June 4, 2012
NCAA Championship Video Preview
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Arizona State University track and field will conclude to the 2012 season at the NCAA Championships this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, set to take place June 6-9 at Drake Stadium. The Sun Devils will have 15 entries in action this weekend with 12 individual entries and three relays vying for All-America honors.
OUT OF THE BLOCKS
• The Sun Devil men are coming off a trophy-earning fourth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Boise earlier in March. The men saw two national champions crowned in Jordan Clarke in the shot put and Mason McHenry at 800 meters.
• Head coach Greg Kraft is in his 16th season at Arizona State, the third-longest tenure of any of ASU’s current sports coaches.
• Jordan Clarke is the NCAA’s returning shot put champion outdoors and will be the returning champion when the team reaches the 2013 indoor season as well after his performance in Boise earlier this year.
• Three Sun Devils have qualified for this weekend in two separate events. Those individuals include Jordan Clarke (shot put/hammer), Anna Jelmini (shot put/discus) and Chris Benard (triple jump/long jump). Additionally, Keia Pinnick will compete as an individual in the heptathlon while also adding her talents to the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams.
• The Sun Devil men took third at the Pac-12 Championships while the women were fifth. The teams combined for five individual champions and a sweep of the men’s relays over the course of the competition.
• Chris Benard enters the weekend as the top-ranked triple jumper in the nation and has set school records in the event indoors and outdoors on the year.
• The Sun Devils will have 15 entries to this weekend’s NCAA Championships with 12 indvidual entries and three relays in action.
IN THE RANKINGS: USTFCCCA TOP 25
The Arizona State women and men finished up ranked No. 16 and No. 17 in the final USTFCCCA Computer Ranking of the season. The USTFCCCA rankings utilize mathematical formulae to determine which teams have the best potential of scoring well at the NCAA Championship meet. The final rankings only took into consideration the entries into the NCAA Finals this weekend in Des Moines.
The entire event will be streamed live. Wednesday’s events will be available via NCAA.com, and Thursday through Saturday on ESPN3.com. Saturday’s events also will be televised on ESPNU in a window beginning at noon (CT).
The NCAA Championship Finals is the last collegiate competition of the season and will be used to determine the national champions in all events, including the team races. The Top 8 individuals and relays in each event will earn points toward their respective team’s point total in the chase for team championships while also earning first-team All-America honors. Those finishing in positions 9-16 in their respective events will earn second-team All-America honors from the USTFCCCA while other placers will earn an honorable mention.
A LOOK BACK - NCAA West Regionals
The Arizona State track and field team earned 14 entries into the NCAA Championships after an eventful weekend at the NCAA West Regionals in Austin, Texas two weekends ago. Among the highlights of the competition were Jordan Clarke (shot put/discus), Anna Jelmini (shot put/discus) and Chris Benard (triple jump/long jump) each earning two qualifications to the NCAA Championships. Jelmini would go on to post the top mark of the discus competition while Benard was the top triple jumper of the competition. In the women’s long jump, Christabel Nettey bounced back - literally - from a disappointing Pac-12 Championship to win the long jump competition.
LOOKING EVER FURTHER BACK - 2011 NCAA Championships
Jordan Clarke kept Arizona State’s streak of years with at least one national champion going strong at at six with his first-ever national title in the shot put competition. Clarke had a then-personal best throw of 19.75m (64-09.65) to hold off his competition and earn the team’s only 10 points and a 25th-place finish overall. On the women’s side, Anna Jelmini was the national runner-up in the discus while Jasmine Chaney and Christabel Nettey each posted first-team All-America honors as the Sun Devils scored 15 points and finished 19th overall.
Christabel Nettey looked up to snuff with her outdoor long jumping self that earned first-team All-America honors last season as she soared 6.58m (21-07.25) in the team’s season opener at the Baldy Castillo Invitational for a new career best and improved her second-place hold on ASU’s all-time list in the event. The mark is also good for the seventh-best jump in the nation this year and Nettey was the NCAA West Regional Champion in the event in Austin with a jump of 6.56m. There doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite in this event heading into the weekend and Nettey could earn her first national title should the cards fall the right way.
RUNNING RELAY FAST
The 4x400m team of Kelsey Caesar, Chris Burrows, John Kline and Will Henry currently sits 15th in the country with their season opening time of 3:05.29. The Sun Devils have been consistently strong in the event ever since and were the Pac-12 Champions. All four athletes will be looking for their first national title this weekend. On the women’s side, both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays punched their tickets to nationals as well with a couple women double-dipping as Keia Pinnick, Alycia Herring and Kayla Sanchez compete in both events.
I’VE GOT A HINCH
Before the 2012 season even got underway, head coach Greg Kraft said that Derick Hinch, a junior college pole vault transfer out of Cuesta College in California, would be one of the team’s dark horse as it fought for Pac-12 dominance this year. Hinch looked to be playing the part at the ASU Invite as he soared 5.50m (18-00.50) for the second-best jump in school history and the current sixth-best pole vault in the nation and the second-best in the conference. Hinch took second at the Pac-12 Championships in the event but made sure to keep everyone on their toes at the regional, needing a jump off to settle the 12th and final qualifying position to advance to the NCAA Championships this weekend.
