Feb. 7, 2013
TEMPE -The Arizona State University track and field teams will be all over the place this weekend, as a select group of distance runners will get some solid action at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash., while the majority of the rest of the team will be at the Don Kirby Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. The last big weekend of action before the indoor championship season is upon the team, this weekend will be important for several Sun Devils looking to crack into the top-16 in their respective events and earn a bid to the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. Friday's running events in seattle are slated to begin at 4 p.m. PT while Saturday's events will get underway at 8 a.m. In New Mexico, the field events will begin Friday at 1 p.m. MT with the gun going off for running events at 5:40 p.m. The Sun Devils will only compete in Friday's elite section and will not be in action on Saturday.
OUT OF THE BLOCKS
The Sun Devil men are currently ranked No. 5 in the nation while the women will start the season at No. 17 in the USTFCCCA Computer Rankings
The Sun Devil track team returns four first-team indoor All-Americans (three men, one woman) and three second-team All-Americans (two men, one woman)
Jordan Clarke enters the season on the Bowerman Preseason Watch List and is the defending NCAA Champion indoors and outdoors in the shot put
ASU also returns 2012 NCAA Indoor runner-up and school record holder Chris Benard in the triple jump
The men's team has finished in the top-10 in the NCAA Championships in four of the last five seasons, including an NCAA title in 2008 and a fourth-place performance last season
The men will open the 2012 season as the defending MPSF Indoor Champions, having claimed their first title in the event last season.
The ASU women enter the weekend with eight individuals ranked in the top-20 nationally in their respective events and one relay. The men's team have three indvididuals ranked in the top six nationally in their respective events.
IN THE RANKINGS: USTFCCCA TOP 25
The Sun Devil men's team remained No. 4 in the nation in this week's USTFCCCA Computer Rankings and have been ranked no lower than sixth in the country thus far this season. The ASU men have been ranked as high as first in the rankings, doing so during the 2008 season that saw the team go on to win an NCAA title that year. The women continued the climb thanks to having eight individuals ranked in the top-20 in their respective events, as well as one relay. The women enter the week ranked 17th, moving up three positions from last week's release. The men and the women haven't both consectuively been ranked in the top-17 nationally since the final USTFCCCA computer rankings of 2009. The computer rankings have been in effect since 2008.
A LOOK BACK: Mountain T's Invite
The Sun Devil track and field team had a big day out of Derick Hinch. The junior became just the second ASU pole vaulter in school history to clear 18 feet with a jump of 5.50m (18-00.50) to win the even at the Mountain T's Invitational in Flagstaff on Saturday. Christabel Nettey had the best leap of the season in the long jump, winning the event with a mark of 6.35m (20-10.00) that ranks fourth in the nation. Another notable performance included a monsterous 20.50m (67-03.25m) throw from Chelsea Cassulo in the weight toss that moved her to No. 11 in the nation. Asiah Gooden clocked a new career best of 7.41 in the 60-meter dash as well to improve upon her fourth-ranked time in indoor history set earlier this season.
THROWING THEIR WEIGHT
Over the past 11 years, David Dumble has continued to bring in top talent and build the throws program at Arizona State, which has collected 14 total national titles, including five in the indoor shot put and one in the weight throw. ASU returns the reigning NCAA Champion in Jordan Clarke in the shot put this season as well as two-time All-American Anna Jelmini in the shot put.
THROWING MORE WEIGHT
Jordan Clarke is primed to make history this season and could do some that not even ASU legend Ryan Whiting did as he has the chance to win five consecutive NCAA shot put titles by the conclusion of his senior year. The reigning NCAA Champion indoors and outdoors, Clarke launched the second-best throw in ASU history last season on his final attempt at the NCAA Championship with a career-best throw of 20.86m (68-5¼), giving him not only the title but the best mark by a collegian during the collegiate season. The mark made him the ninth-best American in the event in 2012. He would go on the defend his title in the shot put outdoors and kicks off the season having won three straight titles between the indoor and outdoor season. Clarke currently leads the nation in the event this season, hosting a throw of 20.59m (67-06.75). Clarke is currently on the Bowerman Watch List, awarded to the top male and female track and field student-athletes in the nation each season.
