Jan. 9, 2008
The graduation of four-time All-American Diana Pickler and five-time All-American Julie Pickler has left a void not only in the Cougars' heptathlon corps but also in the seven individual events and both relays they competed in.
Cougars Head Coach Rick Sloan (35th year at WSU, 14th year as head coach) knows the end of the eligibility of Picklers impacts the program significantly but unlike how the end of Ellannee Richardson's eligibility impacted the program when the Picklers joined the program. At this point WSU doesn't have that level of athlete.
"When you have people who are able to score at a national meet year after year and also score Pac-10 points or in a Husky dual meet in a variety of different events, the loss of their athletic skills and talents and what they bring to the program, will certainly be missed," Sloan said. "But we gather and regroup and move forward and I think we have some new people in the program and some people returning who I think have turned a page in their career and are ready to move their level of performance up and be competitive at the Pac-10 and hopefully at the NCAA level."
Returning strength for the Cougar women includes All-Americans McKenzie Garberg (discus) and Haley Paul (cross country), Pac-10 steeplechase champion Sara Trané and previous conference scorers Sarah Burns (triple jump), McKinnon Hanson (high jump), Lorraine King (400m hurdles), Collier Lawrence and Meghan Leonard (steeplechase), and La Shawnda Porter-Red (200m). Sloan also looks for senior Jessica Zita (shot put) and sophomore Princess Joy Griffey (sprints) to have breakout seasons.
Newcomers sure to garner attention are Ebba Jungmark, a freshman high jumper from Sweden who competed at the 2007 World Championships and has a personal-best clearance of 6-3 1/2, and last year's No. 1 junior javelin thrower, Marissa Tschida, who threw 158-7.
"We are excited about the rest our people because of the potential they have shown," Sloan said. "Hopefully they work hard, develop, and get to a point where they can compete at a Pac-10 level."
The WSU women's sprint corps looks to be strong in 2008 and the short relay will reflect that strength with a prediction of fast times.
Princess Joy Griffey came on strong at the end of her freshman season which was a transitional one after coming off an injury-ridden final year of high school. Sloan said there was some hesitancy in her preparation and competition last year but that is completely gone through the fall and indoor training.
"Princess Joy has been absolutely phenomenal and very, very strong," Sloan said. "She has been doing things in training that would indicate she is going to have an outstanding year. Our goal is to continue training her, keeping her strong and try to maintain her health throughout the year, but right now that doesn't seem to be an issue. Getting through the season without an injury has increased her confidence and her effort from a training standpoint and from a competitive standpoint as well."
Griffey has the top returning 100m time followed by La Shawnda Porter-Red. Add in freshmen Candace Missouri and maybe Angela Jensen for the 400m relay. In the 200m, Porter-Red is the top runner but will be challenged by Griffey.
The fastest 400m runner is actually intermediate hurdler Lorraine King. Selena Galaviz is the sole primary open 400m runner with the depth runners either coming up from sprints (Porter-Red) or coming over from intermediate hurdles. The 4x400m relay will be comprised of people from different event areas with King the only returnee from last year's squad.
Sloan looks for improvement in the middle distances and distance areas for the Cougar women this year.
Sophomore Lisa Egami will see duty in the 800m and 1500m. After acclimating to collegiate training during her freshman year Sloan predicts Egami can move down well under the 2:10 range for the 800m and faster in the 1500m. Sara Trané has run well in the 800m but will be working more in the 1500m and steeplechase as the season progresses.
Anna Layman is training again after sitting out last year because of stress injuries which has plagued her nearly her whole track and field career. Now healthy and training more within the sprint group doing more interval, the talented Layman should remain fit and healthy which Sloan feels will provide dividends for the team.
Haley Paul is back off of an injury redshirt spring and part of the fall. With an effective range from 800m through 5000m, Paul began the new year training at full strength and should be in peak form for the end of the outdoor season. Her lifetime-best time of 16:20.86 came two years ago and she competed in the 5k at the 2006 NCAA Championships.
Marisa Sandoval dropped her 1500m time last year and with good health and consistent training is expected to drop below a time of 4:30 this year.
"I am hopeful the training and effort Isley made during the fall will carry through the winter months so we see her run the times that we've always expected from her as a 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m runner on the track," Sloan said. "Based off what her accomplishments were in cross country the 5000m might be where she can really make an impact in the championships."
The high hurdles will relay on heptathletes Angela Jensen and Jalisa Williams who have run 14.09 and 14.10, respectively. Angelica Flynn will contribute in the 100m hurdles as well with a 14.33 PR time.
