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Last chance meets await ASU track & field this week

March 05, 2008

The Arizona State University track and field program is just over one week away from competing in the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships (March 14-15) and will have one final weekend to prepare as several Sun Devils will travel to one of two meets in search of improving their status of entry into the national meet. The Sun Devils will send student-athletes to compete at the Washington Last Chance meet in Seattle and the Iowa State Last Chance meet in Ames, Iowa, with both meets being held Saturday.

While the current Sun Devils will be tuning up for the NCAA Championships, one former Sun Devil will be competing for gold his weekend as Trevell Quinley will represent Team USA in the long jump at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Valencia, March 7-9. Quinley, the U.S. champion, will compete in the qualification round Friday with hopes of moving into the finals, which will take place Saturday.

The USTFCCCA released its latest national rankings on Wednesday (March 5) with the Sun Devils highly ranked for the third week in a row. Based upon points earned in relation to an athlete/relay's position on the NCAA descending order list, the men remained No. 1 this week with 110.84 points while the women are No. 2 with 157.77 (LSU is No. 1 at 183.77).

With 154.5 points and seven individual champions, the Sun Devil women won their second MPSF Championships in a row, beating out runner Stanford, who scored 141 points. The win also was the sixth team title in a row for ASU, building off the five they won in 2007.

While the women's team captured its second MPSF Championships title in a row, Sarah Stevens did a repeat performance of her own as she won the shot put and the weight throw for the second year in a row.

Stevens was joined by Jacquelyn Johnson as the only multiple victors for the Sun Devils. Johnson won the 60m hurdles and the long jump individually before joining Jeavon Benjamin, Shauntel Elcock and Dominique' Maloy in taking the 4x400m relay crown. Other champions for the team included April Kubishta (pole vault) and Charonda Williams (200m).

Three men's titles were won as well, including Ryan Whiting in the shot put, Jeff Helmer in the 5,000m run and the 4x400m relay team of Jimmie Gordon, Joel Phillip, Darryl Elston and Justin Kremer.

Sprinter Jimmie Gordon has played a key role in the resurgence of the men's team this season and has done it in the 400m dash. Individually, Gordon has a top time of 46.72 and ranks ninth in the nation this week and while he is just on the outside of the scoring positions at the national meet (based on his ranking), he has helped both relays excel. He has combined with the team of Justin Kremer, Darryl Elston and Joel Phillip to run 3:06.58, the second-fastest time in the nation so far this year in the 4x400m relay, while also running the sprint leg of the third-ranked and school-record-holding distance medley relay (9:32.80) of Joey Heller, Nectaly Barbosa and Kyle Alcorn.

To say Ryan Whiting has jumped into the national scene this year would be an understatement as the sophomore has led the nation much of the indoor season in the shot put. Last week was no different as he launched the shot 21.47m (70-05.50) to break 70-feet and solidify himself as one of the top talents in the world. Currently, his toss is the third-best in the world in 2008 and ranks as the fourth-best in Pac-10 history. His mark is the second-best Pac-10 mark indoors behind Stanford's Terry Albritton, who went 21.50m (70-06.50) in 1977.

Whiting's shot put mark was not the only record performance for the Sun Devils at the MPSF Championships over the weekend with one relay and one women's field event producing a top mark as well. The men's distance medley relay of Joey Heller, Jimmie Gordon, Nectaly BarbosaKyle Alcorn combined to run 9:32.80 to take second in the race and break the school record by nearly seven seconds, surpassing the time of 9:39.14 run in 2000 by Brandon Strong, LaVell Robinson-Blanchard, David Burke and Garrett Jensen. On the women's side, Jacquelyn Johnson turned in another PR in the long jump, this time with a leap of 6.50m (21-04.00) to tie Tiffany Greer (2000) for the top mark. and

Jeff Helmer made his first collegiate race a memorable one as he clocked a time of 14:01.83 to win the MPSF Championship in the 5,000m run and provisionally qualify for the NCAA Championships. Currently, he ranks 18th in the nation.

Arizona State student-athletes hold the top mark in the college ranks in three women's events and one men's event this week, according the latest (March 4) NCAA descending order lists. For the women, Sarah Stevens (17.78m) in the shot put, Jacquelyn Johnson (4,312 points) in the pentathlon and April Kubishta (4.30m) in the pole vault all have the top marks in the NCAA while Ryan Whiting has the top men's shot put mark (21.47m).

