SEASON OUTLOOK: Experienced Eagles Return Eight Past Big Sky Conference Champions

Eastern returns 40 letter winners and is particularly strong in both the jumps and throws

The Eastern Washington University track and field teams are hoping a long list of previous champions will help provide the depth and experience needed for the Eagles to finish high at the Big Sky Conference Championships in the 2010 season.

The Eagles, who are particularly strong in both the jumps and throws, return two indoor Big Sky Conference champions and six outdoor winners from previous seasons. Eastern has back a total of 40 letter winners, including 17 women and 23 men.

Both the men's and women's teams are looking to improve on last year's Big Sky finishes. The men had their best-ever indoor finish by placing third and the women were seventh. Outdoors, the men were fifth and the women were eighth. This year's indoor championships will take place in Bozeman, Mont., on Feb. 26-27 and the outdoor meet will be in Ogden, Utah, on May 12-16.

"We think we are going to be as good or maybe better than we were last year," said head men's coach Stan Kerr. "We think our depth is better and this is the first time in some time that we return for the outdoor campaign five reigning conference champions."

"We are expecting to be in the top five," said head women's coach Marcia Mecklenburg. "We have a shot at scoring more points than we ever have at the conference championships. We have some of the best quality athletes that we have ever had on the team."

The Eagles return two-time defending outdoor javelin champion Aaron Mettler, who had a career-best throw at the BSC meet in 2009 with a mark of 219-8. The junior went on to finish 10th at the NCAA West Regionals with a throw of 202-5.

"Aaron is looking at becoming a four-peat," said Kerr. "He is well on his way. He will do the weight throw indoors to keep into that competitive circle."

Eastern returns sophomore Michelle Coombs, who will look to defend her title in the javelin. She had a career- best throw of 161-3 as a freshman to set a new meet record. She went on to finish sixth at the NCAA West Regionals and 25th at the NCAA Championships.

"Michelle as a freshman did really well and hopefully with a year under her belt she will do even better," said Mecklenburg. "We are hoping she will take it to the next level and hopefully score at the national championships. But she needs to take care of her job first and that would be defending her title at the Big Sky Conference Championships."

Joining Mettler and Coombs are defending Big Sky indoor champions David Howard and Adam Stewart, and defending outdoor champions Stephen Praast, Nicole Luckenbach and the women's 4x100 team.

Howard won the shot put with a throw of 57-4 3/4, which ranks him third in school history.

Stewart won the high jump indoors with a mark of 6-8 1/4 as a sophomore, then placed eighth outdoors. Praast finished third indoors but won the outdoor high jump with a mark of 6-8 3/4. 

"It will be an interesting battle with Adam and Stephen," added Kerr.

Luckenbach broke her own school record in the hammer with a career-best mark of 191-11 to win the conference championship. She went on to finish 14th at the NCAA West Regionals.

"Nicole has been training really hard and has some pretty high goals for this year," said Mecklenburg. "Defending her title would be the No. 1 thing she needs to get done. Beyond that she wants to make it to the national championships and score there. That is within her realm of possibility this year and we think she can do it."

The women's 4x100 team won the conference championship with a time of 46.27 to rank third in school history. Returners from that team include Shene Davis, Krystal Deyo and Brianna Okoro. Two athletes looking to fill the fourth leg of the team are Sarah Frey and Whitney Leavitt.

"Frey and Leavitt are going to be vying for a spot on that relay, said Mecklenburg. "We think that team will be even better than they were last year."

The eighth BSC champion is Chad Butorac, who won the 400 meters with a time of 47.19 in 2007. He went on to finish seventh at the NCAA West Regionals with a time of 48.47.

Other men's individual scorers (finished in the top eight) returning for the 2009-10 season are Armand Hopkins, Kurt Williams, Alex Smyth, Ben Cogdill, Brad Wall, Kersee Lind, Levi Knudson, Paul Limpf and Armand Blackwell.