EVEN MORE WEIGHT
Junior Anna Jelmini has twice set personal records at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the shot put, each time earning herself an All-American honor. With two fifth-place finishes to her name indoors, Jelmini will look to challenge for the title again and score at the NCAA Indoor Championships for the third straight season this year. Her mark of 17.15m (56-03.25) was the second-best throw in ASU's indoor history. Jelmini currently ranks 13th in the nation in the event this year and welcomes the addition of Chelsea Cassulo, who continues to impress following her second consecutive personal best in the weight throw and the fourth best throw in school history with a mark of 20.50m (67-03.25). Cassulo is undefeated in collegiate competition this year.
TRIPLE THE EXCITEMENT
Senior Chris Benard set a mark of 16.50m (54-01.75) last season indoors that broke Dwight Phillips' 12-year-old indoor school record in the event and would be good for a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships. Benard is taking advantage of his fifth year of eligibility, posting the nation's sixth-best triple jump this season with a jump of 15.89m (52-01.75) at the Lumberjack Challenge.
I'VE GOT A HINCH
Before the 2012 season, head coach Greg Kraft believe that one of the team's dark horses this season could be incoming vaulter Derick Hinch, a transfer from Cuesta College. Hinch went on to take third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, becoming just the second Sun Devil to ever clear 18 feet and doing it twice on the season. Hinch opened up 2013 by vaulting to the No. 2 spot in ASU history with a leap of 5.41m (17-09.00) and he sits only behind Olympian Nick Hyson in both the indoor and outdoor school rankings at this point. He became just the second Sun Devil in indoor history to clear 18 feet indoors behind Hysong with a leap of 5.50. (18-00.50) at the Mountain T's Invitational, a mark that currently ranks fourth in the nation.
One of the key pieces to the Arizona State women's effort last season was junior Christabel Nettey. Nettey earned second-team All-American honors in the long jump indoors last season and was a first-team selection outdoors. Nettey holds the school's fourth-best mark in indoor history in the long jump and is someone that Coach Kraft feels has only scratched the surface heading into her senior season. Nettey rocketed up the rankings in the long jump with a leap of 6.35m (20-10.00) at the Mountain T's Invite in Flagstaff and currently ranks fourth in the nation in the event.
SHELBY GT 800
Shelby Houlihan introduced herself to the world last season as she became the first student-athlete in Pac-12 history to sweep the cross country and track and field Newcomer of the Year awards. Houlihan clocked the third-fastest indoor 800-meter time in school history and backed it up by setting the school record in the indoor mile twice last season. Houlihan opened 2013 at the Texas A&M Challenge with a blistering time of 2:06.27 at 800m, the second-fastest time in school history indoors in the event and the seventh-fastest time in the country.
KEIA TO THE CITY
Junior Keia Pinnick earned her first conference title at the MPSF Championships last year and was literally the first student-athlete on the descending order list to not get accepted to the NCAA Championships indoors but went on to be an All-American in the heptathlon outdoors. Not only does Pinnick look like a lock to make it to the NCAA Championships in the indoor pentathlon this season, but she may challenge for the title if her 4,208-point performance at Texas A&M is any indication - a mark that currently ranks second in the nation. Pinnick blitzed the field in the final with a time of 8.27 at the Lumberjack Challenge in the 60-meter hurdles as well- nearly two whole tenths of a second quicker than the runner-up finisher - and her fifth-fastest time in ASU history could bolster her into position to compete in that event separately from the pentathlon at the NCAA Championships as she she currently ranks 14th in the nation.
Nick Happe had a career year during his junior campaign, setting three marks that currently rank in the top-five on ASU's all-time lists. Happe continued his tear by becoming just the third athlete in Sun Devil history to go under four minutes in the mile, breaking the 10-year-old school record formerly held by Brandon Strong in a time of 3:58.73. Happe has also clocked the third-fastest 5k time in school history at 13:54.51 and the fifth-best 3,000-meter run time of 8:00.66 and went on to earn second-team All-American honors at the NCAA Championships in the mile. Happe got the 2012-13 season off to a good start, earning All-Conference and All-Region honors during the cross country season while also being named the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year. The junior opened the track season with a time of 4:00.67 at the Texas A&M Team Challenge in the mile.
RUNNING FOR MILUS AND MILES
Junior Ryan Milus was the definition of consistency in the 60-meter dash last season and saw it come to fruition as he clocked an altitude-adjusted 6.60 time at the Kirby Invitational. That time is the second-fastest returning time in the NCAA this season and the second-best in school history a Milus won his first MPSF title at 60 meters in Seattle and added an point-scoring performance at 200 meters to boot on his way to second-team All-American accolades. Milus has the team's fastest 60m mark thus far this season in 6.71 and is just on the outside looking in at the nation's top 20.
