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Track & field signing class

February 04, 2010

The Arizona State University track and field program has added seven high school standouts to its program, Director of Track & Field Greg Kraft announced today. In all, six athletes signed National Letters of Intent to join the Sun Devil track & field program while one other student-athlete signed with the Sun Devil football team and will also compete on the track.

“The initial signing has been primarily focused on the women’s team,” Kraft said. “Obviously, we have had some great success over the past four years, but have been hit by graduation and to replace those athletes has taken two recruiting cycles. Track and Field News ranked last year’s recruiting class third in the country headlined by Anna Jelmini, but we really needed to back that up with another solid recruiting class, which I feel we have done.”

The initial signing class of 2010 is comprised of four women, including Asiah Gooden (Perris, Calif./Rancho Verde HS), Alex Hartig (Great Bend, Kan./Great Bend HS), Alycia Herring (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde HS) and Shaylah Simpson (Phoenix, Ariz./Desert Vista HS) and two men, including Ryan Healy  (Corte Madera, Calif./Redwood HS) and William Henry (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison HS). The seventh signee is Kyle Middlebrooks (Fountain Valley, Calif./Fountain Valley HS), who signed his NLI with the football program, but will also compete in track for ASU.

“Our sprint team has continued to grow under Coach Kenny McDaniel,” Kraft said. “We really need additional bodies, which we feel we have addressed with Asiah Gooden, who is one of the top returning 100m runners in the country, and the addition of her teammate, Alycia Herring, who really brings a multiple skill set as a Top 20 returner in the 100m and 200m and a Top 10 returner in the long jump. Herring also has had some excellent 53-point relay carries in the 4x400m, so that really solidifies our sprint team next year as all the female sprinters we have this year will be back next year. This year, we are really rebuilding and next year, we will make some significant progress back toward Pac-10 and national team honors.”

Both Gooden and Herring will join the women’s sprints group with Herring also jumping for the Sun Devils after both women complete their time together as teammates at Rancho Verde HS where they have run as the fourth and third leg of the 4x100m relay, respectively. Gooden placed seventh in the 100m dash at the California state meet as a junior and helped the relay to a fourth-place showing as well. She recorded a personal-best time of 11.58 in the 100m dash last year to rank 14th overall in the nation and ninth-best among athletes returning this year. Gooden also has recorded a best time of 24.44 in the 200m dash, which ranks as the 10th-best all-time in Riverside County.

Herring qualified and competed in a trio of events at the 2009 California state meet where she finished fifth in the long jump, ninth in the 200m dash and fourth with the 4x100m relay. The 2009 Press-Enterprise Track Athlete of the Year as well as the 2009 Riverside County Female Track Athlete of the Year, Herring holds personal-best times of 11.79 in the 100m dash and 23.68 in the 200m dash, which currently rank her 11th and second, respectively, on the county’s all-time record lists. Her beset of 20-0.75 in the long jump stands as the third-best in the county while her 56.41 time in the 400m dash stands as the 13th-best all-time in the county.

“We also added two field event athletes for the women,” Kraft said. “Shaylah Simpson is one of the Top 10 pole vaulters in the country returning this year. We think that she will be able to come in and have an immediate impact for us and add to the talented pole vault athletes we currently have on the team.

“Alex Hartig is typical of the type of athletes we have recruited that have had success with our women’s team,” Kraft continued. “Whether you look at Jacquelyn Johnson, April Kubishta, Amy Hastings, Kelly MacDonald and others, we have had an excellent run of recruiting athletes and Alex is that type of athlete. She is a Top 10 returning discus thrower, she is 6-feet tall, she has a 23-inch vertical, she is an outstanding volleyball and basketball star and just an outstanding all-around athlete. She reminds Coach Dumble a lot of Julia Pedersen, who was a big athlete that has a lot of upside and she threw 55-feet [shot put] and 180-feet [discus] for us, so that is an excellent comparison when you look at Alex.”

Hartig will come to Tempe looking to build upon a highly successful prep career in which she was one of Great Bend High School’s top all-around student-athletes that included volleyball, basketball and track & field. A five-time state champion in the throws, Hartig is the three-time defending champion in the shot put and has won the past two shot put titles after placing second as a freshman when she helped the 4x400m relay to a fourth-place finish in the state meet. She carriers personal-best marks of 151-6 in the discus, 45-03.75 in the shot put and 124-10 in the javelin. An all-state selection in volleyball and basketball, Hartig ranks among the Top 10-percent in her class academically.

Simpson, a local product from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, is the defending state champion in the pole vault as she won the crown with a personal-best clearance of 12-09.75. That mark ranked as the 11th-best mark in the nation last year and is the seventh-best coming back this season. The event winner in nine of the 12 meets she entered as a junior, Simpson is a two-time 5A-I Central Region champion (2008, 2009) and has finished as the runner-up at a pair of competitive meets, including the 2008 USATF Junior Nationals and the 2009 Great Southwest. The fourth-place finisher at the 2009 U.S. World Youth Trials, Simpson finished third in the state as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore with current Sun Devil Cara Carpenter winning both years.

