.
"We have at least one person in every event that is pretty good," Sloan said. "From a championship level, our top people are all going to be in scoring positions and that bodes well for the Cougs."
Two-time all-American discus thrower Matt Lamb returns lighter and ready to three-peat. Senior captain Jon Jeffreys is anxious to return to the NCAA meet in the javelin. Also seeking a return to NCAA competition are Rickey Moody (long jump/decathlon), Robert Williams (110m hurdles), Justin Woods (100m/200m) and Moreno Zapata (triple jump).
"Our schedule suits us very well," Sloan said. "We have the meets in place to bring our level of performance up. The whole idea is to get ready for the championships season at the end of April and the months of May and June. Not everybody will compete every weekend. We'll utilize the meets that we need to and train when we have to and expect to be ready and at our very best at the end of the year."
This season a new hammer throw area will debut at Mooberry Track Complex at the south end of the field. The hammer will now be in a location that is more visible and there will be spectator stands and indicator boards to accommodate viewers in the other grandstands.
"We are getting people who aren't the national leaders in events but with the system they have put in place, people are coming in and showing tremendous improvement, like James McSwain and Jaycee Robertson, and becoming NCAA sprinters and Pac-10 scorers," Sloan said. "I look at this group and think that we're going to be good in that area again."
At the top of the list is junior Justin Woods who has done a tremendous job in the 100m and 200m. Woods has competed at the NCAA Championships both years of his collegiate career. In-coming freshman hurdler Jeshua Anderson, is big and strong and fits into the WSU sprint model.
"We think of Jeshua as an intermediate hurdler but he is an outstanding sprinter too, in the 100m, 200m and open 400m," Sloan said.
Two more freshmen adding to the Cougars sprints depth are André Jennings and Marlon Murray. Jennings had injury problems throughout his high school career but Sloan thinks if he maintains his health, he'll make a contribution. Murray has good credentials but had misfortune in high school, running out of his lane at the state meet. Decathletes Rickey Moody, Kyle Schauble and Trevor Habberstad, will add more depth to the sprints corps.
The 200m looks a lot like the 100m with everyone a solid performer with Woods and Anderson having run under 21 seconds.
"We have good depth and good quality in the 100m and 200m," Sloan said. "If we can pass the stick well, our relay should be very fast too."
Anderson's open 400m racing will be indoors but he will primarily run hurdles outdoors. Sophomore Reny Follett did a great job at the Pac-10 meet last year, running out of lane one and achieving a time under 48 seconds for the first time. Sloan is impressed with Follett's fall training and sees him as a very strong runner ready for this season. Devin Timpson has also had a great fall of training and should contribute in both the open 400m and on the 1600m relay. The longer relay will utilize some of the 800m runners coming down to fill out the squad.
The 800m is an area of excitement for the Cougar men with sophomores Luke Lemenager and Bob Hewitt-Gaffney ready to return to the track after spending their freshmen year adjusting to collegiate training. Both have trained a little bit differently but both have trained very well.
"My anticipation is that we will have a couple of guys under 1:50," Sloan said. "Bob will look at 800m and probably come down and run some 400m and relay work. Luke probably works more 800m up to the 1500m, and I expect Luke to be our top 1500m runner this year. On paper he is the top guy returning but o he is mentally committed to run 1500m he will be very successful there."
Dominic Smargiassi will primarily be a 1500m runner but may become more of a 3000m and 5000m racer as the season progresses. WSU's depth in the 1500m will come from athletes already in other events.
Freshmen Sean Coyle, David Hickerson and Peter Miller are outstanding high school runners from last year who are expected to do a great job up and down the ladder, from 800m all the way out to 5000m. Their versatility can help the team find success.
Drew Polley, Dan Geib, and Chris Williams are WSU's top 10k runners but can come down and run a good 5k for the Cougs. Alex Grant has the top time in the 5000m but will likely be counted on as a steeplechaser more than this distance.
Junior Robert Williams had a good season in 2007, especially at the end of the year when he ran the 110m hurdles under 14-seconds a couple of times, including a 13.94 PR. On the WSU preseason depth chart, decathlete Rickey Moody is the number two high hurdler after a significant move down from the high 15-second range to a mid-14-second time, and the promise of lower times this season.
Barry Leavitt was a wonderful surprise at the end of his freshman year, reaching PR times in both the high (14.67) and intermediate hurdles (51.48) and scoring in both events at the 2004 conference meet. He returned to the team in January 2007 after a two-year church mission and jumped into the season, scoring at the Pac-10 meet in the 400m hurdles. Sloan notes Leavitt has had a very good fall of training and expects the junior to get back to his 2004 times and below.
Jeshua Anderson has run 13.82 over prep 110m highs and has the height and strength to adjust easily to college highs. Decathletes Kyle Schauble and Trevor Habberstad (high school time of 13.92) are expected to contribute significantly in the highs in 2008.
