March 5, 2002
The four All-Americans on the Washington State University women's track and field team join a bevy of talented newcomers and several outstanding returnees to make this year's squad not only strong, but deep.
Rick Sloan, in his seventh year as head coach and 29th year with the Cougar track and field program, and his staff have gathered some of the finest student-athletes to don the crimson and gray unitards. Washington State is set to host the Pac-10 Championships this spring (May 18-19, 2002), so track and field fans will be treated to a great season of action at the Mooberry Track Complex.
Whitney Evans, a three-time All-American in the high jump and once in the heptathlon, brings a wealth of experience into her junior year. She is the defending Pac-10 Champion in the high jump and placed third in this event at the 2001 NCAA Championship, the highest finish for a WSU woman in a dozen years. In spite of a second place finished in the conference heptathlon, Evans did not compete in that event at the NCAAs due to scheduling conflicts.
Another Cougar who could qualify for the national meet in two events is senior Cicely Clinkenbeard. An All-American in the triple jump, Clinkenbeard was sidelined by an ankle injury last year and is ready to be a contender in both the triple jump and heptathlon. Leading the way in the heptathlon is junior Ellannee Richardson, a two-time All-American and defending Pac-10 Champion.
Senior Megan Maynard, an cross country All-American, will seek greater success in the second season as a steeplechaser
Senior Randi Smith will finish her hurdles career at WSU after three strong years in the intermediate and high hurdles. Smith is a team captain with several national and international meets in her resume and is looking to attain All-America status this year.
Three newcomers pop off the page for the Cougar women. High and long jumper Schquay Brignac from Woodland Hills, Calif., Tamara Diles, a pole vaulter from Bellevue, Wash., and Marie Muai, a thrower from Tacoma, Wash.
Brignac, a California state high jump champion, has cleared 5-10 and is a 19-3 long jumper. Diles brings strength, height (5-10), and proven ability to the Cougs. She was the State champion in the pole vault last year with a best mark of 12-feet and also won two State gymnastics titles (bars and floor exercise) last year at Newport High. Muai was the State champion in the shot put last year at Franklin Pierce High. She will throw both the shot and the discus in addition to learning the hammer and looks to come in and make an immediate impact.
"The women's team seems to be very strong right now," Sloan said. "We're excited about what the newcomers are going to be able to accomplish. They have surprised us with how far they have come in fall practice."
All-around performer Richardson, the top Cougar sprinter with an 11.72 in the 100m, 23.75 in the 200m and 54.14i in the 400m, is expected to run the 100m dash only occasionally. That means sophomore Erin Reed will be the short sprints leader with times of 11.82 and 23.78w in addition to owning the school freshman record in the 400m (54.41). Fellow sophomores Tamara Gulley and Bree Skinner provide depth with Gulley running the 100m, high hurdles and short relay, and Skinner racing primarily in the 100m and 200m. Junior Tiffany Giles brings valuable competitive experience and speed to the 200m and behind Richardson in the 400m. Sophomore Angelita Green has produced several good relay legs, including the school record 4x400m relay run at last year's Pac-10 Championships.
MIDDLE DISTANCE / DISTANCE
"Overall, we have good depth down the line in our running events and good front line people," Sloan said.
Green is the Cougar leader in the 800m with a time of 2:09.58. Junior Hillary Smith comes off a good cross country season after showing tremendous improvement last spring, dropping her times and becoming very consistent. Freshman Brittany Boysen has impressed Sloan with her development through the fall and joins freshman Molly Bull to provide depth here.
Juniors Anna Blue, April Gagner and Ryan Gilmore provide experience and depth in the 1500m. Blue had an outstanding cross country season after coming on at the end of last spring. Gagner, hurt for the past two years, ran well in cross country and if she can hold up physically can better her freshman time of 4:37.47.
Maynard is the steeplechase leader as the school record holder and 2001 NCAA qualifier. While others are still learning the event and becoming accomplished at hurdling, Maynard finished fourth in the Pac-10 after a fall on the first hurdle.
