NCAA Women's Preview

Few coaches are capable of turning around programs that have had limited success. Greg Kraft started the South Carolina program 18 years ago and turned it into a competitive squad in the tough SEC. After seven years he moved to ASU. Over his eleven years at ASU he turned a struggling and controversial ASU program into a national powerhouse that culminated in three straight trophy finishes.

This trophy run started with 2005 fourth place finish in cross county, third at last years indoor and a fourth at the outdoor NCAAs. Injuries derailed the cross country team last year but the team responded with the fourth trophy in five years by getting an indoor team title. It takes vision, hard work, and a plan to consistently finish at a high level.

Greg Kraft of Arizona State has that plan. He finds athletes that have focus and just need time to develop. He and his assistants turned basketball players into national champion steeplers (Kelly Strong). He sees what works and his hired people that fit into his system or a system that he wants to develop. His distance coach, Louie Quintana, was a product of the famed middle and long distance school Villanova. His throws coach used to throw for the continuously successful UCLA throws program (David Dumble). Last year he hired former Olympic champion Dan O'Brien to coach the multi-events. He also has had great success in the jumps. He has coached two Olympic champions, Dwight Phillips in the long jump in 2004 and Kenny Harrison in the triple jump in 1996 (he was Kansas State's jumps coach).

The trio of throwers led by Sarah Stevens that Arizona State has brought to the NCAA meet should score plenty of points (ala UCLA teams of the past). Sarah Stevens is the national leader in the shot put and discus throw and is ranked fifth in the hammer throw after getting a personal record at the West Regional. Her teammate, Jessica Pressley, will join her in the three non-spear events. Jessica upset Sarah in the shot put at the West Regional and is ranked second nationally. She was sixth in the Discus last year and was ninth in the 2005 hammer throw. Junior college transfer Tai Battle will try to pr and get some points in the Discus and Hammer throw. It would be safe to estimate 30 points for just the throws.

Four time NCAA multi-events champ Jacquelyn Johnson, ranked sixth, is still recovering from December ankle surgery but should be in peak form for the NCAA meet. Nine-time all-American Amy Hastings will try to finish her career on a high note and improve on her fourth place finish last year in the 10,000 meters. The senior, a runner-up in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the pac-10 meet is favored to finish in the top three at this meet. She won the 2005 NCAA indoor championship and this winter held the NCAA indoor 5k record (oversized track) for a short time. Former junior college champ, Latosha Wallace, has limited her focus to the 400 hurdles for this meet and pr'd at the West regional by over one second compared to last year to rank fifth coming into this meet.

Perenial favorite LSU has had injury issues to it's sprint corps but will bring three competitors to the 100, two to the 200, three in the 100 hurdles, one in the 400 hurdles, and two to the 400 that should be very competitive. Texas A&M will have the same in the 100, 400, and hurdle events, and three in the 200. Both team's relays will contest for titles in the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays. Competitors for both teams in the high jump, long jump and triple jump will also add points. In this large group for both teams can put together enough points one or the other can topple Arizona State for the team race. Unfortunately Shalonda Solomon, an Olympic team contender in the 100 and 200, of South Carolina was lost for the season at the regional meet and drowned the Gamecocks chance at an NCAA title.

Senior years can bring out significant personal records for athletes as they realize it is now or never. Talented Ebonie Floyd of Houston is an example of that. She has had limited success on the national level even though she has had some great times. This year she pr'd in the 100 and the 200 at the Midwest Region and will have the fastest times going into the championship meet. NCAA 100 leader Kerron Stewart of Auburn decided to only run the 200 (ranked second) at the NCAA meet after winning both the short and long sprint at the NCAA indoor meet. The 400 meters has blossoming junior Natasha Hastings of South Carolina (indoor Collegiate Record and third all-time outdoors) going against defending national champion Clora Williams of Texas A&M and Big Ten rivals Kineke Alexander of Iowa and Shana Cox of Penn State.

The 800 will face an injured Rebekkah Noble of Oregon against 2006 US fourth placer Alysia Johnson of Cal and national leader Katie Erdman of Michigan. Noble's former Washington high school rival Sophomore Brie Felnagle of North Carolina against veteran Ariana Lambie, fourth at this years indoor meet, and Nicole Edwards of Michigan.

The steeplechase should be one of the best events of the meet. 2006 national champion Jennifer Barringer of Colorado is favored for third this year even though she had an eight second pr at the Midwest region meet. The two favorites, Anna Willard of Michigan and Lindsey Anderson of Weber State, won three events at their conference meets. Lindsey Anderson set the in-season collegiate record of 9:39.95 and two weeks ago won the West region meet. Anna Willard won three events at the Big 10 meet against stiff competition and looks to improve on her sixth place performance at last year's meet while she was at Brown University. In the 5,000 and 10,000 meters Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech is the (in-season) outdoor collegiate record holder in both events. Indoors she followed up her cross country championship by winning both the 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters. Molly Huddle of Notre Dame will give chase in the 5,000 meters and Aine Hoban of Providence and Amy Hastings of ASU will try to give chase in the 10,000 meters.

Defending champion Destinee Hooker of Texas will be challenged by former NCAA champion Sharon Day of CPSLO, NCAA runner-up Lavern Spencer of Georgia, and Kayleen Wagner of Kansas State. In the pole vault pac-10 competitors Gabriella Duclos of Arizona and April Kubishta of Arizona State will receive stiff competition from NCAA indoor champion Elouise Rudy of Montana State and sophmore Bryson Stately of Nebraska. In the Long Jump UCLA's Rhonda Watkins, the 2006 world junior champion, is a solid favorite ahead of a number of competitors in the 21 foot range. In the Triple Jump Erika McLain, 2005 US champion, became number five all time on the US list at the Pac-10 meet and won't have any competition with a foot.

Sarah Stevens could win both the Shot Put and Discus this year. She won the indoor title. Her only loss to a collegian in the Shot Put has been to her teammate Jessica Pressley. Stevens will have to beat defending Discus champ Dace Raskule of Nebraska to have a chance at the double. In the hammer, dual citizen (US and Argentina) Jenny Dahlgren of Georgia will face off against the World record holder in the weight throw and second all-time in the US hammer and collegiate list, Brittany Riley of Southern Illinois. In the Javelin Rachel Yurkovich of Oregon, fifth all-time collegiately, is a strong favorite to win over Erma-Jean Evans of UTEP who is just a little over a meter behind Yurkovich this year. In the heptathlon, Pac-10 champion and meet and conference record holder, Pac-10 champion (meet and conference record holder, third all-time collegiately) Diana Pickler will try to repeat her feat from the Pac-10 meet and defeat four-time NCAA multi-events champion Jacquelyn Johnson. But as they say, it all happens on the track because the statistics don't matter.

NCAA (W) Preview

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