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Track & field heads to Seattle for MPSF Championships

February 25, 2009

Championship season is upon the Arizona State University track and field program this weekend as the Sun Devils will travel to the University of Washington's Dempsey Indoor in Seattle for the 2009 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships on Friday and Saturday. The Sun Devil women will be looking to capture their third MPSF title in a row while the men are in search of their first. Action opens at 12:30 p.m. PT on Friday with the women's weight throw and concludes with the women's pentathlon 800m run at 6:55 p.m. Saturday starts at 11 a.m. with four events and ends at 3 p.m. with the women's 4x400m. Washington's site,, will have live result updates throughout the Championships.

While the current Sun Devils will be heading to Seattle for the MPSF Championships, four men with ties to the program will travel to Boston and the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Complex on Saturday and Sunday for the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships. Current Sun Devil Brandon Bethke (who is redshirting this indoor season) will compete in the 3,000m run while former distance national champion Kyle AlcornDwight Phillips, the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist in the long jump, is set to run in the 60m dash while Matt Turner will compete in the long jump and enters the meet as the No. 1-ranked entrant. For more information on the meet, including a schedule of events, updated entries and complete results, visit, the home of USA Track & Field. will run in the 1,500m event.

Team and individual event champions will be crowned this weekend while all athletes also will be chasing the national qualifying standards, too. The NCAA Indoor Championships are just two weeks away (March 13-14) in College Station, Texas, giving the Sun Devils just this weekend and perhaps a trip to a last chance meet next weekend as their lone opportunities to add their names to the national lists.

The MPSF is comprised of teams from the Pac-10 and Big West Conferences and includes Arizona State, Arizona, California, CS Northridge, Long Beach State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Washington State. According to the latest (Feb. 18) USTFCCCA rankings, MPSF teams that are nationally ranked include No. 1 Oregon, No. 12 Arizona State, No. 14 UCLA, No. 20 Washington and No. 24 Arizona on the men's side with No. 2 Oregon, No. 7 Arizona State, No. 10 Arizona, No. 22 Washington and No. 25 Stanford holding rankings on the women's side.

Arizona State won the women's team title and captured seven individual events while the men finished fourth as a team and won three events at the 2008 MPSF Championships in Seattle. The women scored 154.5 points and was followed in the Top 3 by Stanford (141) and Oregon (72) while the men's title was won by the Ducks (90) with California (84.5) and Stanford (83) rounding out the Top 3. ASU's men scored 77 points in the event.

Heading into the meet, one man and two women currently hold the top mark in the MPSF with 10 total men's marks and nine women's marks ranking among the Top 5 in the league. The conference leader for the men is Jason Lewis, who is No. 1 in the weight throw with a toss of 22.04m. The women are led by Charonda Williams, the leader in the 60m dash (7.33) and the 200m dash (23.49), and Sarah Stevens, the leader in the shot put (17.57m) and the weight throw (21.59m).

This year, five women and five men will return to Seattle to try and defend their crowns, including both 4x400m relays and both shot put titles. Returning champions for the men including Jeff Helmer in the 5,000m run; Joel Phillip, Darryl Elston and Justin Kremer in the 4x400m relay; and Ryan Whiting in the shot put. The returning women's champions include Sarah Stevens in the shot put and weight throw; Charonda Williams in the 200m dash; and Jeavon Benjamin, Shauntel Elcock and Dominique' Maloy in the 4x400m relay.

The shot put has produced an interesting note once again, but this time its in the numbers. In the women's shot put, Sarah Stevens enters the meet with a season-best of 17.57m, which, oddly enough, was the exact winning mark for Stevens in 2008. Similarly in the men's event, Ryan Whiting is entering this weekend's meet with a season-best of 19.71m and, you guessed it, that was Whiting's exact winning mark at the 2007 meet.

Speaking of Whiting, he is the two-time defending champion in the shot put and will be going for his third-consecutive title this weekend, as will several women. The women's team has won the past two MPSF crowns and will try to make it three in a row, just like the women's 4x400m relay after winning the race in 2007 and 2008. Sarah Stevens will be looking for a three-peat as well, but her's will come in two different events (see next note).

In her three-peat bid, Sarah Stevens will add a little twist to it as she will try to win both the shot put and weight throw for the third year in a row. Stevens, who has won the last three shot put titles (2006, 2007 and 2008), won both events in 2007 with MPSF record marks (see next note) before capturing both events last year. In 2008, she won with marks of 17.57m in the shot put and 20.94m in the weight throw.

