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Sun Devil track and field opens championship season Feb. 22

February 21, 2013

The Arizona State University track and field teams will get the indoor championships season underway this weekend as the squad heads north to compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships beginning Friday, Feb. 22 in Seattle, Wash.  The No. 13 ASU men will be looking to defend their 2012 MPSF title this weekend after winning the event for the first time in school history last year. The men's 131.5 total points last season and 50-point margin of victory were both the highest the meet had seen since the annual event moved to Seattle a decade ago.   On the women's side, the No. 8 Sun Devils will look to improve on last season's fourth-place finish.  Events will begin at noon, PT, Friday and continue beginning at 10:30 a.m. PT on Saturday.  The MPSF Championship features 15 universities comprised of members of the Pac-12, Big West and West Coast Conference.  A total of 27 teams vie for the conference title, 15 on the women's side and 12 on the men's. 


•  The Sun Devil women are currently ranked No. 8 in the nation while the men sit in the No. 13 spot

•  The Sun Devil track team returns four first-team indoor All-Americans (three men, one woman) and three second-team All-Americans (two men, one woman) 

Jordan Clarke enters the season on the Bowerman Preseason Watch List and is the defending NCAA Champion indoors and outdoors in the shot put

• ASU also returns 2012 NCAA Indoor runner-up and school record holder Chris Benard in the triple jump

• The men's team has finished in the top-10 in the NCAA Championships in four of the last five seasons, including an NCAA title in 2008 and a fourth-place performance last season

• The men will open the 2012 season as the defending MPSF Indoor Champions, having claimed their first title in the event last season.

• The ASU women enter the weekend with eight individuals ranked in the top-20 nationally in their respective events and one relay. The men's team have five individuals ranked in the top 13 nationally in their respective events. 


The Sun Devil women's team continued its climb to the top of the rankings, coming in this week at No. 8 in the USTFCCCA Computer Rankings.  It was the highest ranking for the women since 2009, when the women were ranked eighth in the fifth release of the rankings and would go on to finish five at the NCAA Indoor Championships.  The men came in this week in the No. 13 spot, marking the 11th straight computer ranking that the team has found itself in the top-25 nationally. In the West Regional rankings, both Sun Devil teams currently find themselves ranked second behind top-seeded Oregon. 

A LOOK BACK: Mountain T's Invite

The Sun Devil No. 13 men's and No. 12 women's track and field teams won eight events this past Valentine's Day at the NAU Tune-Up. Junior Anna Jelmini smashed her previous indoor best in the shot put with a mark of 17.35m (56-11.25) to win the competition.  The throw was eight inches further than her previous career best of 17.15m (56-03.25), set last year at the NCAA Championships. While she didn't score a personal best this week, Chelsea Cassulo remained unbeaten on the season in the women's weight throw, going a perfect five-for-five in the event this year.

San Diego St. transfer Heather Arseneau set yet another personal best with her fifth-place finish and a mark of 4.05m (13-03.50) in the pole vault.


Over the past 11 years, David Dumble has continued to bring in top talent and build the throws program at Arizona State, which has collected 14 total national titles, including five in the indoor shot put and one in the weight throw.  ASU returns the reigning NCAA Champion in Jordan Clarke in the shot put this season as well as two-time All-AmericanAnna Jelmini in the shot put. In 2013, Arizona State is the only program at the Division I level to have three separate athletes ranked in the top-20 nationally in at least three different throwing events in Jordan Clarke (1st/shot put), Anna Jelmini (5th/shot put) and Chelsea Cassulo (11th, weight throw).


Jordan Clarke is primed to make history this season and could do some that not even ASU legend Ryan Whiting did as he has the chance to win five consecutive NCAA shot put titles by the conclusion of his senior year.  The reigning NCAA Champion indoors and outdoors, Clarke launched the second-best throw in ASU history last season on his final attempt at the NCAA Championship with a career-best throw of 20.86m (68-5¼), giving him not only the title but the best mark by a collegian during the collegiate season. The mark made him the ninth-best American in the event in 2012.  He would go on the defend his title in the shot put outdoors and kicks off the season having won three straight titles between the indoor and outdoor season. Clarke currently leads the nation in the event this season, hosting a throw of 20.59m (67-06.75).  Clarke is on the Bowerman Watch List, awarded to the top male and female track and field student-athletes in the nation each season, and would become just the second individual in NCAA history to win five consecutive NCAA titles should he manage to sweep the indoor and outdoor honors this season. Only Kansas's Karl Salb, who won every shot put title from 1969 to 1971, would have a better a record after winning six titles during his tenure as a Jayhawk.


Junior Anna Jelmini has twice set personal records at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the shot put, each time earning herself an All-American honor.  With two fifth-place finishes to her name indoors, Jelmini will look to challenge for the title again and score at the NCAA Indoor Championships for the third straight season this year. Her mark of 17.15m (56-03.25) was the second-best throw in ASU's indoor history, until she demolished that at the NAU Tune-Up with a new career-best of 17.35m (56-11.25). The mark rocketed Jelmini up to the No. 5 spot in the nation. 


Chelsea Cassulo is fast-becoming one of the best transfer pick-ups in recent history for the Sun Devils as the former UNLV standout has become a tough draw for anyone in the weight throw this season. Cassulo has won all five weight throw events she has competed in this season and will enter the weekend with the nation's 11th-best mark with her career best of 20.84m (68-04.50) set at the Kirby Elite Classic a couple weeks ago. The senior already finds herself ranked third in ASU history in the event and she will be the top seed at the MPSF Championships this weekend. 