The intermediate hurdles will be led by the national prep record-holder, Anderson. Sloan is impressed with his NCAA All-American type of talent and sees a legitimate chance for Anderson to win the Pac-10 title as a freshman. Leavitt and Williams are both 51-second runners who are expected to drop below that time this year, contribute at the Pac-10 level and then advance to the NCAA Regional and national levels.
"Jeshua is very skilled in the event and under the guidance of Mark Macdonald, look for him to be an outstanding performer for us at all levels," Sloan said.
In the steeplechase, Sloan is waiting for the big drop. That is the big improvement in times from Alex Grant, Sam Ahlbeck and Chris Concha who are all in the 9:03 to 9:06 times. Grant is coming off a great cross country while Ahlbeck was consistent throughout the fall and Concha suffered from injuries but has recovered. Cougar coach Jason Drake has done a great job of developing WSU into a steeplechase power.
"All these guys have the potential to drop down into the low 8:50s and even under 8:50 but only after they have confidence in the race," Sloan said. "It is a difficult race and they need to learn to race it and become a little bit more efficient. I think all of them have the skills to be at least 8:50 runners and that could have a significant impact on the conference championship with those guys running that fast."
Coach Matt McGee has an outstanding group of jumpers assembled on the 2008 team. The high jump will be a very exciting event for the Cougs this season. Trent Arrivey jumped just under 7-feet and placed third at Pac-10 meet, an outstanding fete by a freshman. Kyle Eaton has battled off-and-on injury problems but has been a conference scorer and the team needs him to have a great season. Freshman Ryan Deese is a tremendous jumper with the potential for development and is moving in that direction. Deese and Arrivey are pushing each other and if they pull Eaton along, Sloan feels the jumps corps will be solid.
The Cougs do not have a quick-fix replacement for graduated two-time All-American and 18-foot pole vaulter Tyson Byers. Senior D.J. Brown is joined by freshman Trevor Sodorff and both are working hard developing new skills and refining techniques. Improvement in their current marks will be a big bonus for the Cougs in competitions.
Senior Rickey Moody just missed going to the NCAA Championships as a decathlete last year but did compete in the long jump after a fourth place finish in the event at the Pac-10 meet and a PR leap of 24-8 1/4 at the NCAA West Regional meet. He and fellow multi-competitor Kyle Schauble will be the primary long jumpers for the Cougars.
Triple jumper Moreno Zapata had a great season last year, coming on strong and competing well at the Pac-10 Championship and at the NCAA West Regional where he leaped to a wind-aided PR mark of 51-9 1/4.
"I am really proud of the job Moreno did last year. He's basically our ace the triple jump and I really look for him to do great things this season," Sloan said.
Junior Matt Lamb, a two-time All-American in the discus, should have a great year in the shot put in 2008, Sloan predicts. Of course, Lamb will also be the Cougars' ace in the discus after throwing 198-5 last season.
"Matt will be competing at a lighter weight this year and he is a very fast, explosive person and so we're going to take advantage of that. We'll rely on more speed and it should result in good throws all the way around," Sloan said.
Philip MacArthur, a two-time conference scorer, returns as the top hammer thrower after a solid performance last year and a PR distance of 197-1. He is continuing to develop in this event and Sloan and coach Debra Farwell foresee him throwing over 200-feet this year.
The Cougar men have a strong javelin corps led by senior and team captain, Jon Jeffreys. With a PR distance of 226-2, Jeffreys' three previous years of hard work should payoff for him and the team in 2008.
"Knowing this is Jon's last year, he seems more focused on getting everything down correctly. I think he is going to have an outstanding season," Sloan said.
Three additional Cougs are expected to throw over 200-feet this year. Nathan Bache came on strong at the end of his freshman season, tossing a PR of 198-6 and then scoring at the Pac-10 meet. Cameron Schwisow is recovering from elbow surgery and a back injury but with good health and consistent training has the ability to throw far. Mark Presby made adjustments and developed last year as a redshirt.
WSU has a trio of decathletes this year with senior Rickey Moody leading the way. He took third-place at the conference meet and narrowly missed competing at the NCAA Championships in the decathlon with 7,109 points. "It's too bad Rickey didn't make it to the national championships because he was really finding his stride at that point in time and he would have done well at the nationals," Sloan said. "At least he got the experience at the NCAA in the long jump. The decathlon corps is good, but Rickey currently has more well-rounded technical development. I think he is going to have an outstanding season and do great things in the decathlon."
Sophomore Kyle Schauble brings a very athletic physique and good speed to the mix and after a year of development in new events and technique refinements, should show a stronger presence in the multis. Freshman Trevor Habberstad is also a very talented athlete with good speed. He will spend his initial collegiate season working to develop and gain experience in his other events.