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Trio of meets awaits Sun Devil track & field this week

January 31, 2008

TEMPE, Ariz. - The second week of the 2008 indoor season for the Arizona State University track and field program will take place in three different locations this weekend with meets slated for Flagstaff, Ariz., Seattle, Wash., and Boise, Idaho. The majority of Sun Devils competing this weekend will travel to Flagstaff for the Mountain 'T' Invitational on Friday and Saturday with a small group of competitors heading to Seattle for the Washington Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The final meet on the schedule is the United Heritage Invitational in Boise.

Last weekend, one Sun Devil earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Indoor Championships as April Kubishta cleared 4.20m (13-09.25) to win the pole vault at the Friday Night Challenge in Flagstaff. Her clearance is currently tied with one other athlete for the top mark in the nation so far this season.

While Kubishta is guaranteed of her berth into the national meet, five other Sun Devils recorded marks that provisionally qualify them for the NCAA Championships. Jacquelyn Johnson cleared a personal-best 1.83m (6-00.00) to win the high jump while Matt Turner won the men's high jump with a mark of 2.14m (7-00.25). Jason Lewis provisionally qualified in the shot put with his toss of 17.96m (58-11.25) while sprinters Joel Phillip (47.06) and Jimmie Gordon (47.17) each qualified in the 400m dash.

According the latest update of the NCAA Order Lists (January 31), five of the six qualifying marks earned by Sun Devils last weekend rank among the Top 8 nationally, including April Kubishta, who is tied for No. 1 in the women's pole vault while Jacquelyn Johnson is ranked fifth in the high jump. On the men's side, Joel Phillip is sixth in the 400m dash while both Jimmie Gordon (400m) and Jason Lewis (shot put) are eighth in their respective events. Matt Turner is tied for No. 11 in the high jump.

Three marks recorded by Sun Devils at the Friday Night Challenge last weekend also found their way onto the all-time Top 5 list at ASU with a pair of marks coming in the high jump. Matt Turner's clearance of 2.14m (7-00.25) ranks fifth all-time and is just the sixth mark of 7-feet or better recorded indoors at ASU. Jacquelyn Johnson became the fifth woman to clear 6-feet in the high jump and the first since 1996 with her mark of 1.83m, which ties for fourth all-time. Alana Waterford cleared 3.81m (12-06.00) in the pole vault to move into fourth on the list while becoming just the fifth woman to clear 12-feet in competition.

A trio of Sun Devils won two events at the Friday Night Challenge, including Dominique' Maloy, Jacquelyn Johnson and Jason Lewis. Maloy, running in her first collegiate races, captured the 60m dash and 200m dash while Johnson won the 60m hurdles and the high jump. Lewis, a sophomore, won the men's shot put and weight throw.

Six others won individual events in Flagstaff last weekend, including Jeavon Benjamin (400m dash) and April Kubishta (pole vault) for the women and men's athletes Calvin Abram (200m dash), Joe Fazio (pole vault), Joel Phillip (400m dash) and Matt Turner (high jump).

The national rankings this season will be calculated not by votes, but by points accumulated based upon where individuals rank on the NCAA descending order lists. While the women were ranked No. 2 last week and the men No. 19 (all based upon returning athletes on the 2007 order lists), the latest rankings have the women ranked 21st and the men 19th following their first week of competition in which they fielded a very small portion of their roster.

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).

While several Sun Devils won national titles at the collegiate level last year, one former Sun Devil nearly captured a U.S. championship of her own recently as Desiree Davila placed second at the 2008 USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston on January 13. Davila, an All-American once in cross country and once in the outdoor 10,000m run, was in seventh place at the eight-mile mark before passing runners to finish second in 1:12.10. Another former Sun Devil, Brianna Torres, also competed in the race, finishing 24th overall (1:17.07).

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.

A pair of meets await the Sun Devils on the road next weekend with competitions in Idaho and Arizona on the slate. Athletes will compete in either the Bronco Invitational in Boise, Idaho, or return to Flagstaff for the NAU Team Challenge. The Bronco meet will be February 8-9 with the NAU meet taking place on February 9.