Metcalf talks oval - Part 1 spoke this week with Washington's new track and field coach Greg Metcalf, who was happy to discuss the recent upsurge in interest regarding his squad. This is technically Metcalf's first season as head coach, but he succeeded Orin Richburg last fall and was Richburg's assistant coach for the previous six seasons.

Clearly, the upsurge in interest with track stems in large part from two things - the Dempsey indoor facility and the inclusion of so many football players that have made track a serious part of their off-season regimen. So why have the football guys taken to the oval like a fish to water?

"First of all it starts off with the fact that the football team is recruiting the same types of athletes the track team is recruiting," Metcalf said. "And when I see kids like James Sims and Chris Singleton, who were both freshmen a year ago, and Will Conwell, who was a runner-up in state in high school in the throwing events - these types of kids had a track background.

Add those guys to Shelton Sampson, Roc Alexander, who came in a couple of years ago, and Matt Fountaine - you look at them and you see a lot of football players that were multi-sport athletes in high school.

"With the Dempsey indoor facility, every recruit the football team brings on campus they walk through Husky Stadium and they go through Dempsey and there's a track in both of those places. A lot of those kids want that option. You look at USC's football team. You remember coming to see USC's football team come in and play on a Saturday and they would flash the same stat up every weekend - their best five wide receivers and tailbacks all ran 10.30, 10.40 100 meters. And I love it when that stat comes up there because I know that Coach Neuheisel sees that and speed is very dangerous in the sport of football."

Having more football players involved in track has been a two-way endeavor instigated by Metcalf and whole-heartedly endorsed by Head football coach Rick Neuheisel. "I had been here for six years and I had a relationship with Rick, but last summer when I interviewed for this job, we sat down in August and talked about some stuff and he said that he wants to help," Metcalf said. "He wants this to work for both of us and he wants to help the track program if he can.

What he's done is he's given his kids flexibility. As long as they are taking care of their football responsibilities, being a part of that team, and they are capable of helping us, then he's giving it his blessing. Rick's been very supportive. And he knows that if a guy like Reggie (Williams) can sprint a little faster, that makes him a better wide receiver."

One thing both Metcalf and Neuheisel agreed to early on is that if those football players interested in track really wanted to do it, they would have to really balance their schedule and give both sports their due attention. "These kids are doing it all," Metcalf said. "And last Friday I know that Shelton did mat drills and then came out and ran a 21.18 the next day, so it's scary to think what he might have done if he was completely fresh. But they are all doing mat drills. They do them 8 times a year and I told them all that their first priority is to take care of their football responsibilities and making sure they are checking in.

"We will not let them use this as an out. I'm not going to allow their kids to come out here just because they don't want to do something else. Our kids are out here working hard too and if they think they can come in and not work hard they are grossly misinformed."

Metcalf talked a little bit about how his move toward having more football players on his team differed from that of his predecessor. "Part of it's true in the sense that my relationship with Coach Neuheisel is a little different than what it was with Orin," he said. "Orin was adamant. He wanted kids that were here to be serious about what they were doing and were committed to getting better. And some of the kids we've had out in the past weren't that kind of athlete.

"But look at who we have now - Shelton's a freshman, James Sims was here last year, Chris Singleton was here last year - and those guys are great kids and track is really important to them. But I wouldn't say it's really all that different than it has been in the past, but my relationship with Coach Neuheisel is certainly different than what it was with Orin.

"But he wanted football guys. When I was here running track we had Dana Hall, Orlando McKay, Beno Bryant, Pete Kaligis, Ernie Conwell - they were all on the track team. So it really wasn't all that different, but I think what is getting people's attention is just the sheer number of guys that are out here right now. They are pretty visible guys, but they are great guys and great athletes. And they are helping our track program right now, and in turn I think that's going to help them become better football players. If they can be a little more explosive or run a little faster, that's going to help."

"And shoot, right now, Shelton Sampson provisionally qualified for NCAA indoor championships in the 200 meters in our indoor meet last weekend and James Sims won the triple jump with the 8th best jump in Husky history. Chris Singleton is running two-tenths faster than last year in the 60 meters. Matt Fountaine is getting better. Derrick Johnson is getting better for us every week."

Metcalf also shed some light on the Washington history and connection between football and track. "Don James did this years ago," he said. "He went down to the University of Miami after getting beat in a bowl game that year and he went 'Alright, we need to change how this thing works,' so he flew down to Miami and watches practice, hangs out and sees that we need more team speed.

"And it's even more evident now. You look at the teams that are in the Pac-10 throwing the ball 50 times a game and you need cornerbacks with good foot speed and receivers that can run by them. And we have those guys. And there's a couple of guys they just signed - the kid from Kamiak (Derrick Bradley) who is a great sprinter and the (Cody) Ellis kid from Puyallup who was the state 200 meter champion last year - and a couple of California players too and you can see that Rick is maybe paying a little more attention to what's going on in track."

"They (football coaches) ask us all the time, 'Hey, can you check this kid out, does he really run this fast?", so a lot of it has to do with their attention to speed. You can't put in what the man upstairs left out. They either have speed or they don't."

Part 2 will go into specifics, as Metcalf breaks down each football player that's competing in track, which events they are running, and also for news on Reggie Williams' and Nate Robinson's involvement with the program. Top Stories