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Track & Field sweeps Lumberjack Team Challenge

January 14, 2013

Entering the weekend, Arizona State University head track and field coach Greg Kraft said that the team would approach the 2013 season opener more as a test of the squad’s early season fitness than anything else.

If Saturday’s competition at the Lumberjack Team Challenge was any indication, the team fitness level is just fine as the men and women swept the competition, despite not competing with a full team on Jan. 12 in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Senior Jordan Clarke laid down the hammer in his first shot put competition of the year, letting the country know he will be the guy to beat as the season goes on. The Bowerman Watch list member and defending NCAA champ indoors and outdoors in the event, Clarke launched three throws over 20 meters on the day with a best of 20.59m (67-06.75) to handle the competition.

It was the second-best throw of Clarke’s life behind only his 2012 indoor championship mark of 20.86m (68-05.25) and tentatively puts him about two meters ahead of anyone else in the country in the event after this weekend of competition. 

Senior Chris Benard opened the 2013 campaign with a sweep of the triple and long jump events in Flagstaff, winning by over three feet with a jump of 15.89m (52-01.75) in the triple before squeaking out a one centimeter win with a mark of 7.41m (24-03-.75) in the long jump.

In the men’s pole vault, junior Derick Hinch picked up where he left off following last year’s outdoor campaign with a new indoor career-best clearance of 5.41m (17-09.00) and the second-best indoor jump in ASU history behind only Olympic gold medalist Nick Hysong’s best of 5.67m (18-07.25).

A relatively tame day in the men’s sprints saw Ryan Milus take the 60-meter victory with an altitude-adjusted time of 6.75 while Devan Spann made his Sun Devil debut with a third-place, 6.79 second performance.

Joe Riccio returned from his redshirt season to open up 2013 with a victory in the men’s weight throw with a toss of 18.33 (60-01.75), good for the seventh best mark in ASU history in the event. 

Despite not running the distance team and only about half the sprints squad, the No. 6 ASU men racked up 150.50 points as they soundly defeated runner-up No. 21 Northern Arizona – who finished with 107.

For the ASU women, there was plenty to smile about in the sprints and hurdles. 

Leading up to the weekend, Kraft praised Asiah Gooden as being one of the team’s most improved student-athletes and she proved worthy of the praise, clocking a time of 7.44 to win the 60-meter dash event.  The mark was good for fourth in ASU’s history in the event.

In the women’s 60-meter hurdles, multi-event standout Keia Pinnick blitzed the field in the final with a time of 8.27 – nearly two whole tenths of a second quicker than the runner-up finisher.

It was a career-best for Pinnick as she became ASU’s fifth-fastest runner in the event in school history.  Christabel Nettey also had a strong run in the competition with a time of 8.53 – just off her career-best – for a third-place run. 

The women’s 4x400-meter relay squad of Pinnick, Alycia Herring, Sarah Geren and Brianna Tate smashed the field on their way to a 10-second victory a top-10 mark nationally in 3:41.27.

Tate also won the 400-meter dash in 54.82 second in a mark that would also place her tentatively in the top 10 early in the season.

In the field events, Nettey showcased her dual talents as she took the long jump crown with a leap of 5.93m (19-05.50) to defeat her teammate, Pinnick, who finished with a jump of 5.77m (18-11.25).

Anna Jelmini took second after losing the tiebreaker to Arizona’s Alyssa Hasslen in the shot but, but opened with a strong mark of 16.65m (54-07.50) in her runner-up finish. 

Chelsea Cassulo finally got to showcase her talents after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and wasted little time showing them off as she posted a winning mark of 18.90m (62-00.25) to win the women’s weight throw and post the fifth-best mark in ASU history in the process.

The Sun Devils women scored 129.50 points, also without their distance team, and knocked off runner-up Grand Canyon, who finished with 117 points.

ASU will have the next weekend off before returning to action for the first true test of the 2013 season at the Texas A&M Challenge in College Station, Texas on Jan. 25-26.