Jan. 10, 2001
Begin with a wealth of returning talent. Add a nationally-ranked recruiting class. Place in crimson uniforms and see why the Washington State women's track and field team is ready to make people take notice, both in the Pacific-10 Conference and on the national scene.
"With the talent we have, if we compete well, we very likely could finish high in the Pac-10 this year," sixth-year Cougar Head Coach Rick Sloan said. "USC, UCLA, and Stanford are very strong but I would love to chip into them. We'll try and nip one of the top teams on the heel, if we can, and move up."
Sloan's excitement for the 2001 season begins with three outstanding All-Americans returning from redshirt seasons: sophomores Whitney Evans and Ellannee Richardson, and junior Megan Maynard. Evans tallied two All-American honors at the 1999 NCAAs after finishing fourth in the high jump and seventh in the heptathlon. Richardson snagged her award from her fourth place heptathlon finish that same year. Maynard became the first Cougar woman to earn All-American honors in cross country when she finished 22nd at the 1999 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Four Cougar veterans are coming off NCAA participation last spring led by senior All-American and team captain Cicely Clinkenbeard (triple jump). Seniors Agneta Rosenblad (long jump) and Andrea Thornton (hammer) along with World Juniors competitor Randi Smith (junior, intermediate hurdles) provide invaluable experience to the team.
But the frosting on the cake may be a Washington State women's track and field recruiting class that is ranked in the top ten nationally by Track & Field News. Newcomers expected to make an immediate impact are: Tamara Gulley, a sprinter and hurdler from San Jose, Calif., Angelita Green, a middle distance runner from Long Beach, Calif., Karla McGee, a pole vaulter from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, Shannon Rance, a thrower from Renton, Wash., Erin Reed, a sprinter from Woodland Hills, Calif., Bree Skinner, a sprinter from Pasco, Wash., and Blessing Ufodiama, a triple jumper from Long Beach, Calif.
"We could have a handful of people at the NCAAs and score some points," Sloan said. "Randi's experience at the World Juniors, Ellannee and Whitney coming back, Agneta in the long jump, Cicely in the triple jump as well as possible NCAA hurdles qualifier. Our 4x400m relay team can challenge indoors and out. The 4x100m relay too, possibly, it needs a little seasoning but I think we can drop that down into the 44s and maybe get that team to the NCAAs. Don't forget Andrea in the hammer and Blessing with Cicely in the triple jump. We can have the people there but it's a matter of competing and doing the job once we get there.
"If we get people qualified to go to the NCAA Championships, in a climate like Eugene, then I think we can be a factor."
On your marks. Set. Let 'em fly.
The Cougar sprint corps members are very young and very talented. Francesca Sewell, former Cougar sprinter and jumper, is now the WSU sprints coach. Being one of Wazzu's original "Sisters of Speed," Sewell knows what it takes to be successful in the Pac-10.
"Fran has a great understanding of start mechanics and running mechanics and will do an outstanding job with this group," Sloan said. "Our sprint corps is very solid. It's a matter of bringing them along, helping them develop. All of them need a little bit of help on their running mechanics."
Ellannee Richardson returns to the team having red-shirted her sophomore season after a semester and summer of treatment for Fibromyalgia. A highly versatile and talented athlete, Richardson brings the top times in both the 100m (11.72 seconds) and 200m (23.75) dashes in addition to her heptathlon and high hurdles excellence. Freshmen Tamara Gulley, Bree Skinner and Erin Reed bring outstanding prep pedigrees and provide talented depth in the dashes with times under 12 seconds.
In the 400m, Richardson has clocked the fastest time in a relay split followed by red-shirt sophomore and Georgia Tech transfer Tiffany Giles (54.34). Intermediate hurdler Randi Smith and Reed have run in 54.39 and 54.74 respectively. Heidi Abersfeller will work in the 400m and may move to the intermediate hurdles in the outdoor season. On occasion look for 400m performances from Angelita Green and Skinner.
"It's exciting to see where the women's sprint corps is going," Sloan said. "The 100m, 200m and 400m are going to be solid and we have an abundance of athletes there to help. We'll move them around so they don't get bored with the same race."
MIDDLE DISTANCE / DISTANCE
All-American Alishia Booterbaugh, the Cougar mainstay in the middle distances for the past four years has moved on. Replacing her won't be easy but freshman Angelita Green's credentials include being a Track & Field News high school All-American after clocking an 800m in 2:09.58.
"Green comes in after being one of the top high school runners in the nation last year," Sloan said. "She has the potential to develop well beyond what she did in high school. I think she can develop to be our ace in the 800m run."