Four Sun Devils, including two that will compete this weekend, currently hold the MPSF meet record in six different events. On the men's side, Ryan Whiting's winning throw of 21.47m last year is the record for the shot put while Marcus Brunson still holds the 55m record of 6.06 run in 1999. On the women's side, Sarah Stevens holds the records in the shot put (17.72m) and weight throw (21.16m), both set in 2007, while Jacquelyn Johnson holds the pentathlon (4,207 points in 2006) and the long jump (6.50m in 2008) marks.

Five men and five women currently have their names on the NCAA order lists with two men and two women ranking in the scoring positions (Top 8). The women are led by Sarah Stevens, who is the national leader in both the shot put (17.57m) and the weight throw (21.59m), and rising sprint star Charonda Williams, who is fifth in the 200m dash (23.49) and tied for sixth in the 60m dash (7.33). The men are led by Ryan Whiting, who stands second in the shot put (19.71m), and also have Jason Lewis, who is No. 3 in the shot put (19.30m) and No. 4 in the weight (22.04m).

... that Sarah Stevens and Jason Lewis hold an impressive distinction this year as they are the only two throwers that have automatically qualified to compete in the NCAA Championships in both the shot put and the weight throw? In fact, only one other woman this year has automatically qualified in one event and provisionally qualified in another and that is Lauren Groves of Kansas State (auto in weight).

In the latest release of the World Indoor Top 20, six with ties to the Sun Devil program currently find their names on the lists, including Sarah Stevens, who is ranked in both throws. Stevens is currently fourth in the world in the weight throw (21.59m) and is 15th in the shot put (17.57m) while Charonda Williams stands 14th in the 200m dash (23.49). Ryan Whiting is currently tied for 20th in the shot put (19.71m) and Jason Lewis is No. 11 in the weight throw (22.04m) for the men. Former Devils Jessica Pressley (shot put, 17.34m) and Matt Turner (long jump, 8.03m) are ranked 20th and ninth, respectively.

All seven marks that appear on the world list also rank among the Top 8 in the USA, including Turner's long jump mark, which stands as the top jump so far for an American indoors. Lewis stands seventh among Americans in the weight throw while Whiting is eighth in the shot put. On the women's side, Stevens ranks third in the shot put and fourth in the weight among the Americans while Pressley is fifth in the shot put and Williams is eighth (200m).

Eight Sun Devils returned to Flagstaff last Friday night for the NAU Tune-Up with one Sun Devil recording an NCAA provisional mark and another equaling a personal-best. Stephanie Garnett was the lone victorious Sun Devil on the day as she provisionally qualified in the long jump with a mark of 6.23m, up one centimeter from her previous season best. In the women's pole vault, Cara Carpenter again cleared 3.82m to tie her season best and the fifth-best clearance in school history.

For the second time this season, Charonda Williams has broken a school record in the short sprints indoors, this time taking down the 200m mark that had stood for over 17 years. At the Texas A&M Invitational (Feb. 14), Williams ran 23.49 to finish fourth overall in the meet and break the previous school record of 23.50 set in 1991 by Maicel Malone. Two weeks earlier, at the Mountain 'T' Invitational in Flagstaff (Jan. 31), Williams broke the 60m dash record by running a converted 7.33, bettering the previous mark of 7.39.

Five Sun Devils opened their indoor seasons on the weekend of February 13-14 with times/marks that were good enough to qualify them for the NCAA meet. In Seattle at the Husky Classic, four runners earned provisional qualifying status, including two men in the 800m run and two women in the 5,000m run. The men included true freshman Mason McHenry (1:49.71) and sophomore Nectaly Barbosa (1:49.74) while the women included cross country All-Americans Jenna Kingma (16:19.69) and Ali Kielty (16:33.72). In College Station, Ryan Whiting opened his NCAA title defense in the shot put with an NCAA automatic mark of 19.71m (64-08.00).

Along with Whiting's mark in the shot put in Texas, the Sun Devils have automatically qualified one woman and two men to the NCAA Championships will all three coming in the throws. All three have qualified in the shot put, including Sarah Stevens for the women and men's throwers Whiting and Jason Lewis while Stevens and Lewis have also qualified in the weight throw event.

True freshman Mason McHenry made an impressive debut in a Sun Devil uniform in Seattle (Feb. 14) as he clocked a time of 1:49.71 in the 800m run to provisionally qualify for the NCAA Championships in his first collegiate race. His time ranks him 20th in the nation currently and also stands as the second-fastest time run in Sun Devil history.

Right behind McHenry in the 800m run in Seattle was Nectaly Barbosa, who ran 1:49.74, the 21st-best mark in the nation this year. The outdoor All-American in the event entered the season ranked No. 2 in ASU indoor history and even lowered that time, but will have to settle for No. 3 on the list for now with McHenry just 0.03 ahead of him.

