Jan. 21, 2000
WSU lost only two seniors from the squad that won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championship, placed third at the Pacific-10 Championships, and finished in the top 20 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 1999. The maturing youthful set 11 school records in 1999, and are ready to reach for greater glory. In fact, Track & Field News has predicted the WSU women to finish seventh at the 2000 NCAA Outdoor Championships (January 2000 issue).
Coach Rick Sloan, in his fifth season as the head coach for the Cougar women's program, sees this season has further reaping the rewards of the tremendously talented recruiting classes of the past four years. Sloan was named USTCA Region VIII Women's Coach of the Year for 1999, and should be in the running for that honor again as one third of all of WSU's women's outdoor All-Americans are set to compete on the 2000 team.
"The women's team shows a high level of quality in every event and pretty much across the board depth in every event as well," Sloan said. "That's why we finished fifth nationally in the Power Rankings last year. I'm proud of that because it shows we have not only quality performers, but every event covered and we have depth in every event."
Sloan expects the Cougar women's team to be ranked in the top ten if not the top five nationally in both the indoor and outdoor Power Rankings.
Led by the versatility of senior captain Francesca Sewell (sprints and jumps) and the outstanding talent of sophomore Ellannee Richardson (heptathlon), the Cougar women have strength, depth, and experience in nearly every event. At the 1999 Pac-10 Championships at Tempe, Arizona, Richardson contributed 23.75 points and Sewell added 21.5 points of WSU's third-place 123 total. Richardson set an American Junior Record in the heptathlon with 5,678 points, while teammate Whitney Evans became the Canadian Junior record-holder with 5,579 points. Evans also garnered All-America honors both indoors and outdoors in the high jump in addition to her heptathlon certificate.
Add the return of All-American Mandy Borschowa in the throws, Pac-10 triple jump champion Cicely Clinkenbeard, and entire 400m relay team that captured the conference crown, and it is easy to see Sloan's enthusiasm for the 2000 season.
"As we become more successful and place higher in the major meets, that is attracting other quality athletes to the program and our recruiting has gone well so far this year," Sloan said. "It's exciting to see where we're going with this women's program."
Sprints The "hub" of the Cougar women's sprints for the past four years are all back this season and all are seniors. This outstanding group of speedsters is led by Francesca Sewell, who finished fourth in the 100m at the 1999 Pac-10s for the second time in two years.
LaTroya Mucker and Sharika Higgins will see duty in all races of the sprints this season. Mucker had conference placings of fifth in the 200m and eighth in the 400m, in addition to her fourth in the heptathlon. Sharika Higgins was sixth in the 400m at the Pac-10s last year. Sloan sees both as primarily 400m runners but guarantees they will see time in the shorts sprints as well.
Attrina Higgins is set to run the 100m and 200m races in addition to her becoming an accomplished hurdler.
Sophomore Ellannee Richardson has proven to be a workhorse for the Cougar women's team. After concentrating on the hurdles and her field events as a freshman, Richardson is set to see more time in the sprints.
WSU has depth of talent in the 400m led by Mucker and Sharika Higgins, with Richardson's only times being relay splits (51.8) in 1999. Sophomore Heidi Abersfeller had a disappointing frosh year but a difference in training has the Cougar coaches excited about her possibilities.
Middle Distances Sloan is excited about the 800m race because of two runners: senior Alishia Booterbaugh and freshman Nicole McRae. Booterbaugh has the best mark (2:07.32) and the experience of competing at the NCAAs, but McRae, a graduate of Garfield High in Seattle with Junior Olympic experience, has impressed all the coaches with her tremendous improvement during fall workouts.
Booterbaugh, after a strong cross country season, and McRae, also have the capability to move up and run 1500m. Junior Charlotte Neel and senior Lisa Schaures provide strong depth and experience in both the 800m and 1500m races. Redshirt-freshman Jaime Miller and sophomore April Gagner, coming off injury problems during cross country, join junior Megan Maynard and freshman Hillary Smith, from Reno, Nev., to supply depth in the 1500m.
Distances "This is an area where we need people to perform for us if we are going to be a competitive team," Sloan said. "And I think we have the people who can do it, but we just have to take it up a notch. We have to get a little bit more competitive. The Pac-10 is very, very strong in the distances and there are national champions all up and down the coast. We are going to ask our athletes to get in there, be competitive, and improve every week. If we do that, we'll be okay."
Maynard is the Cougars' top runner in the 3000m and 5000m races. Coming off lackluster 1999 track and cross country seasons after becoming the first WSU woman to earn cross country All-America honors when she finished 22nd at the 1998 NCAA Championships, Maynard should rebound to lead the Cougs in the distance races this spring and compete with the best in the Pac-10. Frosh Jenny Filipy, from Mead High, will provide depth in the longer distances.
Gagner runs the 3000m well and joins second-year freshmen Miller and Ryan Gilmore, and newcomer Greta Johnson (Potlatch, Idaho). Johnson is an enigma on the track because her high school did not have a track and the coaches have only seen her compete as a cross country runner.
"Greta is an unknown but ran very well in cross country off of limited training while recovering from a foot injury," Sloan said. "At the end of the season, even with limited amounts of training, she started performing very well in competition and was our number one runner at the regional championships."
Hurdles The hurdles are definitely the deepest event for the Cougar women, with high levels of talent from top to bottom of the depth chart.
Leading the way is Richardson, who set the WSU women's 100m hurdles record of 13.69 as a freshman last year. But Sloan says Richardson will probably only get enough appearances in the hurdles to keep her ready for heptathlon competition this year.
