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Track & field opens outdoor season at home this week

March 19, 2009

The outdoor track and field season will get underway this weekend as Arizona State University will play host to the Baldy Castillo Invitational on Friday and Saturday on Joe Selleh Track at Sun Angel Stadium in Tempe. Eleven NCAA Division I teams will be represented this weekend in Tempe with the hammer competition leading things off on Friday at 1 p.m. with Saturday's action starting with the discus at 10 a.m. and the women's 100m hurdles leading off the running events at 5:30 p.m.

On Saturday, January 31, Sun Devil coaching legend Senon 'Baldy' Castillo, the namesake of this weekend's meet, passed away at his home in Phoenix. Castillo, who celebrated his 90th birthday on Jan. 19, led the Sun Devil track & field program for 29 years (1949-82) and guided the men to the 1977 NCAA Outdoor Championship, the only team title won by the men's program until the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championship. In all, Castillo guided 10 NCAA individual champions, 34 All-Americans and 24 Olympians that collected 13 medals, including eight gold. His 4x400m relay of Mike Barrick, Ron Freeman, Ulis Williams and Henry Carr ran 3:04.5 in 1963, a world-record at the time. For all of his success, Castillo was inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame in 2000 and also is a member of the ASU Hall of Distinction.

Several nationally recognized programs lead the way for teams in the field this weekend, including several that scored at the NCAA Indoor Championships last weekend in College Station, Texas. Among the teams entered that scored at the indoor meet are Arizona State (men t-5th, women 5th), BYU (women 3rd, men t-41st), Kentucky (men, 19th), Louisville (women, t-22nd), Minnesota (men, 12th), Nebraska (men, t-5th), North Dakota State (women, t-56th) and New Mexico (men, t-16th). Other schools also sending athletes to the meet include Dickinson State, GateWay CC, Manhattan, Mesa CC, Northern Arizona, Paradise Valley CC and South Dakota.

Along with the highly regarded teams come a large group of returning individual national champions and All-America honorees. Some of the returning standouts from the 2008 outdoor season that are in the field include Kentucky's Rashaud Scott, the discus champion; former Sun Devil champions Jessica Pressley in the shot put and Jacquelyn Johnson in the heptathlon (she will compete in three events this weekend) and national runners-up Tai Battle in the discus and New Mexico's Katie Coronado in the javelin. Several individuals that earned All-America honors last weekend at the indoor championships also will be on hand this weekend, including D'Ana McCarty of Louisville, the women's weight throw champion, Rondel Sorrillo of Kentucky (third at 200m and fifth at 60m), Kirkland Thornton of Nebraska (fourth in the 60m hurdles), Aaron Studt of Minnesota (shot put runner-up) and Chase Madison of Kentucky (sixth in the shot put). Many of the Sun Devils that competed at the indoor meet last weekend will take the weekend off this week.

Last weekend, the 2009 indoor season came to a close for the Sun Devils as eight members of the team traveled to College Station, Texas, for the NCAA Indoor Championships and returned to Tempe with a pair of fifth-place team finishes and 12 total All-America honors. Jason Lewis (weight throw) and Ryan Whiting (shot put) each won national titles to pace the three men while Charonda Williams earned All-America honors in three events to lead the five women at the meet.

All three men and all five women that competed in the NCAA Indoor Championships over the weekend earned All-America honors with three athletes earning multiple awards. Jason Lewis was the lone man to earn multiple honors as he finished first in the weight throw and fourth in the shot put while Sarah Stevens earned honors in the same women's events with finishes of fourth and second, respectively. Charonda Williams led the way, though, as she was an individual All-American in the 60m dash (sixth) and 200m dash (third) before joining Dominique' Maloy, Shauntel Elcock and Jeavon Benjamin to place second in the 4x400m relay. The final All-American was true freshman Mason McHenry in the men's 800m run, where he placed ninth overall and was the eighth American to finish.

Heading into the NCAA Championships, Jason Lewis, who came to the program as a walk on, had not earned an All-America honor. But that all changed last weekend as Lewis not only earned two All-America honors, he placed among the Top 4 in both events and captured the weight throw national title with a three-foot personal-best throw. Ranked No. 4 in both events heading into the meet, Lewis opened the Championships by finishing fourth in the shot put with a toss of 19.17m (62-10.75) to earn his first national honor. The next day, however, he topped that performance with a school and facility record and three-foot personal best toss of 22.88m (75-00.75) in the weight throw to capture the national title.

Ryan Whiting broke his own facility record to win the shot put and successfully defend the crown he won last year as he recorded a winning mark of 20.16m (66-10.75) to take the shot put by almost three feet. With his back-to-back crowns in the event, Whiting became the ninth man in NCAA indoor history to win the shot put twice in a career and became the first back-to-back winner since Carl Myerscough of Nebraska in 2002-03.

The Arizona State throws program made a big name for itself once again at the national meet as Assistant Coach David Dumble's three throwers combined for two national titles, one national runner-up and five All-America honors in the only two throwing events available. Along with the three Top 3 placements, the other two finishes remained among the Top 4 as well. On the men's side, the 25 points earned tied the team for fifth-place, just four points shy of finishing tied for fourth and earning a trophy.

Charonda Williams had an outstanding meet for the Sun Devil women at the NCAA Indoor Championships as the sprint standout earned three All-America honors while recording two school records as well. Last year, Williams qualified only in the 200m dash and did not advance out of the preliminary round. This year, she was the eighth qualifier for the national meet and advanced to the final with the sixth-best time in the field at a then-school record 23.23. In the finals later that night, she crushed that time down to 22.89, the fourth-best in the world this year, to take third overall. Then, in the finals of the 60m dash, she advanced to the finals with the sixth-best time of 7.30 (school record) after entering the meet ranked 12th. In the finals, she finished sixth to earn her second All-America honor. In the final event of the meet, she ran the second leg of the 4x400m relay, helping the team to a time of 3:34.30 to finish as the national runners-up.

In her previous six trips to the NCAA Championships (three indoor and three outdoor), Sarah Stevens had collected one indoor shot put crown, one outdoor discus crown and a school record-tying 10 career All-America honors. Over the weekend, Stevens competed in both throws and took national runner-up honors in the shot put for the second year in a row one day after taking fourth in the weight throw to give her a school record 11th and 12th All-America honor. And, to top all of that, she accepted a marriage proposal at the end of the meet from her boyfriend, Ross.

The Sun Devils return to action at home next weekend as they will play host to the ASU Invitational. Some of the teams scheduled to compete in Tempe include: Air Force, Colorado State, Dartmouth, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas State, Nebraska, Northern Arizona, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, St. Louis, Texas A&M, UC Riverside and Utah.