Keeping track of Keia Pinnick at a track meet isn’t always an easy task. The junior does just about everything for the Sun Devils and showed it at the Pac-12 Combined Events in last weekend as she set a career best in the heptathlon with a score of 5,703. That score sits sixth in the nation in 2012 and would have been good for fifth at the NCAA Championships in 2011. Not only that, but it moves Pinnick to third on ASU’s all-time descending order list in the event.
KEIA TO THE CITY
Pinnick can be a part of a lot of points for the Sun Devils this weekend with a strong performance in the heptathlon along with the fact she competes on both the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams. Pinnick has been a work horse for the Sun Devils in 2012 and will look to post a couple All-America finishes this weekend to show for it.
THROWING THEIR WEIGHT
Over the past 10 years, David Dumble has continued to bring in top talent and build the throws program at Arizona State, which has collected 13 total national titles, including the shiny new trophy earned by Jordan Clarke at the NCAA Indoor Championships just two weeks ago. With Clarke the defending indoor AND outdoor national champion and Anna Jelmini the top returning discus thrower in the nation, the ASU throws team looks to continue their perennial dominance of the event into the outdoor season.
A MAN OF MANY DIFFERENT HATS
Jordan Clarke has wasted little time establishing himself as one of the top all-around throwers in the country with his recent performances. Clarke ranks in the top 15 in both the shot put and discus events, sitting fourth and 11th, respectively. Clarke took the 2012 Pac-12 title in the shot put, was second in the hammer and nabbed a third-place finish in the discus to give him 24 points towards Arizona State’s team title and garnering him Pac-12 Athlete of the Meet accolades. Clarke comes in to the weekend as the reigning champion in the shot put both indoors and outdoors and has a knack for coming up big on the big stage.
EVERYTHING IS JEL-ING
Clarke isn’t the only Sun Devil turning it on in the throws. Sophomore Anna Jelmini finds herself ranked second in the discus and eighth in the shot put events and she swept the two events at the Pac-12 Championships. It was the second consecutive Pac-12 discus title for the sophomore and the first shot put crown of her career. Jelmini has not lost a discus competition to a collegiate competitor this year, and has been riding a bit of a hot streak in the shot put as well and could put up big points for the Sun Devils in both events this weekend.
Bryan McBride has come on strong in his sophomore campaign and finds himself fast rising the ASU all-time ranks in the process. McBride currently ranks 18th in the nation with his career outdoor best of 2.20m (7-02.50) in both oudoor contests he has competed in this year, good for seventh on ASU’s all-time list. McBride has battled a foot injury all outdoor season but looks to finally be finding his groove again heading into this weekend after finishing third overall at the regionals and just one of a handful of student-athletes to clear 2.20m
TRIPLE THE EXCITEMENT
Chris Benard is now the proud owner of two school records after knocking off Deon Mayfield’s 30-year-old school record at the Mt. SAC Relays with a new career-best of 16.74m (54-11.25). The mark moved Benard into the top spot in the nation at the NCAA level in 2012 and earned him Pac-12 Field Athlete of the Week honors for the second time this season. Benard won the triple jump championship at the Pac-12 Championships in Eugene and had the top mark at the NCAA West Prelims in Austin and will enter this weekend as one of the favorites to add to ASU’s all-time national champion list.
After Constance Ezugha earned indoor All-America honors as a freshman two years ago, the sky seemed to be the limit for the Edmond, Okla., native. But after being sidelines with injury in 2011 and a slow return during the 2012 campaign, it appeared that the Sun Devils might night see the same athlete they saw as a freshman. And just like that, Ezugha was back to her old form, shocking the field at the Pac-12 Championships with a victory in the long jump on a career-best leap of 6.45m (21-02.00) and the fifth-best mark in ASU history. Ezugha is currently ranked 13th in the nation and as tight as the long jump field is this year, could pull off another shocker before all is said and done.
Among the biggest and most pleasant surprises in 2012 was the arrival of junior college transfer Chris Burrows to the men’s sprints teams. Praised for his work ethic and leadership abilities, Burrows will be the lone individual to represent the Sun Devils in a running event this weekend. Burrows clocked a wind-aided time of 20.54 at 200 meters at the West Prelims to easily advance to his first NCAA Championship and - depending on how things fall in to place - may have run himself into the running for Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year as well. Burrows will also look to add to the Sun Devils cause in the 4x400-meter relay as well.
IN THE TOP 10 ALL-TIME - OUTDOORS
The Sun Devils are starting to get into the swing of things and, as such, the record book is starting to need some re-writing. Thus far in 2012, five student-athletes have etched their names in the record books for the first time while 14 athletes in 18 events have all improved upon prior record book marks. Derick Hinch, Andrea Crook, Chris Benard , Alex Hartig and Shelby Houlihan are the newest additions to the list, with Hinch moving to second all-time in the pole vault, Crook seventh in the triple jump, Benard taking the school record in the triple jump, Hartig ninth in the shot put and Houlihan ninth in the 1,500-meter run and third in the 800m. Christabel Nettey is pacing the way for the returners, as she has improved to second in both the long jump and triple jump. Ryan Milus (100m), Mason McHenry (800m), Bryan McBride (high jump), Shaylah Simpson (pole vault), Linda Kuenzi (pole vault), Jordan Clarke (shot put/hammer), Ashley Lampley (hammer), Anna Jelmini (shot put/hammer), Cj Navarro (hammer), Constance Ezugha (long jump), Kauren Tarver (steeplechase), Lindsey Prescott (10,000m) and Keia Pinnick (heptathlon/400m hurdles) have all also improved upon marks they already held within the top 10.