Women's Big Sky Conference placers back include Mari Bingham, Erica Chaney, Alex McNairy, Sarah Frey, Chelsi Friese, Emily Jacobsen and Ashley Stabl.



Men's Season Outlook


The Eagles have depth in the throws, returning two-time defending javelin champion Aaron Mettler, indoor shot put champion David Howard and senior Brody Faire.

Faire finished eighth indoors in the shot put with a throw of 50-1 1/4. He redshirted the outdoor season.

"Brody has been a consistent qualifier in the throws for us," said Kerr.  He is looking to make a great concluding statement at the indoor and outdoor championships."

A newcomer is Marlyn Anderson, who won both the discus and shot put at the 2009 WIAA State 4A Championships. Anderson's father, Bruce Anderson, is Eastern's current school record holder in the shot put with a mark of 60-10 1/2 set in 1983.

"Marlyn is an outstanding thrower," added Kerr. "He has a pretty steep learning curve switching from the 12-pound to the 16-pound ball. He comes in ready to train hard. One of Marlyn's goals is to call his dad and say, ‘dad, I just beat your record.'"

Adding depth to the throws are Jonathan Buchanan, Jacob Wilson and Zack Nielsen.


Jumps/Pole Vault

Eastern is particularly strong in the high jump, returning outdoor champion Stephen Praast and indoor champion Adam Stewart. Also returning are Ben Cogdill, Armand Hopkins, Levi Knudson and Kurt Williams.

Praast won the high jump outdoors with a mark of 6-8 3/4, while Stewart won indoors with a mark of 6-8 1/4.

"You can't tie in the high jump for first place," said Kerr. "You have to have a jump off. Ideally we would like to see a first-place tie because they both are good friends and they love to compete well. We wouldn't be surprised to see them switch and have Stephen win indoors and Adam win outdoors this year."

Cogdill finished fifth in the pole vault with a mark of 15-7 at the 2009 conference championships.

"Ben comes back very focused," added Kerr. "He battled some nagging injuries last year but is ready to go this year. We think he is ready to light it up this year."

Williams, Knudson and Hopkins finished fifth, sixth and ninth, respectively, in the triple jump at the Big Sky Conference Championships. Williams had a mark of 46-3 1/2, Knudson had a jump of 46-2 and Hopkins had an effort of 44-0 3/4.

"All three of those athletes can score in the triple jump," said Kerr. "They are very experienced and seasoned competitors. They are looking to continue a nice tradition in the jumps that they started last year by performing well at the championships."

Other Eagles adding depth in the jumps/pole vault are Gabe Chavez, Cody Fishel and Efrain Sanchez.


Sprints and Hurdles

Kyle Ulrey finished fourth at the indoor championships in the 400 with a time of 48.71. Teammate Brad Wall finished sixth with a time of 48.94, then finished fourth outdoors with a time of 48.31.

"Kyle is coming back off of some foot problems and has put in an outstanding fall," said Kerr. "We are still waiting for the final approval for his injury redshirt year but we think we will get that for the outdoor season."

"We would not be surprised to see Brad become the conference champion in the 400," said Kerr. "He has such a great range."

Armand Blackwell finished seventh outdoors in the 110 hurdles with a time of 15.16. 

"Armand comes back and we are moving him exclusively into the short hurdles," said Kerr. "He is very excited. His technical training and mental training is really geared to take care of business in the 110 hurdles."

Chad Butorac finished fourth at the 2008 Big Sky Outdoor Championships in the 400 meters with a time of 47.66, then redshirted the 2009 season. Butorac was the 2007 BSC outdoor champion in the 400 meters.

"Chad has a full indoor and outdoor season left, is a senior and has worked hard," said Kerr. "He had a great fall in the weight room and on the track."

Other hurdlers on the team include returner Derek Clemmons and newcomer Steven Warner.

Other sprinters include Daniel Hill, Josh Jones, Nick Mundell, Zach Robinson and Aaron Taylor.