Junior Lorraine King returns to lead the intermediate hurdlers after dropping her time to just over a minute last year. Her objective this year is make the big jump and drop down to well under a minute in the 400m hurdles which should contribute strongly to the team success in the open 400m and the relay as well. Multi-events newcomer Jalisa Williams ran a high school intermediate hurdles time of 42.90 but will concentrate on the heptathlon events this year. Freshmen Caroline Hedel and Veronica Elseroad-Wall come in with good times from high school and solid fall training. Sloan looks for them to make the adjustment out to 400m hurdles and hopefully make a contribution to WSU immediately.
The steeplechase is the strongest and deepest running event for the Cougars. Pac-10 champion Sara Trané leads the trio of returnees with the school-record time of 10:19.89, and is coming off a very good cross country season. Meghan Leonard also had a good harrier season and because of her tough, competitive nature, look for her to drop her time down significantly. Sloan expects senior Collier Lawrence to have a sense of urgency that will propel this very talented athlete to realize her full potential in this event and significantly improve her time.
"Up front, three very strong steeplechasers for the Cougs and we expect all three of them to score at the 2008 Pac-10 Conference championships," Sloan said.
The high jump corps will be led by freshman Ebba Jungmark, a 6-3 1/2 world championship competitor last August at Osaka. Backing her up will be senior McKinnon Hanson and freshmen jumpers Maria Creech and Amanda Stewart. Hanson had a strong sophomore season with a 5-8 3/4 jump and made it to the NCAA Championships but dropped back just a little bit as a junior. Sloan said Hanson has already exhibited signs she is back on track this year and he expects a PR height from her this year. The freshmen will add good depth to the event with continued development will become contributors at the championship level.
"Ebba is an athlete who is going to make a huge impact at all levels right from the start. She is already a very accomplished high jumper," Sloan said.
The Cougar women have good depth in the pole vault but so far no one really stands out as the needed 13-foot ace in the event. Freshman Alexa Huestis and sophomore Kendall Mays both have the top clearances at 12-0 with Jessica Fuller, Hilary Moore and Chelsea Nicholas in the 11-foot plus range. Sloan said the plan is to keep training them and working with them in hopes that more than one makes the technical adjustments and moves up to that height this season.
Catie Schuetzle is the top long jumper after leaping 19-6 1/4 last spring but Sloan thinks she is capable of jumping over 20-feet this year. Freshman Candace Missouri has jumped 18-8 1/2 and gives the Cougs depth in the event.
The triple jump will have a strong one-two punch for WSU with Sarah Burns and Schuetzle both reaching PRs over 41-feet last year. Missouri is a very talented athlete who can learn the techniques and can be a very good triple jumper for the WSU women. Her competition emphasis will be to long jump, be on the 400m relay, and then to triple jump.
The Cougar women's throws are quite good but not very deep, consisting of basically the same people over and over again. Within the shot put, discus and hammer, seniors McKenzie Garberg and Jessica Zita are the top two performers and only two performers. Garberg, an All-American in the discus last spring, is very strong in all three events and will be a contributor at all levels in all events. Zita will be expected to provide depth in the discus and hammer on a dual meet basis but will primarily be a shot puter.
"We have good strength and if the two athletes are good, that is all you need in an event," Sloan said. "I'm looking for both of them to have great final seasons. Last year McKenzie became competitive at a higher level and now we're looking for her to make another big jump. Jessica was a little inconsistent but had the big throws from time to time and knows she is capable of doing that. It is not out of the question that we have a couple of 50-foot shot puters on the team which is very good."
The addition of javelin thrower Marissa Tschida, last year's national junior champion, is a big bonus for the women's team. Tschida threw 158-7 last spring and again threw over 158 to win the US National Junior Championship. Junior Jasmine McCormack threw over 141-feet last year and, with Tschida, will give the Cougars a one-two punch as a good, solid javelin corps.
"Marissa is a tough Montana girl who gets out there and competes very, very well," Sloan said. "She will be learning new techniques and may have to take a small step backward before she can start moving forward. How quickly she adjusts will determine how successful she is at the end of the year."
After a combined nine All-America certificates in the past three years, Washington State will not have a Pickler in uniform for the multi-events competitions. Freshmen Angela Jensen from Tacoma, Wash., and Jalisa Williams from Pasadena, Calif., have joined the program and are working with Sloan to learn the techniques and nuances of competing in the indoor pentathlon and the outdoor heptathlon.
"We're starting all over again and we have two good athletes in Angela and Jalisa," Sloan said. "They have been working hard all fall on developing their skills. I think they are going to be good, it is just going to take us a little while to get everything developed and to that championship level."