Along with the four national leaders, ASU has four men's and five women's marks that rank among the Top 8 (scoring positions) in the nation currently. On the women's side, Jacquelyn Johnson is ranked fifth in the long jump and eighth in the high jump while Jessica Pressley stands fifth in the weight throw and sixth in the shot put. Sarah Stevens is ranked sixth in the weight throw. For the men, the 4x400m relay is second, the distance medley relay is third, Matt Turner is fourth in the long jump and Kyle Alcorn is eighth in the mile.

In the latest world rankings, three current Sun Devils are among the Top 20 internationally, including Ryan Whiting, who ranks third in the men's shot put with a toss of 21.47m. On the women's side, Jessica Pressley ranks 10th in the weight throw (21.06m) while Sarah Stevens is 12th (20.94m).

The shot put event has been good to the Sun Devils in recent years and this year looks to be no different this year under coach David Dumble. Last season, six All-America honors were earned with Sarah Stevens, Jessica Pressley and Ryan Whiting each earning the accolade at both the NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor meets. So far this year, Whiting (21.47m) and Stevens (17.78m), the defending indoor national champion, hold the top marks in the nation while Pressley (17.12m), the defending outdoor title holder, ranks sixth in the nation. All three will be in contention to make the Olympic team this summer.

The shot put is not the only field event that has been producing lately. Under coach Greg Kraft, the long jump has been a strong event for ASU and that trend looks to continue this year. Currently, Matt Turner is ranked fourth in the NCAA (7.85m) while Jacquelyn Johnson (6.50m) and Stephanie Garnett (6.42m) are fifth and ninth, respectively. Outside the collegiate ranks, Kraft has worked with 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Dwight Phillips and, most recently, former Sun Devil Trevell Quinley won the 2008 USATF Indoor Championships.

At the MPSF Championships, three women's and two men's marks recorded also earned automatic entry into the NCAA Championships, three of which were the first automatic berths attained in those events for a Sun Devil this year. The women's long jump welcomed Jacquelyn Johnson (6.50m) and Stephanie Garnett (6.42m) as first-time automatic qualifiers while Sarah Stevens recorded her fourth auto qualifier in the shot put (17.57m). On the men's side, the distance medley relay of Joey Heller, Jimmie Gordon, Nectaly Barbosa and Kyle AlcornRyan Whiting improved his auto berth in the shot put (21.47m) for the third time this year. automatically qualified for the first time (9:32.80) while

Justin Kremer came to Tempe from a small school in Grand Canyon, Ariz., and has blossomed into one of the top quarter-milers in the nation this year. The sophomore has lowered his 400m dash time each week and currently ranks No. 7 in the nation with his time of 46.78 that he ran at the Iowa State Classic over the weekend. Kremer also had a hand in helping the Sun Devil 4x400m relay qualify for the national meet as he joined Jimmie Gordon, Darryl Elston and Joel Phillip in running 3:06.58, the second-fastest time in the nation this year as well as the third-fastest in school history.

The Sun Devils received three signed National Letters of Intent on February 6, adding three prep standouts to the program in time for the 2009 season, and have received commitments from several others (more information will be released on those signings at a later date). The new additions include second-generation Sun Devil Allante Battle (sprints) for the men's team and women's team additions Devan Coon (sprints) and Kayla Sanchez (sprints & hurdles). Here is a quick look at the new additions:
• Battle, a local product of Desert Vista HS in Phoenix, is the son of the former Anna Van, an ASU All-American in long jump and triple jump, and Greg Battle, a former linebacker for the ASU football team. Battle (10.64, 21.33, 47.17) won the 100m, 200m and 400m events at the state level last year, all with personal best times. He also is a standout on the gridiron and could be a two-sport athlete at ASU.
• Coon competes for Schuylkill Valley HS in Leesport, Pa., and holds the state record in the 400m dash in just her third time running the event. She is a four-time all-state selection (three times in the 200m dash and once in the 400m dash). Coon (24.41, 55.17) placed fourth at the 2007 USATF Youth Nationals in the 400m and sixth in the 200m.
• Sanchez is a nine-time state champion at Carson HS (Carson City, Nev.) after sweeping the 100m dash, 200m dash and 300m hurdles in her first three years of competition. The state record holder in the 300m hurdles, Sanchez (11.92, 24.28, 42.34) ranks fourth nationally among returning prep athletes in the 300m hurdles. She was selected as the Nevada Athlete of the Year twice (2005, 2006).

The United States Track & Field, Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced their cross country academic honorees this week with the Sun Devil women garnering accolades. Individually, Ali Kielty and Jenna Kingma were two of the 91 women to earn USTFCCCA All-Academic honors and joined their teammates as one of 35 teams nationally to earn team distinctions with a 3.50 grade point average or higher.