Sophomore Hillary Smith has shown marked improvement over last year and will be a factor in the 800m. Senior Charlotte Neel is recovering from an injury this fall but a full recovery will give the Cougs good depth. Freshman Emily Sodorff, from Pullman High, is working hard with her first-ever extensive track training and will see action in the 800m too. Sloan's goal is to have three women run under 2:12 this year.
In the 1500m and longer races, sophomore Greta Johnson, Megan Maynard and Ryan Gilmore will provide the front line fire power for the Cougs. Johnson had a great freshman season in the 5k, finishing seventh in the tough Pac-10 Championships, but had an IT band problem during the fall's cross country season. She's working through the problem and Sloan expects her to be at 100 percent for track season.
All-American Megan Maynard returns for her senior season and is getting back into her old form and running much better. Sophomore Ryan Gilmore performed well as the number one Cougar runner in the 2000 cross country season, Sloan and distance coach James Li are hopeful she can make that transition to track.
"I'm please with Ryan's progress but we need to convince her she's capable of running with these other people because she has the physical talent to do it," Sloan said. "I think she's going to be a player in the Pac-10 Championships when track and field season rolls around. Hopefully she will qualify for the nationals."
Getting redshirt sophomore April Gagner back healthy and running would be a bonus for the WSU distance program. Gagner is easing back into full-blown running training after battling plantar fascia problems.
The long distance races will see freshmen Ana Cabrera and Anna Blue, along with junior Jenny Filipy providing depth. Filipy had a solid season as the number five runner in cross country and will be a 5k and 10k person for WSU. Freshmen Beth Welander and Ashley Matthews will add depth to the middle distance group.
"This is a very strong area for the Cougs," Sloan said. "In the high hurdles we will have four really strong hurdlers at 13.72 or below so we'll have good strength and good depth. It will be nice to have them competing against each other on a weekly basis to push each other for improvement."
Agneta Rosenblad is the school record-holder at 13.59, back for her senior season. Ellannee Richardson, who sat out last year, held the school record as a freshman at 13.69 before Rosenblad broke it last spring. Randi Smith brings a time of 13.72, and freshman Tamara Gulley checks in at the same time.
Sarah Odonkor has shown tremendous improvement in the highs and has tried the intermediates as well. Sloan said she doesn't like the 400m hurdles but thinks she can help the team there as well. Heptathlete Whitney Evans rounds out the depth in the highs with a best time of 14.51.
Smith is the ace of the intermediate hurdles after clocking a school record time of 57.07 at the US Junior Nationals last summer and went on to compete at the World Junior Championships last fall. Heidi Abersfeller has been working on her hurdling technique with Coach Mark Macdonald and Sloan is hopefully she can bring her times down and contribute to WSU's success there.
"We're very good but not terribly deep," Sloan said of the women's intermediate hurdles.
The Cougars' 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay teams will both be very strong. Sloan and Sewell will have to find what mix is going to work well and who's going to run what legs.
"I think its well within reason that we can put together two sub-3 minute and 40-second 4x400m relay teams with all the talent we have in that area," Sloan said. "We have an abundance of talent there. We will put together an all-freshman 4x400m relay that I think can go under 3:40 or right at it. Angelita Green is coming down from the 800m and as a junior in high school she ran a 55.12 for an open 400m on a dirt track. That's a good area for us on the women's team. A strong contribution from our women's sprinters."
The Washington State women will have good front line people here, and in most jumps, good depth too.
"We're strong at the top with Whitney Evans, and we hope others come up and perform at a high level as well," Sloan said. "And I think they can."
In the high jump, Evans is back after sitting out the outdoor season last spring with patella tendonitis in her right knee. A consistent performer at six-feet, Sloan said this season there would be a little more emphasis on her high jump and less on the heptathlon.
"I think the training created some knee problems for her and we need to have her jumping," Sloan said. "She's a two-time high jump All-American as a freshman. We need to have her performing at that level. I'm looking forward to seeing how high she can jump this year."
Sophomore Briana Willis is back after a good freshman season and is showing a good promise early. She is joined by freshman Stephanie Jaross (Everett, Wash.) who will add depth to the event. Cicely Clinkenbeard, who will be participating in the heptathlon in addition to the triple jump, showed potential in the high jump last year in the Pac-10 Heptathlon and could be a 5-7, 5-8 high jumper. All add good depth to the high jump.