The Eagles return top distance runners Paul Limpf, Kyle King and Alex Smyth.

Besides their accomplishments on the track, all three have competed in cross country. In 2007, both Limpf (fourth place) and Smyth (sixth place) earned all-conference honors by finishing in the top 10 at the Big Sky Conference Championships. King was 15th in 2007 and 18th in 2008.

Limpf finished seventh at the indoor championships in the 3,000 with a time of 8:45.94. At the outdoor championships, he finished eighth in the 5,000 meters with a time of 15:00.41 and third in the 10,000 meters with a time of 30:53.95. In 2007, he finished 73rd at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

"Paul is at the end of a stellar career for us," said Kerr. "We are looking for him to continue to put together stellar performances on the track indoors and outdoors. We know he was chomping at the bit a little bit during cross country because he was out of eligibility. For the indoor and outdoor campaigns, we know he is more than ready to go."

As a freshman, King finished 14th in the 5,000 meters outdoors with a time of 15:53.00 and 12th in the 10,000 meters with a time of 32:26.72. 

"Kyle knows how to anticipate what's coming now," said Kerr. "That is a huge competitive piece of information to work with, versus going into something so unknown as a freshman. He knows about indoor racing and the physicalness of those events and mentally what he has to do to be ready."

Smyth finished seventh in the mile at the indoor championships with a time of 4:26.95. Outdoors, he was third in the 1,500 meters with a time of 3:51.24.

"Alex is a very talented runner," said Kerr. "He knows the scope of this conference and the quality of the distance runners. He is one of our elite distance runners in the conference."

Other Eagles adding depth to the distance team include Jordan Curnutt, Peter Gilbert, Simon Sorenson, Graham Vaux, Cody Barton, Cody Bradwell and Bowe Ebding.



The Eagles return Kersee Lind in the heptathlon indoors and decathlon outdoors. He finished sixth indoors at the BSC Championships with 4,774 points.

"Kersee is going to break the school record in the heptathlon indoors," added Kerr. "He is really starting to come together."

Other Eagles adding depth in the decathlon are Tim Armstrong, Gregory Barnes and Brandon Lattin.



Women's Season Outlook


Returning is Michelle Coombs, who finished 25th at the NCAA Championships after winning the Big Sky javelin title. Nicole Luckenbach won the conference hammer title with a mark of 191-11 and finished 14th at the NCAA West Regionals.

Mari Bingham finished 8th in the discus with a mark of 137-4 and 13th in the shot put with a throw of 41-11 1/2 at the conference championships.

"Mari is back and with two years of college throwing under her belt," said Mecklenburg. "We think her confidence has improved and that will show this year. We think she is going to do a lot better in both those events."

Emily Jacobsen finished seventh indoors at the conference championships in the weight throw with a mark of 54-2 1/2. She finished 13th outdoors in the hammer with a throw of 143-4.

"Emily was a surprise scorer last year for us in the weight throw," added Mecklenburg. "We think that she is going to do well again and hopefully keep her going outdoors so she will help out in the hammer."

Runner-up in 2008 in the shot put is Erica Chaney, who had a throw of 48-10 1/4 at the indoor conference championships. She was also ninth in the weight throw with a mark of 51-9 3/4 at the indoor championships.

 Other Eagles adding depth to the throws include Ashley Coffey, Emilee Deishl, Jasmine Stray, Vania Tauvela, Taylor Walker and Ana Zapien.


Jumps/Pole Vault

Eastern's top performances in the jumps and pole vault include Shene Davis, Krystal Deyo, Brianna Okoro and Chelsi Friese.

Davis finished eighth in the triple jump at the outdoor conference championships with a jump of 39-1 1/2 and was eighth in the long jump with a mark of 18-3 3/4.

"Shene's time has come," said Mecklenburg. "She is doing really well. Triple jump is her passionate event and that is where her love is, and we think this will be her break-out year in that event. We think that she is going to do well. She has been a great contributor to the program and will continue to help us out."