At the Washington Invite (Feb. 2), Sun Devil senior Kyle Alcorn clocked a time of 3:59.82 in the mile to become only the third Sun Devil runner to break the four-minute mark in the event and just the second indoors. Alcorn is second on the ASU indoor lists behind Brandon Strong, who ran 3:59.59 in 2002, and is third overall in ASU history behind the 3:56.4 turned in by Chuck LaBenz in 1970.

Joe Selleh Track at Sun Angel Stadium went under the knife recently as the home of Arizona State University track and field was resurfaced with the latest product from Mondo, Mondotrack FTX. ASU's home venue is the first in the world to be surfaced with the product, which also will be installed at Beijing's Olympic Stadium in time for the 2008 Summer Games. Along with the new surface came an expanded shot put area and the addition of a second 'D' zone (at the north end of the infield). The majority of the surface will be maroon/red in color with the only exceptions being the three exchange zones on the track and the non-runway areas of both 'D' zones, which will be gold. The project was completed Jan. 29.

The Sun Devil women enter the 2008 season as the defending national champions, sweeping both the 2007 NCAA Indoor and 2007 NCAA Outdoor championship meets last year for their first and second national team titles, respectively. The women also won titles in three other championship events they competed, including their first indoor conference crown at the MPSF Championships, their second Pac-10 Championship in a row and their first NCAA West Region Championship.

If the women are successful in their bid to defend their indoor title won at the NCAA Championships last season, it will mark just the sixth time since its inception in 1983 that the same school has won at least two titles in a row. The last to do so was LSU, who won titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Others to win twice or more in a row where Nebraska (1983, 1984), LSU (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997), Texas (1998, 1999) and UCLA (2000, 2001).

Four women return this year after winning individual national titles during the 2007 season, including one athlete who won a pair of titles. Jacquelyn Johnson successfully defended her crowns as she won her second indoor pentathlon title before securing the third outdoor heptathlon title of her career. At the indoor meet, Sarah Stevens won her first national title as she captured the shot put on her final throw of the competition while teammate Jessica Pressley captured her first title during the outdoor season, also winning the shot put. The final national champion for Arizona State last year came in the pole vault as April Kubishta was perfect through each height in the finals of the outdoor event to win the crown.

The two-time indoor pentathlon and three-time outdoor heptathlon national champion will also be looking to add her name to an elite list come championship time as very few have found as much success as Johnson. Indoors, only eight other women in NCAA history have won the same event three times in a career while outdoors sees a list of just three that are four-time champions.

Nine women and three men return to the track this season with All-America honors earned during the 2007, totaling 14 honors for the women and four for the men. Indoors, Jacquelyn Johnson (pentathlon), Jessica Pressley (shot put) and Sarah Stevens (shot put and weight throw) return and are joined by Matt Turner (long jump) and Ryan Whiting (shot put), who also earned the national award at the 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships last year. During the outdoor season, Johnson (heptathlon), Pressley (shot put) and Stevens (shot put and hammer) are joined by Tai Battle (discus), Jordan Durham (4x400m relay), Shauntel Elcock (4x400m relay) and April Kubishta (pole vault) as the women's honorees while Whiting (shot put) is joined by Kyle Alcorn (3,000m steeplechase) on the men's list. Two more women bring All-America honors with them to the track that were earned in November as both Jenna Kingma and Ali Kielty each earned the national accolade in cross country.

Along with the numerous team titles and All-America honors attained in 2007, several individuals were honored with awards at the conference, region and national levels. During the 2007 indoor season, Jacquelyn Johnson (pentathlon) and former NCAA Champion Maicel Malone (400m dash) were selected to the NCAA Division I Silver Anniversary Team, which recognized one outstanding athlete per indoor event from the first 25 years the national organization had conducted championship events. The United States Track & Field, Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) honored a trio of Sun Devils last year as head coach Greg Kraft was named the USTFCCCA Women's National and West Region Coach of the Year while West Region Athlete of the Year honors went to Sarah Stevens (field events) and Amy Hastings (track events). Kraft and Stevens also were honored by the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), the indoor conference ASU participates in, by selecting the duo as the MPSF Women's Coach and MPSF Female Athlete of the Year, respectively.

The outdoor season saw plenty of other awards garnered by the Sun Devil women, including USTFCCCA Women's National, West Region and West District Coach of the Year honors for Greg Kraft; Women's National and West Region Assistant Coach of the Year honors for David Dumble; USTFCCCA Women's West Region and West District Field Athlete of Year honors for Sarah Stevens; the Pac-10 Medal of Honor for Amy Hastings; Pac-10 Women's Coach of the Year for Kraft; and Pac-10 Women's Field Athlete of the Year for Stevens. Stevens also was selected as one of three finalists for the Honda Sports Award, given annually to the top athlete in each sport in the NCAA.