LIFE OF BRYAN
Junior Bryan McBride continued to make impressive strides in the high jump, matching the school indoor record at the Kirby Invite with a leap of 2.26m (7-5.00) to match Kyle Arney's mark set back in 1979. McBride set personal indoor records three times in 2012 and has improved by just under five inches from his best leap as a freshman. He ranked third in the nation last season and earned his first All-America award with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
BRING OUT THE BROOMS
The Arizona State men's sprints team was absolutely dominant at the MPSF Championships last season, seeing the team pull a 1-2-3-4 sweep at 200 meters and a 1-2 finish at 60 meters. Footballer -turned-sprinter Rashad Ross earned his first conference title with a time of 21.16 to win the 200-meter title at the Championships, leading Chris Burrows (21.19), Daniel Auberry (21.36) and Ryan Milus (21.41) to the sweep. At 60 meters, Milus took home his first conference title in 6.67 as he lead Auberry across the line as the Sun Devils combined for 47 points towards the teams total with the efforts. Auberry is the only member of the team NOT returning this year while the squad added one of the top prep runners in Arizona high school history in Trae Armstong as they look to be a dominating force yet again.
CLEARING THE FIRST HURDLE
Another student-athlete that head coach Greg Kraft was high on entering the season was freshman Cameron Taylor in the hurdles. One of the top prep hurdles out of Arizona, Taylor clocked a time of 7.95 in the 60-meter hurdle at the Kirby Invite, which was good for the second-fastest time in indoor history in the event. Taylor battled injuries as the season went on but could be a real contributor to ASU if he continues to progress.
IN THE TOP 10 ALL-TIME
Over the course of the 2012 season, 32 ASU student-athletes in 42 events moved into or improved upon their prior top-10 marks in school history. Early this season, ASU already has nine newcomers to top-10 lists. Amber Pasternak (pole vault) Chelsea Cassulo (weight throw) and Joe Riccio (weight throw) all placed their stamp in the ASU record books for the first time in that particular event while Asiah Gooden (60m), Pinnick (60mH/pentathlon), Cameron Taylor (60mH), Shelby Houlihan (800m) and Derick Hinch (pole vault) have each scored times and marks that improved upon their already-held placements on the top-10 lists.
ASU returnseight All-Americans from last year's indoor season. Jordan Clarke, Chris Benard and Bryan McBride were all first-team All-Americans for the men last year while Anna Jelmini was the lone first-team selection for the women. Ryan Milus, Nick Happe and Christabel Nettey all took second-team honors last year.
The start of the 2012 represents the beginning of the end for 16 Sun Devils entering the season. On the men's side Chris Benard, Chris Burrows, Jordan Clarke, Nick Happe, Eddie McClain, Daryl Morales, Brian Pierre, Joe Riccio, Rashad Ross, Darius Terry, Josh Walker and Zach Zard enter their final campaign in the Maroon and Gold while Chelsea Cassulo, Hailey Hanna, Christabel Nettey, Keia Pinnick and Natasa Vulic will compete in their last competitions as Sun Devils this year.
WHO'S THE NEW KID?
An incredible 37 student-athletes, including 16 women and 21 men, will be competing for the Sun Devils in 2013. True freshmen include Amber Pasternak, Ashley Weber while there are also several redshirt freshmen in Kyle Lillie, Heather Arsenau, Dalanne Bartlette, Chelsea Cassulo, Kelli Gibson, Ke'Nya Hardge and Lauren Rose.
BACK ON SCHEDULE
In 1996, Pal Arne Fagernes won the men's javelin title at the NCAA Championships. It was not until 2004 that Arizona State had another national champion as Jacquelyn Johnson won the outdoor heptathlon as a true freshman. Starting in 2005, ASU had at least one returning NCAA champion on its roster for six years in a row, a streak that came to an end two seasons ago because of graduation. The 2010 and 2009 rosters featured two returning individuals each (Ryan Whiting and Jason Lewis in 2010, Whiting and Sarah Stevens in 2009) while the 2008 roster featured four returning champions in Johnson, Stevens, Jessica Pressley and April Kubishta, all who won titles in 2007. The Sun Devils had no returning champions in 2011 but rectified that for the 2012 season with junior Jordan Clarke returning as the 2011 NCAA outdoor shot put champion this season. With his return again this year, ASU hopes he can pass the torch on and keep the streak going.