The distance duo of Jenna Kingma and Ali Kielty, both of whom were All-Americans in cross country in 2007, placed their names on the national provisional qualifying list in the 5,000m run at the Husky Classic (Feb. 14), ranking 13th and 21st, respectively in the NCAA currently. Kingma ran 16:19.69 and Kielty clocked in at 16:33.72.

In 2008, both track & field and cross country, has seen its student-athletes earn academic honors, both in the conference and nationally. Following the most recent cross country season, Jenna Kingma was selected as the Toyo Tires Pac-10 Student-Athlete of the Year for Women's Cross Country to become the latest highly regarded honoree. Last year, April Kubishta was named the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year for women's track & field after Ryan Whiting (indoor) and Sarah Stevens (outdoor) were selected as the 2008 USTFCCCA Men's Field Scholar-Athlete and Women's Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Arizona State enters the indoor season as the defending national champions as both the men and the women captured titles at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. (March 14-15). The women scored 51 points to win their second crown in a row as LSU took second with 43 points. The men, who won their first indoor crown in program history, edged top-ranked Florida State, 44-41, for the title.

The Sun Devil sweep in Arkansas last March was just the second time in NCAA indoor championship history that the same school won both crowns. The only other school to do so was LSU in 2004. If ASU can win at least one title this indoor season, it will fare better than LSU as the 2005 titles went to Arkansas (men) and Tennessee (women).

Arizona State's women are the two-time defending champions after claiming crowns in the 2007 and 2008 meets. One of only five schools to win back-to-back indoor titles, the Sun Devil women are position to become only the second school to win three in a row or more following LSU's five in a row streak (1993-97) and another three in a row (2002-04) by the Tigers. The only other schools to have won back-to-back crowns were Nebraska (1983-84), Texas (1998-99) and UCLA (2000-01).

Heading into the indoor season, the men will look to defend their crown and, if successful, would become just the fourth school to win back-to-back titles, joining Kansas, UTEP (twice) and Arkansas (three times). The last time the men's champion won in back-to-back years was in 2005 and 2006 when host Arkansas won.

During the 2008 seasons, the Sun Devils combined to win six team championships with four from the women and two from the men. The women won a pair of conference championships, claiming the MPSF (indoor) and Pac-10 (outdoor) while also winning the NCAA Indoor Championships and NCAA Outdoor West Region. The men also won NCAA Indoor Championships and the NCAA Outdoor West Region, their first in both meets.

Last year, Arizona State athletes won seven individual national titles, including three indoors and four outdoors. Of those titles, only two return this year, including Ryan Whiting, the defending indoor shot put champion, and Sarah Stevens, the defending outdoor discus champion. Whiting won his first national title with a heave of 21.53m (71-03.50) to set the NCAA meet and Pac-10 indoor records. Stevens, who won the indoor shot put in 2007, captured her first outdoor title in the discus on her second-to-last throw (184-02) to edge teammate Tai Battle for the crown.

Three Sun Devils that won a combined five national titles last year are not back after graduating from ASU and exhausting their eligibility. Those athletes include 2008 U.S. Olympian Jacquelyn Johnson, Jessica Pressley and Kyle Alcorn. Johnson won her third indoor pentathlon crown with an NCAA indoor and NCAA meet record score of 4,496 points before winning her fourth outdoor heptathlon title. Pressley successfully defended her outdoor shot put crown while also earning All-America honors in the hammer and discus in the same meet. Alcorn was a vital player in the Sun Devil men's success as he won the indoor 3,000m run as the 14th-seeded runner and then captured the outdoor steeplechase.

Three marks recorded at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships by the Sun Devils found a place on the all-time world rankings. Ryan Whiting's toss of 21.53m (71-03.50) in the shot put ranks as the 33rd-best throw in the history of the indoor event. Those 33 marks were recorded by 13 different men with Whiting ranking 13th overall in the world and eighth among men from the United States.

Jacquelyn Johnson also appears on the all-time world rankings list with her 4,496 point-performance in the pentathlon at the NCAA Championships in 2008. Although that score ranks as the 96th-best (tie) all-time in the world, it ranks as the third-best among American women. The scores ahead of Johnson came from DeDee Nathan (4,753 in 1999) and Kym Carter (4,696 in 1995).

The distance medley relay team of Joey Heller, Justin Kremer, Nectaly Barbosa and Kyle Alcorn ran a school-record 9:32.49 and finished as the national runners-up. That time, which ranks 29th all-time on the world lists, sparked the Sun Devil men to the national title.