Athletic honors were not the only awards attained during the year as the Sun Devils placed 20 women and 10 men on the Pac-10 All-Academic lists while seven women and two men earned MPSF All-Academic recognition for the indoor season. A total of 13 student-athletes (10 women and three men) were selected for USTFCCCA National All-Academic honors while three women -- Brooke Bennett, April Kubishta and Sarah Stevens -- earned ESPN The Magazine All-District VIII honors. The USTFCCCA also bestowed three more prestigious academic honors on the Sun Devils following the 2007 season as the women's team earned USTFCCCA Women's Division I All-Academic Team honors before being selected as the 2007 USTFCCCA Women' Indoor and Outdoor All-Academic Team of the Year. Individually, Stevens was selected as the USTFCCCA Women's Indoor Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Starting in 2006, the Sun Devil women have won three conference titles in a row as they have captured the 2006 and 2007 Pac-10 Championships (outdoor) as well as the 2007 MPSF Championship (indoor). Last year, the men nearly gave Arizona State a sweep of the Pac-10 titles, falling three points short of the championship.

A total of 29 (13 women and 16 men) student-athletes are members of the program for the first time this year, including 15 true freshmen (seven women and eight men). Also in the group of newcomers are five women and eight men that transferred into the program with two of those women and six of the men coming from junior and/or community colleges. The final new addition to the program comes via the Sun Devil water polo program as Addison McGrath will participate for both teams this spring.

While the student-athlete roster welcomed 29 newcomers this year, the coaching staff also added a few new additions with a trio of new coaches now on staff. Kenny McDaniel was hired on from Cal State Fullerton and will work with the women's sprints, hurdles and relays following the departure of Dion Miller (Texas Tech). A pair of new graduate assistant coaches are now on staff as Ryan Cole and former Sun Devil NCAA Champion and All-American Victoria Jackson joined the program, replacing the departed Jeremy Rasmussen (Illinois) and Rhonda Riley (Vanderbilt), both of whom attained coaching positions at their respective schools. Both Cole and Jackson will work with the distance, mid-distance and cross country runners throughout the year while also maintaining the day-to-day operations of the program.

Several of those newcomers have already made an impact this year as members of a cross country program that qualified both a women's and men's team to the 2007 NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. At the meet, the women finished fourth overall to earn their second trophy (Top 4 finishers) in three years while the men, who entered the meet ranked 30th, finished 26th overall. Dating back to the 2005 cross country national meet (three cross country seasons, two indoor track & field seasons and two outdoor track & field seasons), the Sun Devil women have accumulated six trophies, including two national titles (2007 indoor and 2007 outdoor), one third-place finish (2006 indoor) and three fourth-place showings (2005 and 2007 cross country and 2006 outdoor).

A pair of former Sun Devils turned in record performances last year on the track with Amy Hastings setting the American collegiate record in the indoor 5,000m run while the outdoor season saw Lisa Galaviz (formerly Aguilera) set the America record in the 3,000m steeplechase. Hastings, a 10-time All-American including three in 2007, ran 15:30.17 at the Husky Classic in Seattle during the indoor season which was the fastest time run by an American collegiate women in NCAA history as Kim Smith of Providence (foreign athlete) holds the NCAA record at 15:14.18. Outdoors, Galaviz traveled to a meet in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, and clocked in at 9:28.75 to set the new standard among American women.

At the end of August, Osaka, Japan, played host to the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics with five athletes with ties to the Arizona State program competing. Current Sun Devil Sarah Stevens placed third at the USA Championships in the shot put to earn a World berth, where she placed 22nd overall. Her teammate, Jessica Pressley, placed fourth in the U.S. meet, missing the World team by one place. On the men's side, Dwight Phillips earned a bronze medal in the long jump after winning the U.S. meet while Trevell Quinley (third at the U.S. meet) was 12th in Osaka. Aaron Aguayo, who placed second at the U.S. meet, finished 20th in the 3,000m steeplechase, while Seth Amoo, who was representing Ghana, advanced to the qualifying rounds of the 200m dash.

2008 PAC-10 HOSTS
The 2008 Pac-10 Championships will be held at Joe Selleh Track at Sun Angel Stadium this year with events being contested on two separate weekends. The women's heptathlon and men's decathlon will take place on May 9-10 with the remainder of the events being held one week later, May 16-17.

For those athletes that qualify, the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships are up next for the Sun Devils. The meet will be held in Fayetteville, Ark., March 14-15.