Junior Agneta Rosenblad (13.76) has worked very hard in the off-season and is ready to run faster than she did as a freshman. Sophomore Randi Smith dropped her times during her rookie year at WSU and run consistently in the 13.80s (13.81w). Rosenblad, Smith and Richardson have looked outstanding in early season training and will be a very strong one-two-three punch in the high hurdles for the Cougars.
Senior Attrina Higgins made her breakthrough when she ran 13.99w at the Pac-10s last spring. Sloan is impressed with her improved technique and physical strength.
Providing further depth are returning seniors Lucita Zapata, LaTroya Mucker, and sophomore Whitney Evans, who will run the hurdles in preparation for the heptathlon competition. Redshirt freshman Sarah Odonkor, from Federal Way, Wash., has only run a best time of 15.05 in competition but is more physically fit this year and someone coach Sloan thinks will be a factor in time.
The intermediate hurdles have Randi Smith at the top after a fifth place finish at the Pac-10s and a second-place finish (58.86) at the junior national meet last summer which ranks second on WSU's all-time list. Senior Autumn Wood has been a strong force for the Cougars the past three seasons and Sloan looks for her to break into the low 60 seconds time or better this year. Odonkor will provide the depth when she moves up to the 400m hurdles.
Relays Sloan may have started a dynasty in the women's 400m relay when he put together a talented group of mostly freshmen in 1997. Each year since then, the 4x100m relay has broken school records including last spring's Pac-10 winning time of 44.50 run by Attrina Higgins, LaTroya Mucker, Ellannee Richardson and Francesca Sewell. Even though the Cougs did not place at the 1999 NCAA Championships, the same foursome returns in tact and can only get faster.
The 4x400m also triumphed last season when Sharika Higgins, Whitney Evans, Randi Smith and Ellannee Richardson ran a school record time of 3:38.08. Although all four return this season, Sloan thinks there are a handful of people who could be members of the relay. McRae has impressed the coach with her leg speed. Booterbaugh, Mucker, Abersfeller, as well as Attrina Higgins moving up, will provide a base of eight or nine runners who provide several combinations of fast times.
The relays should remain exciting events for the Cougars as WSU is getting the caliber of recruits to keep this area strong, and work toward developing a national championship relay, according to Sloan.
Jumps After placing sixth indoors and fourth in the outdoors NCAA Championships, Whitney Evans returns for her sophomore year with a best height of 6-0 3/4 in the high jump. She will need to overcome a nagging knee problem with her plant leg which has limited her jump training, but Evans has all the tools to go to the next level. Francesca Sewell has a personal goal to better her best height of 5-10 and advance to the national championships in the high jump. Cathy McNeely, at 5-9 jumper, will join the track team after her basketball team competition is complete, and freshman Briana Willis, who has jumped 5-4 at Tahoma High, will provide needed depth in this event. Sloan looks to an improved technique to provide Richardson with a mark to match the spring in her legs.
School pole vault record-holder Jeannette Martus returns with a 12-3 1/2 mark for her junior year. Freshman Andrea Doepker (Saskatoon, Canada) comes in with a best of 11-11 3/4 but has a stress fracture in her foot and may have to redshirt this season.
Rounding out the vaulting corps: Whitney Evans has leaped 10-10 3/4 but will probably not see much action in this event, junior Candice Heggie cleared 10-6 indoors, and freshman Stephanie Robinett cleared 10-0 at Bremerton High and has already cleared 11-0 in practice.
All-American Sewell is the Cougars' top long jumper with two firsts and a second at the Pac-10s under her belt. Her best mark of 20-10 1/2 is five inches better than Agneta Rosenblad, who showed great improvement through fall workouts. Richardson leaped to a mark of 19-6 1/4w, and joins Cicely Clinkenbeard and Whitney Evans to provide a deep well of talent in this event.
Clinkenbeard claimed the Pac-10 triple jump crown as a sophomore last year and set the school record with a leap of 42-8 1/4w. Sloan expects her to also long jump (19-0 3/4) more this season. Sewell added the triple to her triad of jumps last year and soared to a mark of 41-5 1/4. Sophomore Alison Eldridge (37-10 3/4) is another jumper who will join the track team following her participation on the Cougar basketball team.
Throws The Cougars will be able to supply a one-two-three punch in nearly all the throws this season. In the shot put, junior Becky Potter had a breakthrough year in 1999 with a distance of 48-6 3/4. Mandy Borschowa returns for her sophomore season and Sloan looks for her to improve greatly from her rookie season. Junior Andrea Thornton has shown improvement in fall workouts by taking the techniques she learned last season in the discus and applying them in the shot.
Borschowa tossed the third-longest discus throw in the nation last season with a 188-8. Look for tremendous improvement from Potter, who threw 159-3 last year, and Thornton, who threw 156-8 as a sophomore. Sloan expects to consistently have three discus throwers over 50 meters (164-0) this year.
In the javelin, senior Molly Monroe and Anna Church return for the Cougs. Monroe is coming off a injury-plagued junior season after throwing at the NCAAs as a sophomore. Church has the best distance at 146-1. Freshman Casey Lektorich, from University High in Spokane, showed great promise in fall workouts.
The Cougars have a good one-two punch in the hammer, beginning with school record-holder Thornton's 177-11, Potter's closing the gap with a best of 171-6 last year.
Heptathlon This event provided 23 points for the Cougar women at the 1999 Pac-10 Championships and all three competitors return for the 2000 season.
Sophomores Richardson, the American Junior record-holder, and Evans, the Canadian Junior record-holder, tallied 5,678 points and 5,589 points respectively. Senior Mucker has a best total of 5,015 points. At last year's Pac-10 meet, these Cougars placed second, third and fourth, respectively. Richardson was fourth and Evans seventh at the NCAA Championships.