There are 15 athletes returning for the Sun Devils this year that have earned All-America honors in their ASU careers, including nine women and six men. Those women include Jeavon Benjamin, Shauntel Elcock, Stephanie Garnett, Kari Hardt, Ali Kielty, Jenna Kingma, Dominique' Maloy, Sarah Stevens and Charonda Williams with the men's group comprised of Nectaly Barbosa, Darryl Elston, Joey Heller, Justin Kremer, Joel Phillip and Ryan Whiting.

The 2009 Sun Devil rosters are made up of 96 student-athletes. There are 52 men and 44 women that will compete for the Sun Devils, including 25 men and 23 women that are returning from last year.

Of those 96 athletes on the roster this spring, 48 are new to the program, including 27 men and 21 women. Thirty of the 48 newcomers are freshmen, including 14 women and 16 men that are entering their first collegiate seasons after high school graduation.

Last year, six members of the program were honored with academic accolades from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) as three men and three women were named to the 2008 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII teams. For the men, Justin Kremer and Ryan Whiting both earned first team honors while Jason Lewis was a second team selection. The women saw April Kubishta and Sarah Stevens each earned first team honors while Ali Kielty was a second-team honoree.

Arizona State's women became only the second team in Pac-10 history to win the conference crown three times in a row as the Sun Devils scored 186.5 points, the second-highest total in conference history (189.5 is the record). UCLA, which leads the league with 15 overall titles, had win streak of eight, four and three with the only other program to win multiple titles being Oregon, which won twice in a row. The Sun Devils' three titles also stands as the second-most in Pac-10 history.

For the second year in a row, the Sun Devil men came up short in the team standings as Oregon walked away with the title. The Ducks scored 144.5 points to defend their crown while the Sun Devils took second at 134, just 9.5 points off the leaders one year removed from finishing three points shy of the gold.

While the Sun Devils fell three points shy of UCLA's all-time point total of 189.5 (set in 1997), Arizona State did set a record as it recorded the largest margin of victory in Pac-10 Championships history. The Sun Devils' 69.5 margin over Stanford (186.5-117) is 8.5 points higher than UCLA's 1989 victory over Oregon (161-100) of 61 points. ASU nearly holds the record for lowest margin of victory as its 2.5 point win over Stanford in 2006 (154-151.5) is the second-smallest behind only UCLA's 2001 victory over USC, 155-153 (2.0 points).

The Sun Devils won a total of 12 events at the main portion of the Pac-10 Championships (not including the heptathlon/decathlon from the previous week), six by each gender, with two women and two men each winning two events. For the women, Charonda Williams swept the short sprints by capturing the 100m and 200m dash events while thrower Jessica Pressley doubled in the shot put and discus. On the men's side, Matt Turner won the long jump and the triple jump with Kyle Alcorn won the 3,000m steeplechase and the 5,000m.

The women's team, which is one of only seven programs to win an NCAA indoor title since the association began sponsoring the event in 1983, repeated as national champions, marking just the fifth time in NCAA history that a team has won back-to-back titles. The last to do so was LSU (2002-2003-2004). The other schools to do so were UCLA (2000-2001), LSU (1993-1994-1995-1996-1997) and Nebraska (1983-1984).

The teams and Johnson were not the only champions as two men captured individual titles in remarkable fashion. Ryan Whiting led off by winning the shot put with a huge toss of 71-03.50 (21.73m) to set the collegiate record in the event. In the second-to-last event of the meet, Kyle Alcorn stormed to the front of the pack late in the 3,000m race to capture the national crown and put the Sun Devils in a position to win the team title.

Jacquelyn Johnson and Ryan Whiting both set collegiate records in winning their national crowns over the weekend. Johnson, who entered the meet with a best of 4,312 points in the pentathlon, ended the meet with 4,496 points, breaking the collegiate record of 4,439 points set in 2002 by Austra Skuyte (Kansas State) and bettering the meet mark of 4,412 points scored by Hyleas Fountain (Georgia) in 2004 when she defeated Johnson for the first NCAA pentathlon crown.

While Johnson broke a record that was set a few years ago, Whiting broke the 31 year-old mark of Terry Albritton (Stanford), who threw 70-06.50 (21.50m) in 1977. Whiting, who recorded a toss of 71-03.50 (21.73m) on his final throw of the competition, is now the collegiate, meet and Pac-10 indoor record holder while ranking third all-time on the Pac-10 lists as two marks recorded outdoors are ahead of Whiting.

The Sun Devils might compete in one or two last chance meets next weekend, with athletes traveling to compete at either the Washington Last Chance Meet in Seattle or the Iowa State Last Chance Meet in Ames, Iowa. Both meets will be held on March 7 and will serve as the final day that athletes can record times/marks toward qualifying for the NCAA Championships (March 13-14) in College Station, Texas.