December 4, 2013

SEASON OUTLOOK: Eastern Brings in Experienced Squad with 17 All-Conference Performers Returning

2013-14 Track and Field Team features 40 letterwinners and several talented newcomers

The Eastern Washington University track and field teams are entering the 2013-14 season with promise as they return 17 recent All-Big Sky performers, three Big Sky champions and six school record holders.

“I feel that all four event areas are really setting us up to be a top-tier team on an annual basis,” said head men’s coach Stan Kerr. “There are no stragglers on this team and everybody’s working hard and pushing each other, which can create a big swing in terms of scoring position at the Big Sky Championships.”

In addition to its standout performers, this year’s squad also has depth as it brings back 40 total letterwinners with 21 on the women’s side and 19 for the men. Despite losing 20 letterwinners to graduation, Eastern also brings in several newcomers and five transfers looking to make an immediate impact.

Athletes returning for the Eagles have made their marks in the record books, combining to attain 77 total Eastern all-time top ten marks as well.

The EWU men were fourth outdoors and seventh indoors at last season’s Big Sky Championships, while the women were ninth indoors and fifth outdoors, respectively. Both teams are looking to improve on those finishes this season. The indoor conference meet will be hosted in Pocatello, Idaho on Feb. 27-Mar. 1 and the outdoor meet will be held in Flagstaff, Ariz., May 14-17.

“We see ourselves as a top-three team,” said Kerr. “We’re not heavily scholarshipped and we take a lot of pride in making the most out of what we have.”

“Our goal is always to place in the top five,” said head women’s coach Marcia Mecklenburg. “This is really the year I feel that we have people in every event area who can score for us. It could be one of our best years at Eastern.”

Men’s Season Outlook

Throws

The most consistent scoring group for the Eagles last season hasn’t changed much this year, as the men’s throws crew brings back four all-conference performers in Jordan Arakawa, Joey Payne, Zack Nielsen and Jon Buchanan.

Those guys will continue to be anchors and really foundational pieces for our program,” said Kerr. “They know what to expect and their training reflects that they want to do better.”

Arakawa highlights the returners, coming off runner-up finishes in both the weight throw and hammer throw at the 2013 indoor and outdoor conference championships. Arakawa launched throws of 65-4 (weight) and 213-8 (hammer) to rank second in school history behind school-record holder David Paul.

“Jordan has a great chance at hitting a mark that will get him into the National Championships,” said Kerr.

Payne earned all-conference honors as a freshman last season, placing second in the javelin. Nielsen and Buchanan each placed third in recent indoor championships, Nielsen in the weight throw in 2012 and Buchanan in the shot put in 2011. Nielsen ranks fourth in school history in the weight with a toss of 61-4.

Also adding experience are returners Cody Humphrey, Shaun Lemafa and Max Pratt.

Newcomers for the throws include Evan Banchero, Aaron Cunningham and James Swanson.

Banchero launched a personal best of 185-9, a mark that ranked second in Washington. He was second in the discus (174-5) and third in the shot put (52-8) at the WIAA 3A State Championships.

“The men’s implements increase in weight from the high school to collegiate level and that’s always an adjustment,” said Kerr. “I’ll grade on effort and see how they handle themselves in the ring, which reflects their character. They can put us in a position to have some other scorers at conference.”

Swanson (2A javelin) and Cunningham (3A shot put) each won state championships in their respective events.

Jumps

In the jumping events, Eastern has two returners coming off of second-place finishes outdoors in Phillip Puccino and Nick Stearns.

“Phil and Nick are both upperclassmen, great returners and seasoned competitors,” said Kerr. “Nothing is going to rattle Nick, who is giving the heptathlon a shot. An internship has challenged Phil’s training, but he will continue to compete well for us.”

Stearns was second in the pole vault at the outdoor championships with a jump of 16-3 1/2. His personal best of 16-6 3/4 ranks fourth in school history. Stearns was also third in the vault as a freshman at the 2012 indoor championships.

Puccino had a runner-up finish in the triple jump outdoors, finishing just an inch away from a Big Sky title. He also cleared a personal best of 6-9 in the high jump to place fourth. Puccino placed third in the triple jump at the 2012 indoor conference meet as well.

Kris Durr and newcomers Darrin Love, Trent Osborn and Andrew Morgan look to add depth to the group.

Osborn had a mark of 24-2 1/2 in the long jump that led the state of Washington and was 14th in the nation. He won the 4A state title with a jump of 23-0.

“We’re very excited about Trent,” said Kerr. “He will get that sense of how good he really is this weekend.”

Morgan and Love each have personal bests of 6-8 in the high jump.

“Darrin had to sit out a year due to eligibility issues, but now he’s doing some great things in the weight room and at practice,” said Kerr. “He’s in a position to jump well and consistently.”