“Recruiting for the men is so different than the women,” Kraft said. “For one, it is less scholarships to go around. There also seems to be more depth when it comes to recruiting men. We are pleased where we are right now. We signed one of the top returning quarter-milers in William Henry out of Ohio, who we feel will come in and give us instant impact, particularly on our long relay and in the quarter. We have every belief William will run in the mid-46s this year and that is quite an accomplishment.”

Henry has been a part of history during his three years with Trotwood-Madison High School as he has anchored the 4x400m relay team to a trio of state championships with the past two winning relays combining to break the state record. As a sophomore, he helped the team run 3:13.46 to break the old mark (3:13.57) before coming back last year to run 3:13.32 to lower the mark. Henry also has placed among the Top 5 in the state in the 400m dash twice as he placed third as a sophomore and fourth last year as a junior. He enters the season with a personal-best time of 47.21 in the 400m dash, which is the fifth-best time returning this season. Henry’s versatility also has seen him run 21.70 in the 200m dash and 1:53.53 in the 800m run.

“Ryan Healy is an athlete that has run 49.78 in the quarter and high jumped 6-foot-6 and we told him to keep an open mind because we are not sure what his best event could be,” Kraft said. “Right now, with that combination, we feel he might be a great 400m hurdler for us.”

Healy, like Hartig, has found success in a pair of sports as he has excelled on the track and on the hardwood with the Redwood High School basketball team as a starting guard. Coached by former Sun Devil sprinter Luiz Mello, Healy clocked a personal-best time of 47.98 last year at the North Coast Masters meet to not only qualify for the state meet by winning the race, but also break a 29 year-old Marin County record. The previous record of 48.00 was run in 1980 before Healy rewrote the books in the event. That time also ranks among the Top 30 returning marks this season.

“We had another addition that we feel will help us and that Coach McDaniel and Coach Ronnie Williams were involved with and that is Kyle Middlebrooks, who signed with football,” Kraft said. “He is the California state runner-up in the 100m and he is a guy we feel can come in and contribute right away on our 4x100m relay with guys like Milus, Battle, Stokes and that group. That was one of the reasons we are again looking to bring in another long sprinter: the flexibility that our relationship with football and the signing of Middlebrooks gives to our program.”

Signed to an NLI by the Sun Devil football program to play wide receiver and running back, Middlebrooks is regarded as one of the fastest athletes in the state of California as he holds personal-best times of 10.48 in the 100m dash and 21.54 in the 200m dash. Averaging just over 1,000 yards per season in his three-year football career at Fountain Valley High School, which also saw him score 47 career touchdowns (42 rushing, five receiving), Middlebrooks was the state runner-up at 100m as a junior, running 10.57 in the finals after running 10.54 in the preliminary rounds for his best two wind-legal marks. He clocked both of his overall personal-best marks of 10.48 and 21.54 to win both events at the Orange County Championships and also added 100m titles in the Southern Section Division Championships and the Southern Section Masters Championships.

“We also have two additions to this recruiting class that come to us through a different route from our regular recruiting which include men’s sprinter Kelsey Caesar and women’s distance runner Alyssa Allison,” Kraft said. “Kelsey Caesar ran 20.63 (200m) and 45.90 (400m) last year in the junior college ranks and qualified for the USA Championships. He is sitting out right now at ASU, but will be eligible to compete next year and have two seasons with us. When you pair him with Henry and Healy, we really have a nice foundation of a long sprint group because our short sprint group will be back in entirety next year.

“The second significant addition to the team is women’s distance runner Alyssa Allison, who transferred in from the University of Arkansas after the cross country season,” Kraft said. “She has been here a short time, but we know she is what we need as she brings multiple skill sets to the mid-distance, distance and cross country program.”

Despite her short time with the program so far, Allison has already contributed as she helped the women’s distance medley relay team of Kari Hardt, Jasmine Chaney and Anna Sperry finish third at the Washington Invitational in 11:31.50, just missing the qualifying mark for the NCAA Championships. That time also stands as the fourth-fastest in school history.

While the Sun Devils have added seven athletes via the National Letter of Intent signings and two more through other avenues, the process is not over yet for Coach Kraft and his staff.

“We always continue to recruit and are looking to add another long sprinter from the high school ranks and that is what we are currently working on,” Kraft said. “In the field events, we are looking at a variety of candidates. You can’t replace a Ryan Whiting and Jason Lewis; you can’t replace national champions with high school athletes, but we are working to find athletes to bring in and work with to get them to compete at the highest level. The distance group also is working to add some athletes and we feel good about the mid-distance group we have in place now, but Coach Louie Quintana is continuing to evaluate and look to add individuals that can help us be successful, particularly in cross country in the fall. Overall, we are excited about the talented group that we have already signed are continuing our efforts to bring more athletes that will help us improve each year and reach our goals in the conference and national championships.”

2010 National Letters of Intent
Women’s Track & Field
Asiah Gooden (Perris, Calif./Rancho Verde HS) - sprints
Alex Hartig (Great Bend, Kan/Great Bend HS) - throws
Alycia Herring (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde HS) - sprints/jumps
Shaylah Simpson (Phoenix, Ariz./Desert Vista HS) - pole vault

Men’s Track & Field
Ryan Healy (Corte Madera, Calif./Redwood HS) - sprints/jumps
William Henry (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison HS) - sprints
Kyle Middlebrooks (Fountain Valley, Calif./Fountain Valley HS) - sprints/football