SAME TEAMMATE, DIFFERENT TEAM
As the season begins, there are 17 Sun Devils on the roster that were teammates before they came to Arizona State. Prior to their joining the Sun Devils, thrower Diana Diep comes out of Sandra Day O'Connor, which was also home to junior high jumper Byran McBride.
KRAFT LEADS THE WAY
Head Coach Greg Kraft is entering his 17th year as the leader of the Sun Devil program, a tenure that has brought Arizona State back to the top of the standings in both the NCAA and Pac-12 events. Since his hiring, the program has continued to evolve into one of the more well-rounded in the nation with strength on the track and in the field as well as in cross country. Kraft and his staff have worked diligently to reach their goals of championships and success in education and that has not been more clearly seen than in the past five years as the hardware has continued to roll in. His program has annually produced some of the top individuals in the nation with 26 of the program's 59 individual and relay national titles won since 2004 while both his teams and individual student-athletes have garnered national academic acclaim. Prior to his arrival, the program boasted one NCAA Championship (men's outdoor track & field, 1977) and one Pac-12 Championship (men's outdoor track & field, 1981). In the last seven years, his Sun Devils have captured four national crowns (2007 women's indoor and outdoor track & field, 2008 men's and women's indoor track & field) and added three Pac-12 Championships (women's outdoor track & field, 2006-08). Kraft's teams have finished in the Top 10 of the NCAA Track & Field Championships on 22 occasions in 16 years while the program had done so just 14 times prior to his arrival in Tempe.
LONG TENURE IN TEMPE
As he begins his 17th year at Arizona State, Kraft's tenure ranks as the second-longest in Sun Devil track & field history and the third-longest active streak among all current ASU head coaches. The only coach that has led the track & field program longer than Kraft is legendary coach Senon `Baldy' Castillo, who led the way for 26 years (1954-79). Among current Sun Devil head coaches, Kraft's 17th year ranks behind John Spini, who is in his 33rd year with gymnastics and Sheila McInerney, who is in her 29th year with women's tennis.
NEXT TIME OUT
The Sun Devils will utilize next weekend as a warm-up to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships as the team will take part in a low-key meet at the NAU Tune-Up. Arizona State then kicks things back into action at the MPSF Championships in Seattle the following weekend.
A LOOK BACK: 2012 Men's NCAA Indoor Season
The ASU men's team bounced back from not scoring a point at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships to scoring 31 at the 2012 NCAA Championships to take fourth overall...the finish marked the fourth top-ten finish in the past five years for the Sun Devil was the second trophy-earning finish in that time frame. Jordan Clarke (shot put) and Mason McHenry (800m) each won NCAA titles in their respective events, the first time each had done so during an indoor season and the first overall championship for McHenry. Head coach Greg Kraft was tabbed the MPSF Conference Men's Coach of the Year and earned USTFCCCA West Region Men's Coach of the Year honors as well while Chris Benard was named the USTFCCCA West Region Field Athlete of the Year. The ASU men scored 131.5 points at the MPSF Championships and posted a 50-point margin of victory - both the highest tallies in the last decade of men's MPSF competition.
A LOOK BACK: 2012 Women's NCAA Indoor Season
The women's team finished 43rd at the NCAA Indoor Championships with four points. Anna Jelmini earned her second consecutive indoor All-America honor in the shot put with her fifth-place finish and a throw of 17.15m (56-03.25). The women finished fourth at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships with 68 points while Keia Pinnick won her first major title as she was the victor in the women's pentathlon with 3,975 points.
A REWARDING YEAR
It was a big year for the Sun Devils in the awards category during the 2012 indoor season. The ASU men took home their first MPSF title in school history, scoring 131.5 points for a 50-point margin of victory over second place Stanford - both landmarks sitting as the best in the past decade in MPSF competition. Greg Kraft was awarded the MPSF Men's Coach of the Year as well as the USTFCCCA West Region Men's Coach of the Year. Chris Benard took home USTFCCCA West Region Field Athlete of the Year honors courtesy of his school-record setting year in the triple jump and 18 points scored at the MPSF Championships.