Sprints/Hurdles

Brad Michael and Steven Warner head a sprint crew whose returners have produced 10 all-conference performances.

“Brad and Steven are team leaders and contribute in a lot of different ways,” said Kerr.

Michael, the school record holder in the 400 indoors (46.97), will be looking for his fifth and sixth consecutive all-conference performances in the event, with two second-place finishes indoors and a pair of third-place finishes outdoors. He was third in the 200 indoors in 2012. The junior has contributed in the relays as well, taking part in the school-record breaking and conference champion 4x400 team in 2012. He also took part in the 4x400 outdoors last season, which placed second with a time of 3:11.33 (second all-time).

Warner broke the school record in the 60 hurdles with a winning effort at the 2012 indoor championships. He was also third in the 110 hurdles at the 2012 outdoor meet.

“I think Brad and Steven are both capable of being Big Sky Champions,” said Kerr. “Their goals intrinsically and extrinsically are both set for them to peak at the conference championships. Brad’s long-term goal is to be a double champion and the rest of the conference has a great respect for him.”

Seniors Collin Green and Kramer Green will continue to contribute in the relays for the Eagles. Collin ran the leadoff leg of the 2012 conference champion 4x400 team indoors, while Kramer took part in the second-place relay outdoors in 2013. Both of the twins ran on the 4x400 at the 2011 outdoor conference meet, which placed third. Kramer also ranks 10th all-time at Eastern in the 400 hurdles (53.49).

“I’ll miss the Green twins dearly after this year,” said Kerr. “They come from a great family and are great guys to work with.”

Nick Anthony, Kyle Caviezel, Corey McLean, Obinna Nnadi and newcomers Duane Dahl and Austin Upmeyer will hope to contribute for Eastern.

Upmeyer had a personal best of 48.86 in the 400, placing second at the WIAA 3A State Championships. He will likely join Michael and the Greens on the 4x400 relay.

“We’re looking at a top-two finish in the 4x400 this year,” said Kerr. “Austin has a tremendous work ethic and has been there step-for-step with the Greens and Brad. We have a great tradition of performing extremely well at the conference championships and this year won’t be an different.”

Distance

Vince Hamilton and Chris Schroll head a group that looks to score key points in the competitive fields of Big Sky distance events.

Hamilton was fifth in the 10,000 outdoors and eight in the 5,000 indoors. He ranks fourth all-time in the 5,000 with a time of 14:24.52 and is coming off a 17th-place finish at the recent Big Sky Cross Country Championships.

“Vince is a talented and motivated runner and I’d like to see him step up,” said Kerr. “He’s putting in the work to be competitive.”

Schroll looks to build off of placing 14th in cross country, and also ran the 10th-fastest 5,000 time in school history indoors last season (14:55.10).

“Chris is training hard and will have a good indoor season,” said Kerr. “We’ll have some depth in the distance program and contributors that we haven’t had in a while.”

Eastern also brings in returners Quin Olivas and Simon Sorensen, transfers Steven Kutsch and Dakota Parker, as well as newcomers Stephen Bottoms, Austen Frostad, Alex Kimsey, Isaac Kitzan, Austin Oser and Nik Taylor.

Bottoms placed 20th and Kimsey was 29th, both as freshmen at the cross country conference meet.

Women’s Season Outlook

Throws

Emma Murillo and Olivia Midles each earned spots on the Big Sky podium last season and will look to do so again.

“I think this is going to be a really good year in the throwing events,” said Mecklenburg. “Emma is well-rounded and can score in three events, so she’s a leader and someone we’re really looking up to for some points.”

Midles has placed second in the hammer throw in each of her outdoor championship appearances, while Murillo was third in the hammer outdoors and third in the weight throw indoors last season. Midles ranks third in school history in the hammer with a toss of 182-3 and Murillo ranks third in the weight throw and fourth in the hammer all-time.

“From her freshman year Olivia has really proven to be a great hammer throw and she’s looking to improve on her marks and go for that conference championship,” said Mecklenburg.

Other female throwers include Samantha Baker, Ashlee Coffey, Kelsie Forcier, Anna Frodsham, Madeline Jacobson, Marissa Keefe, Kayla Loop, D’onna Robinson, Morgan Romey, Kacie Seims, Sydney Spoja, Jasmine Stray and Vania Tauvela.

Tauvela has placed fourth twice in the weight throw (2011, 2013) and ranks third in school history with a throw of 58-8 1/2. Romey was sixth in the shot put at the outdoor championships with a personal best of 46-2 to rank fifth all-time at Eastern.

“Vania is a senior and really wants to do something big in the weight throw,” said Mecklenburg. “Morgan really started coming on last year, is healthy and looking for a big year too.”

Jumps

Eastern’s strongest event on the women’s side had been the pole vault and that will continue to be the trend this season as Keisa Monterola and Robin Taylor have a combined five all-conference performances to head a talented group.

