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Coach Kraft comments on 2009 track & field signing class

February 04, 2009

National Signing Day has come to a close for the Arizona State University track and field program and what a day it was for the Sun Devils. Six high school standouts have signed National Letters of Intent to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Sun Devil program and will bring a wealth of talent and experience to Tempe next fall.

This year's class includes three highly heralded women in sprinter and long jump specialists Christabel Nettey (Surrey, B.C., Canada) and Constance Ezugha (Edmond, Okla.) and multi-event standout ShaKeia Pinnick (Aurora, Ill.). The women's class also features the top thrower in the high school ranks, Anna Jelmini (Bakersfield, Calif.), and another talented distance recruit in Kevyn Murphy (Manhattan Beach, Calif.). While men signed just one athlete in Doug Smith (Gladstone, N.J.), his addition to an already young and talent-rich distance program will only boost the Sun Devils in their quest to remain among the top programs in the nation.

"We have two programs that are different stages right now and we are pleased with the letters we have received," Greg Kraft, the 13th-year Director of Track & Field at Arizona State, said. "Doug Smith signing on the men's side where we have a very young team returning and has had tremendous growth from within will only help us strengthen our team. I know we have the talent to do great things on the men's side and Doug will certainly help that cause."

Smith will come to Tempe after winning the 1,600m and 3,200m runs in New Jersey each of the past two years. He has competed on the big stage, most recently running the mile at the Milrose Games in New York City's Madison Square Garden. He has earned multiple first-team all-state accolades in both cross country and track and field and will be a fine fit for the Sun Devil men as they look to strengthen the middle-distances.

"On the women's side, we are coming off three of the greatest years in ASU track and field history, but with a strong need to reload," Kraft stated. "With the hard work of Coach David Dumble and Coach Kenny McDaniel, we certainly took a big step toward that this week. For our women, this is a recruiting class that really reflects a program that has won three national titles. We haven't had this type of recruiting class before. We have pieced it together over the years, but this one is the type of class we are supposed to have and I couldn't be more excited for the types of athletes we are bringing in. I can't tell you how much hard work that Coach Dumble, Coach McDaniel and Coach Quintana put in to assemble this class. They did a remarkable job."

The remarkable job includes four women that have marks ranking them among the best in the nation heading into their 2009 high school seasons. Jelmini finished 2008 with the top throw in the discus -- by 15 feet -- and the javelin and was second in the shot put. Pinnick scored 5,053 points in the heptathlon -- which would have provisionally qualified her for the NCAA Championships -- and ranked sixth nationally in the 400m hurdles and tied for ninth in the 300m hurdles. Ezugha was third in the nation last year in the long jump with her wind-legal mark of 20-01.75 while her wind-aided leap of 20-06.50 ranked as the best in the U.S. Nettey's long jump mark also ranked among the Top 10 nationally and was the best in Canada.

"Jelmini could arguably be the most sought after recruit in the country in any event and for her to choose us allows us the ability to continue to build upon the great tradition that Coach Dumble has worked hard to establish," Kraft said. "The work Coach McDaniel did in signing Pinnick, Nettey and Ezugha, that allows us to continue to maintain the great balance we have throughout our program. Murphy, who Coach Louie Quintana brought in for the distances, really fits the mold of the recruits he brings in. She is a great athlete, has great range and we expect her to help add depth to our talented cross country and distance program."

All told, the women's class has not only won state titles and are standouts in other sports as well, they also boast solid national and international credentials. Internationally, Jelmini placed fourth at the 2008 IAAF World Junior Championships after competing in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field (19th place). Nettey, representing her native Canada, competed in the 2007 IAAF Youth Championships, reaching the finals of the 100m hurdles while also competing in the long jump. Nationally, Pinnock has captured two AAU National Championships (heptathlon and 400m hurdles).

"We are extremely pleased with the class we have brought in and know that we still have some work ahead of us," Kraft said. "The thing that is misleading for the early signing date for track and field is really that this is just the first wave. The elite athletes we have signed are at the top of everyone's lists and have been for a while. Our next wave will consist of athletes that we are still evaluating and we are nowhere near being close to done but this does give us tremendous momentum. I am very pleased with the talent we have brought in and I know the future of Arizona State track & field continues to be bright."

2009 National Letters of Intent
Women's Track & Field/Cross Country
Constance Ezugha (Edmond, Okla./Sante Fe HS) - Signing Release
Anna Jelmini (Bakersfield, Calif./Shafter HS) - Signing Release
Christabel Nettey (Surrey, B.C., Canada/Johnston Heights Secondary) - Signing Release
Kevyn Murphy (Manhattan Beach, Calif./Costa Mira HS) - Signing Release
ShaKeia Pinnick (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley HS) - Signing Release

Men's Track & Field/Cross Country
Doug Smith (Gladstone, N.J./Gill-St. Bernard's School) - Signing Release