Feb. 13, 2008
PULLMAN, Wash. -- Six accomplished Northwest high school track and field athletes have signed National Letters of Intent to attend and compete for Washington State University, Cougar Head Coach Rick Sloan announced Wednesday, Feb. 13.
The five women who have committed to WSU are Brianne Brown, a 400m runner from Spokane, Wash., Morgan Clem, a hurdler from East Wenatchee, Wash., Ashley Kenney, a discus thrower from Spokane Valley, Wash., Courtney Kirkwood, a heptathlete from Othello, Wash., and Jessica Yates, a triple jumper from Snohomish, Wash. Alex Ringe, a middle distance runner from Hermiston, Ore., will be joining the men's team.
"From a dual meet standpoint, against the Huskies, we want to have one or two good people across the board. But from a championship standpoint, we are looking for the best athletes that we can attract into the program. With this recruiting class I think we have that," Sloan said. "We only have one male signed but are expecting more to sign later this spring (NCAA men's track and field has fewer scholarships than women). This class is unusual in that we have a lot of very, very talented athletes who have committed to us at the initial signing period. Now with the November signing period gone, the February signing is beneficial to us. We have been able to get the commitments from very talented athletes from the Northwest. And we look forward to them stepping in and helping the program right away."
Brown, from Shadle Park High, is the top returning girls 400m runner in the state this year with a personal-best time of 55.8 seconds. She took third place in the 2007 state 4A 400m championship with a time of 56.15. In addition to track, Brown was an outstanding volleyball player, the MVP for the Highlanders team which earned a state trophy (top eight) the past three seasons.
"Brianne is one of the top 400m runners in the state and she looks great running," said Ellannee Richardson, WSU assistant coach and sprints coach. "We are really excited about her signing with us. I think she is someone who can come right in and be an immediate contributor in the long sprints and can give us a consistent split in the 4x400m relay."
Clem, from Eastmont High, holds the top national ranking in the 300m girls hurdles with a time of 42.75 seconds. At the 2007 state 3A meet, Clem won the 100m dash in a time of 12.45 after running a PR time of 12.06 in the prelims, and won the 300m hurdles in 42.75. Her hurdles time ranks second all-time in the state standings for junior girls, and sixth all-time for all classes in the state of Washington. Clem also won the 300m hurdles at the 2007 Brooks Meet of Champions (Washington versus Oregon prep stars) with a meet and stadium record time of 42.92. An outstanding soccer player, Clem set school career and single-season records for goals scored and was named to the Columbia Basin League first team in 2006 and 2007, and all-state honorable mention. She was the 2007 CBL Female Track Athlete of the Year and also tabbed the North Central Washington Athlete of the Year.
"Morgan is a big-time, all-around talent," said Mark Macdonald, WSU assistant coach and hurdles coach. "She is very tough and talented so she is a great competitor. She can run anywhere, from the 100m, the 200m, the 400m, both hurdles and both relays. The way I feel about Morgan is the same way I felt about Ellannee Richardson (former Cougar All-American) as a student-athlete."
Kenney, from West Valley High in Spokane Valley, has the No. 15 national ranking in the girls' discus for 2008 with a PR and school-record throw of 144-feet, 6 inches. She was the runner-up at the 2007 state 2A discus competition. Kenney also excelled in volleyball where she lettered four years, with the Eagles placing eighth at state last fall. She has a 3.945 grade point average in honors and advanced placement classes.
"Ashley is a talented athlete and we're going to try her in the weight throw and the hammer in addition to the discus and developing her in the shot put," said WSU associate head coach and throws coach Debra Farwell. "She was a camper for us and I was able to work with her and helped in the evaluation process. She was very coachable and made adjustments in techniques quickly. She is a very good student and she is going to be someone who develops in the future for us."
Kirkwood, from Othello High, is currently ranked No. 1 nationally in the 2008 girls' prep javelin with a PR toss of 160-10. She won the state 2007 2A javelin (158-10) and is the defending state long jump champion after leaping 16-10 at the state meet but has a PR distance of 17-1. Kirkwood also place fourth in the 100m hurdles state race. In addition to being named the 2007 Central Washington Athletic Conference Female Field Athlete of the Year, Kirkwood was named the Gatorade Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year for the state of Washington. She also earned numerous honors in soccer and basketball during her career at Othello and is ASB secretary and a member of the Honor Society. She plans to major in biomechanics at WSU.
"Courtney is a remarkable athlete currently competing on a nearly undefeated basketball team. We recruited as a heptathlete because she has that range and ability in different events. Her strongest event is the javelin where she is ranked number one in the country," said Sloan, WSU's multi-events coach. "In my opinion, she is the best athlete in the state. We're excited about her coming into the program and teaching her the new techniques of the different events and taking her javelin and continuing to expand on that. She is a tough competitor and she knows what she wants and is not afraid to work for it. She is going to be an important part of our programs in years to come."
Yates, from Snohomish High, is the top girls' triple jumper in the state of Washington with a PR leap of 38-feet, 10 1/4 inches. She was the runner-up at the 2007 state 4A meet in the triple jump with a leap of 37-10 1/4 and also competed in the high jump and long jump. Yates also played volleyball and basketball for the Panthers.
"Jessica is the top triple jumper in our region including the Northwest, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. With Sarah Burns graduating this year, Jessica is the best one in our area," said Matt McGee, WSU assistant coach and jumps coach. "As a camper last summer she showed great strength and power. I'm excited to have her join our team."
Ringe, from Hermiston High, was the Oregon state 5A 800m champion and has run a PR time of 1:55.78. He also finished third in the 1500m at the 2007 state championships. Ringe played football his junior year, leading the team and the league in rushing yards and touchdowns until an injury ended his gridiron career. In his first season of cross country, Ringe finished 13th at the 2007 state meet as his Bulldogs team were runners-up by a mere two points. He is very active in school activities, a four-year honor roll honoree, and a state finalist for the Wendy's Heisman award.
"With Alex's win in the 800m at the state meet last year and he wants to study viticulture, Washington State was a logical choice for him for his academics," Drake said. "He is a really strong middle distance runner and we have seen him run a couple times so that really perked our interest. He will help us build a nice corps in the middle distance events."
Four of the six signees - Clem, Kenney, Kirkwood and Yates - have attended WSU Track & Field summer camp.
"Spending a week with them, the coaches see them twice a day out there practicing and we get a good sense of their discipline, of their athleticism, and for their commitment," Sloan said. "I think the people we have signed today have impressed us enough to offer them scholarships to come to Washington State. It is helpful to us and helpful to the high school seniors who have attended our camp and shown us who they are. Over the years our camp has been a good feeder for our program."