“Keisa struggled last year, but she’s looking to have a good last indoor season for us,” said Mecklenburg. “Robin is in her senior year and I know she wants to go out with a bang.”

Monterola, who only has indoor eligibility left, is a three-time Big Sky Champion in the vault and owns both school records indoors (14-4) and outdoors (14-0). After no-heighting at the indoor championships, Monterola rebounded with a first-place finish outdoors, completing a one, two sweep of the vault with Taylor for the second-straight year.

Other vaulters include Courtney Bray, Anandae Clark, Erin Clark, Chloe Hall, Brita Kintz and Amber Troyer.

Bray won a 3A state title and had a vault of 12-9 to rank first in all of Washington. Clark was sixth in the pole vault indoors and eight outdoors at the conference meet.

“I think Courtney is the future of pole vaultng at Eastern,” said Mecklenburg. “She’s going to be big for us.”

Brooklyn Bellomy, Katrina Chamberlain, Jozie Kimes, Morena Mannucci, Alyssa Neal and Michelle Weeks will compete in the jumps for the Eagles.

Mannucci was fifth in the triple jump outdoors, while Neal placed sixth in the long jump indoors. Mannucci ranks second in school history (39-6 1/2) in the triple jump and fourth indoors (38-6 1/2).

“Morena is coming off an injury, but she’s been healthy for a while and she’s ready for a great mark,” said Mecklenburg.

Sprints/Hurdles

Whitney Leavitt and Angélica Rodríguez bring in the most experience for the women’s sprints/hurdles as each have taken part in all-conference performing relays.

Both Leavitt and Rodríguez ran legs on the 4x400 relay team that set school records indoors (3:46.77) and outdoors in 2012 (3:47.14). The indoor team earned all-conference honors, placing second. Leavitt, who only has outdoor eligibility remaining, was also the anchor leg of the Big Sky Champion 4x100 team in 2010, which shattered the school record with a 45.31 clocking. Rodríguez ranks second in school history in the 400 outdoors (56.28) while Leavitt ranks second all-time in the 200 indoors (24.66).

“Whitney has so much range and I know she’s ready to do something big this year,” said Mecklenburg. “Angélica wants to finish her competitive career well. She’s a leader and I think she’ll have a great season.

Other sprinters/hurdlers on the roster include Leiran Cornish, Janessa Day, Paige Hammock, Erika Lombardo, Brooke Monson, Paige Monson, Martha Sanford, Carly Stewart and Sharkyla Truth.

“This is going to be a good year for the sprints,” said Mecklenburg. “We recruited a core of 400 runners and if you have a good 400 crew you can move up and down with it. We’ve got the makings of a great 4x400 relay too.”

Cornish and Sanford joined Leavitt and Rodríguez on the 4x400 indoors to run a time of 3:50.12 ranking second in school history. Sanford was seventh in the 400 hurdles outdoors, having run a personal-best time of 1:03.63 in the prelims.

Paige Monson and Day will add depth to the 400 crew, having high school personal bests of 56.65 and 56.98, respectively. Hammock was third in the 300 hurdles at the WIAA 4A State Championships, with a time of 43.99.

Distance

Katie Mahoney leads a young distance crew and looks to build off her recent breakthrough outdoor season.

Mahoney crushed the school record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:21.53. She also set a school record in the 1,500 with a 4:25.79 to place fourth at the conference meet. Mahoney was second in the steeplechase at conference and ranks in the top ten at Eastern in six different events.

“Katie’s performance last year was probably the top of the whole team,” said Mecklenburg. “It allowed her to see what she can do and build her self-confidence. She knows she can contend in the Big Sky.”

Berenice Penaloza has been the top finisher for the Eagles at the last two Big Sky Cross Country Championships, placing 29th in 2012 and 23rd in 2013. She ranks fourth all-time in the 5,000 indoors (17:52.41) and sixth in the 10,000 outdoors (37:29.84).

Other distance runners include Catie Arrigoni, Lauren Brewington, Mayra Chavez, Michaela Chucka, Amber Core, Keeley Davidson, Kendall Elifrits, Paula Gil-Echevarria, Jamie Gladfelter, Katie Haslebacher, Rachael Hatcher, Monica Jaenicke, Katie Lynch, Danie Moon, Sarah Reiter, Kari Scharnhorst, Acacia Smith, Brittney Swanson, Chelsea Taylor and Kristin Turner.

“I think this is our strongest distance crew in many years,” said Mecklenburg. “We recruited some talented transfers and freshmen and they’ll have depth from the 800 and up.”

Arrigoni, a transfer from Everett CC, had a personal-best time of 10:59.70 in the 3,000 steeplechase, a time that would rank second all-time behind Mahoney.

Gil-Echevarria, hailing from Spain, was 25th at the cross country conference meet and had track personal bests in the 800 (2:13.80) and 1,500 (4:41.42).

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