This season the pole vault will be stronger and deeper with four competitors. School record-holder Jeannette Martus is back for her senior year after being an NCAA qualifier last year. Freshman Karla McGee (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada) has cleared 12-3 and Sloan thinks she will develop as one of the top jumpers in the Pac-10 this year. Andrea Doepker (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) sat out last year with a foot injury and is back as a redshirt freshman. Stephanie Robinett made tremendous progress last year as a freshman and should continue to improve.
Clinkenbeard is the Cougar ace coming into the season in the triple jump. An All-American and school record-holder in the triple jump, Clinkenbeard showed her versatility last year with a third place finish at the Pac-10 Heptathlon but Sloan wants triple jump training to be her primary emphasis. Junior Alison Eldridge jumped 39 feet in the conference meet last year and had a foul the coaches thought was over 40 feet. Eldridge is not playing basketball this year and will concentrate on improving during the indoor season.
Freshman Blessing Ufodiama was one of the top high school jumpers in the country last year, triple jumping over 41 feet, and will train for the long jump this season too. Freshman Margaret Whittingham will add additional depth.
"It's not unlikely we'll have three 40-foot triple jumpers," Sloan said. "Again, good depth and strength."
Agneta Rosenblad had a great season in the long jump and was very consistent in her jumping, including placing second at the conference meet. She came within a centimeter of the school record and tied with Fran Sewell for number two on the all-time list. Sloan is looking forward to her improving on that and jumping well out over 21 feet this year. Rounding out the long jump are Clinkenbeard with a best at 19-8 and Richardson with a top mark of 19-6. Possibilities to fill in are Evans, Ufodiama and Tamara Gulley, who has expressed an interest in long jumping.
In the javelin, only Casey Lektorich returns and will need to carry the leadership load in this event. As a freshman last year, Lektorich had a good throw at 155 feet early in the season. Sloan and throws coach Debra Farwell believe she can gain more consistency in the 150 foot level and higher. Backing up Lektorich, WSU will be using heptathletes to fill in when needed. Richardson has done a good job but the coaches don't want to put a load on her back. Clinkenbeard winged a 134-foot throw without much work and Evans can provide a good performance as well.
In the shot put, discus and hammer, Thornton and Potter will be the mainstays as they have for the last few years. Thornton was an 2000 season NCAA participant in the hammer throw and holds the school record at 192-9. Potter does not have indoor season eligibility after tossing the school record and going to the NCAAs in the weight throw last year. Freshman Shannon Rance is a two-time state champ in the shot put out of Renton High. She will learn the hammer, throw the shot and discus and follow in the footsteps of Potter and Thornton in doing all three weight throws.
"Shannon shows tremendous promise and potential," Sloan said. "She has good skills and we'll see how she progresses, but she will help us a lot in all three of those throws."
This is a big area for the WSU women. Only this year, Sloan will not have to resort to teaching the events to athletes two weeks prior to the Pac-10 Championships. Not that that method is all bad after Cicely Clinkenbeard placed third and Agneta Rosenblad sixth last year in their first multi-events competition.
Back for the Cougars are Ellannee Richardson, the American Junior record holder, and All-American Whitney Evans. They finished fourth and seventh at the 1999 NCAA Championships as freshmen, and second and third at the Pac-10 Championships the same year. Both are very solid, consistent performers, and very talented athletes.
After her initial success, Clinkenbeard is training for the heptathlon this year and Sloan is confident she can perform at the NCAA standard level. Rosenblad will most likely skip the multis this year.
"Last year, Cicely started out poorly with the hurdles but was very solid in the next six events," Sloan said. "Her hurdling, which was absolutely horrid at the Pac-10 meet, has shown tremendous improvement already this fall. She does the drills and the five-step work as good as any experienced hurdler. As we add speed to it we'll see how the transition takes place but I think that will be a much improved event for her. I wouldn't be surprised if we have the same kind of dilemma we had with Whitney: that Cicely will qualify for the triple jump and the hept to the NCAAs and we'll have to look at the schedule and see if that's something we can pull off. Whitney did a good job getting seventh and fourth as a freshman."
Courtnie Lees is a freshman from Pullman High who shows promise and pleased Sloan with the progress she made in the fall. He considers her very coachable, in addition to being strong, explosive, and a hard worker. There is a possibility of red-shirting Lees this first year but that decision won't be made until the indoor season.
"We should do really well in this event in the conference championships," Sloan said. "I'm sure the other coaches are not going to be real pleased to see Whitney and Ellannee show up again, and we'll bring Cicely back with the mix for a strong Cougar event. I think we can score a lot of points at the Pac-10 Championships and hopefully at the NCAAs."