The 5000m will have the same depth line of runners as the 1500m. Senior Jenny Filipy and sophomore Ana Cabrera will fill in the 5k event after solid performances last year but the 10k will be more their strength along with Gilmore.
Both hurdles events will be strong again this year for the Cougars. Gulley ran a 100m hurdles time of 13.55 last year in spite of being hurt off and on. A healthy Richardson should produce faster times as well. Randi Smith had some great high hurdles times last year.
Heptathletes Evans and Clinkenbeard will work the hurdles on occasion. The 400m intermediate hurdles event have great front line strength with Smith, the school record holder, and then seniors Alison Eldridge and Heidi Abersfeller as the number two and three runners.
The Cougars return four women running at 11.91 or faster in the 100m - junior Richardson and sophomores Reed, Gulley and Skinner. Randi Smith could also move into the lineup. Continued improvement by the experienced competitors will make the WSU 4x100m relay fast and more than likely nationally noteworthy.
The 1600m relay is even more exciting for the Cougars this season.
"We have five or six women that we can utilize in a 4x400 and our objective is to get that relay team to NCAA meets, both indoors and outdoors," Sloan said. "And I think we have the talent and ability there to get that done and run down in the 3:36 range indoors. That's what we're shooting for. It you give the stick to a healthy Ellannee at the end, she's going to race with anybody in the nation." Last year Reed, Richardson, Green and Smith ran a school record time of 3:37.42 at the Pac-10 Championships.
The high jump looks to be a very strong event for WSU at both the conference and NCAA levels. Evans' experience as a three-time All-American is invaluable along with her consistent clearance over six feet. Brignac shouldn't miss a beat at the collegiate level after performing as an outstanding prep high jumper. Junior Briana Willis qualified for the NCAA indoor championships last year but didn't make the final cut.
The long jump will be carried by the multi-event athletes Clinkenbeard (19-7 1/2) and Richardson (19-6 1/4w). Depth will come from newcomer Brignac who leaped 19-3 in high school and Gulley who has shown a tremendous ability and a great understanding of jumping.
Four good triple jumpers, beginning with the school record holder, Clinkenbeard (42-10 1/4), make this another strong area for the WSU women. Sophomore Blessing Ufodiama, seniors Alison Eldridge and Itoro Elijah provide experience and depth here.
While freshman Diles began her WSU career as number three on the pole vault depth chart, she moved up to be the number one vaulter after a rare December competition. Diles cleared 13-2 1/4 to claim the freshman school record and has gone even higher in practice. Sophomore Karla McGee suffered a sprained ankle in the fall but should surpass her 12-7 1/2 of last year. Junior Stephanie Robinett has shown steady improvement the past two years and should move past her 12-6 best.
Four true freshmen will be competing in the throws this year, but all come with outstanding high school pedigrees and have the potential of being immediate impact athletes. Sophomore Shannon Rance returns after a solid freshman year, including her tremendous improvement in the shot put, getting out to 49-3. Muai and Brittany Hinchcliffe will provide good depth in the shot.
The discus corps looks good with Muai having the best discus mark (153-11) followed by Hinchcliffe and Rance.
Heptathlete Richardson has been the most consistent performer in the javelin with a best toss of 143-2 coming last year. Freshman Rachel Bertholf has the ability to develop and be a big help. The other heptathletes - Clinkenbeard and Evans - will need to fill in as needed. Hinchcliffe (166-9) and Sammy Jo Missel (162-5) bring great high school experience to the hammer and should be competitive in the Pac-10 as freshmen. Muai is learning this event very quickly and is very strong.
No doubt, this is the frosting on the Cougar competitive cake. Strength, experience and depth are found in the three All-Americans - Richardson, Evans and Clinkenbeard. "These women are going to go to the Pac-10s and score very well," Sloan said. "We should have three of the top four places with those top three. This should be one of the strongest areas on our team at the conference meet and the NCAAs if we get the right schedule for us."