Deyo set a new school record in the long jump with a leap of 19-2 3/4 to finish fourth at the indoor championships. Outdoors, she finished ninth in the long jump with a mark of 18-3.

"We consider Krystal as our point person," said Mecklenburg. "She has the ability to score a lot of points for us and is looking stronger than she has ever looked. This is going to be a great year for Krystal and hopefully she will continue to improve in the long jump and score high there in addition to the 100."

Okoro finished fourth indoors in the high jump with a mark of 5-4 1/2 at the conference championships. Outdoors, she finished sixth in the high jump (5-3) and 14th in the long jump (17-5 1/2).

 "We have moved Brianna out of the multis this year and into the sprints and jumps," said Mecklenburg. "She came in as a very strong sprinter and hopefully we can get her going in the 100 and 200. Her continued improvement in the high jump and long jump will really help the program."

Friese finished second indoors at the conference championships in the pole vault with a mark of 12-11 1/2. She no-heighted at the outdoor championships and at the NCAA West Regionals.

"Chelsi is one of our quality athletes who we feel will score high for us," said Mecklenburg. "She has the ability to score high this year and this could be the year she wins it. That will be great for her."

Joining the Eagles is Liz Cobb, who won the long jump at the 2009 WIAA State 1A Championships with a mark of 17-6 1/4. She was also fifth in the triple jump with a mark of 34-10 1/2.

Other Eagles adding depth in the jumps/pole vault are Christy Borders, Allysen Halsen, Elise Jepsen, Taymussa Miller, Kaelin Price, Jennifer Wamsley, Leah Willard, Chloe Hall, Mackenzie Hall, Rachel Jordan, Colleen Meas and Katie Sime.


Sprints and Hurdles

Krystal Deyo broke Eastern's school record indoors in the 60 meters at the Big Sky Conference Championships as she finished second with a time of 7.55. Deyo was part of the women's 4x100 team, which won the outdoor championship with a time of 46.27. Other returning members of that team include Shene Davis and Brianna Okoro.

Sarah Frey finished 11th in the 400 meters with a time of 57.62 at the Big Sky Conference Indoor Championships. She redshirted the outdoor season.

"Sarah is returning as a fifth-year senior for us," said Mecklenburg. "That extra year of working on the 400 hurdles is really going to be to her benefit and with that it will be our benefit. She is gung ho and ready to go."

Ashely Stabl finished fifth in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:02.69.

"Ashley scored for us as a freshman in the 400 hurdles," said Mecklenburg. "That is very difficult to do in the Big Sky. We know she is going to want to improve on how she did last year. She has been working hard - we think it will pay off and she will score higher."

The Eagles add Whitney Leavitt, who is a four-time state track champion in both the 100 meters and the 200 meters.

"Whitney is hopefully our secret weapon," said Mecklenburg. "We don't know how much of a secret she really is, but a lot of people haven't seen her perform on the college scene to this point. After indoors the rest of the conference will be aware of Whitney. She is the youth of our sprint crew."

Other Eagle hurdlers include Christy Borders, Allysen Halsen, Kaelin Price and Katie Sime.

Other sprinters include Kanisha Calcote, Kristin Felderman, Alex McNairy, Gale Nelson and Morgan O'Friel.



Stephanie Dye leads the women's distance team after finishing 44th at the Big Sky Conference Cross Country Championships. Following her was Brittney Williams in 56th and Ari Rios in 59th.

"Our distance crew is young," said Mecklenburg. "They are going to gain a lot of experience this year and we know cross country has helped them out with experience. We really feel like the leader of that group is Brittney Williams and her positive attitude has really helped that program and that crew grow and mature. It will be great to see how they do indoors and outdoors."

Other Eagles adding depth to the distance crew are Sarah Alvick, April Axtell, Hannah Chertok, Jessi Johnson, Laruen Matthews, Karen Owens, Amanda Weaver, and Kelly Downey.

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