Senior Chris Benard set a mark of 16.50m (54-01.75) last season indoors that broke Dwight Phillips' 12-year-old indoor school record in the event and would be good for a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships.  Benard is taking advantage of his fifth year of eligibility, posting the nation's seventh-best triple jump this season with a leap of 16.02m (52-06.75)


Before the 2012 season, head coach Greg Kraft believe that one of the team's dark horses this season could be incoming vaulter Derick Hinch, a transfer from Cuesta College. Hinch went on to take third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, becoming just the second Sun Devil to ever clear 18 feet and doing it twice on the season. Hinch opened up 2013 by vaulting to the No. 2 spot in ASU history with a leap of 5.41m (17-09.00) and he sits only behind Olympian Nick Hyson in both the indoor and outdoor school rankings at this point. He became just the second Sun Devil in indoor history to clear 18 feet indoors behind Hysong with a leap of 5.50. (18-00.50) at the Mountain T's Invitational, a mark that currently ranks eighth in the nation. 


One of the key pieces to the Arizona State women's effort last season was junior Christabel Nettey.  Nettey earned second-team All-American honors in the long jump indoors last season and was a first-team selection outdoors. The senior has been one of the leading forces in helping the women climb to a top-10 ranking nationally, punctuated by her school record setting long jump of 6.54m (21-05.50) at the Kirby Elite Classic - a mark that currently ranks second in the nation. Nettey has also set a new personal best in the 60-meter hurdles this season and will very likely be a player in that event this weekend as well.


Shelby Houlihan introduced herself to the world last season as she became the first student-athlete in Pac-12 history to sweep the cross country and track and field Newcomer of the Year awards. Houlihan clocked the third-fastest indoor 800-meter time in school history and backed it up by setting the school record in the indoor mile twice last season. Houlihan opened 2013 at the Texas A&M Challenge with a blistering time of 2:06.27 at 800m, the second-fastest time in school history indoors in the event but would go on to show that was just child's play at the Husky Classic as she broke one of ASU's longest-standing school records with a time of 2:04.94 – the fastest of any collegian in the field. The mark knocked off Kim Toney's former school record in the event that had held since 1993.


Junior Keia Pinnick earned her first conference title at the MPSF Championships last year and was literally the first student-athlete on the descending order list to not get accepted to the NCAA Championships indoors but went on to be an All-American in the heptathlon outdoors. Not only does Pinnick look like a lock to make it to the NCAA Championships in the indoor pentathlon this season, but she may challenge for the title if her 4,208-point performance at Texas A&M is any indication – a mark that currently ranks second in the nation.  Pinnick blitzed the field in the final with a time of 8.27 at the Lumberjack Challenge in the 60-meter hurdles as well – nearly two whole tenths of a second quicker than the runner-up finisher – and her fifth-fastest time in ASU history could bolster her into position to compete in that event separately from the pentathlon at the NCAA Championships as she she currently ranks 16th in the nation. 


Nick Happe had a career year during his junior campaign, setting three marks that ranked in the top-five on ASU's all-time lists.  Happe continued his tear by becoming just the third athlete in Sun Devil history to go under four minutes in the mile, breaking the 10-year-old school record formerly held by Brandon Strong in a time of 3:58.73, and going on the be a Second Team All-American in the event.  Happe also clocked the third-fastest 5k time in school history at 13:54.51. Happe got the 2012-13 season off to a good start, earning All-Conference and All-Region honors during the cross country season while also being named the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Not only is he getting it done in the classroom, but the senior logged his second indoor school record at the Husky Classic with his time of 7:52.18 at 3,000 meters to finish sixth overall in the event and third in his heat behind two 2012 Olympians. 


Junior Ryan Milus was the definition of consistency in the 60-meter dash last season and saw it come to fruition as he clocked an altitude-adjusted 6.60 time at the Kirby Invitational. That time is the second-fastest returning time in the NCAA this season and the second-best in school history a Milus won his first MPSF title at 60 meters in Seattle and added an point-scoring performance at 200 meters to boot on his way to second-team All-American accolades. Milus has the team's fastest 60m mark thus far this season in 6.69 and is just on the outside looking in at the nation's top 20. 


Junior Bryan McBride continued to make impressive strides in the high jump, matching the school indoor record at the Kirby Invite with a leap of 2.26m (7-5.00) to match Kyle Arney's mark set back in 1979. McBride set personal indoor records three times in 2012 and has improved by just under five inches from his best leap as a freshman.  He ranked third in the nation last season and earned his first All-America award with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. McBride currently finds himself ranked 13th in the nation in the event with a season's best of 2.22m (7-03.25).


Another student-athlete that head coach Greg Kraft was high on entering the season was freshman Cameron Taylor in the hurdles. One of the top prep hurdles out of Arizona, Taylor clocked a time of 7.95 in the 60-meter hurdle at the Kirby Invite, which was good for the second-fastest time in indoor history in the event. He improved upon that mark with a time of 7.89 at this year's Kirby Invite and will be a viable option to score big points for the Sun Devils this weekend. 


Thus far this season, 20 student-athletes in 25 events ASU already has nine newcomers to top-10 lists. Ke'Nya Hardge(60mH), Lauren Rose (60mH), Keia Pinnick (200m), Asiah Gooden (200m), Brianna Tate (400m), Carly Paracholski(800m), Zach Zarda (3,000m), Heather Arseneau (pole vault), Amber Pasternak (pole vault) Chelsea Cassulo (weight throw) and Joe Riccio (weight throw) all placed their stamp in the ASU record books for the first time in that particular event while Gooden (60m), Pinnick (60mH/800m/pentathlon), Nick Happe (3,000m), Christabel Nettey (60mH/long jump), Cameron Taylor (60mH), Anna Jelmini (shot put), Shelby Houlihan (800m), Shaylah Simpson (pole vault), Linda Kuenzi (pole vault) and Derick Hinch (pole vault) have each scored times and marks that improved upon their already-held placements on the top 10 lists.