Marquette Track & Field Season Preview: Throwers
Jan. 5, 2011
MILWAUKEE - The Marquette University men's and women's track and field squad will turn to a talented but relatively inexperienced group of throwers in 2011 after losing program stalwarts Jeff Kluge and Rachel Thiel to graduation. Kluge and Thiel both qualified for the West Preliminary Round of the 2010 NCAA Championships in the hammer throw and shot put, respectively, and were mainstays in the BIG EAST Championships over the course of their careers in Blue and Gold.
Although the group is young, associate head coach Mike Koenning sees a lot of talent and potential in this year's team.
The loss of Kluge is a big one for the Golden Eagles after the four-year letterwinner capped his career with a fifth-place finish (56.49 meters) in that hammer throw at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships to qualify for the NCAA regional. Kluge ended his career second in school history in the hammer throw and ranked sixth in the discus. The Monona, Wis., native also ended his career second in the weight throw and 10th in the indoor shot put.
The men also lose Eric Matuszewski to graduation, a BIG EAST qualifier in 2010 in the weight and hammer throw and both the indoor and outdoor shot put.
Kohut, a senior, is the Golden Eagles' top returning thrower in the shot put, having notched a 10th-place finish at the indoor conference meet and the top MU mark during the outdoor season of 51 feet, 1/4 inch at the Marquette Twilight on April 24.
"Joe is stronger and healthier than he has ever been at Marquette and is ready for a breakout year," Koenning said. "It is the longest injury-free stretch of his career and he should be able to excel in the shot put."
In addition to the shot put, Kohut has developed as a leader among not only the throws group and the track and field squads, but of the athletic department as a whole, currently serving as the president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
"Joe has a passion for the team and has grown through the years and it is fitting that he is our team captain. Hopefully we will get to see the result of all his hard work this year," said Koenning.
The most experienced MU thrower, in addition to Kohut, is redshirt junior Jon Kusowski, who redshirted during the 2010 outdoor season and will do this same during this indoor campaign. Kusowski is third all-time in the weight throw but will have to wait until next season for a shot at the NCAAs in that event. He will look to improve upon his personal best in the hammer throw of 169 feet, 7 inches during the outdoor season, the eighth-best mark at MU.
"Jon has improved a lot through training since competing indoors last year and has the potential to finish very high in the hammer throw come outdoor season," Koenning said.
Another redshirt junior in Robert Bleem will participate in the shot put and weight throw during the indoor season and focus on the shot along with the discus outdoors. Bleem currently ranks ninth at MU in the discus with a mark of 161 feet, 3 inches, recorded on May 14, 2010 at the Cardinal Twilight.
"Rob reached a personal best in the discus in his last meet of the outdoor season and has had a great fall of training to potentially earn All-BIG EAST honors," said Koenning. "After completing his first season in the weight throw last year, the transition called for more strength and he matured physically and appears ready to take advantage."
Bleem has fought through various injuries during the course of his career, as has junior David Carbajal, who will join Bleem in the weight throw along with the discus and shot put outdoors. Carbajal will focus mainly on the weight throw during the indoor season as an offseason knee injury has limited his ability to practice the shot put.
Sophomore Patrick Stuart will redshirt during the indoor season and focus on the hammer throw and shot put during his first outdoor season at Marquette.
Freshman Bret Hardin is one of the biggest incoming recruits to ever throw at MU and will provide valuable depth in the weight and hammer throws. Hardin notched the eighth-best mark in the 25-pound weight throw in all of high school last year, while placing third in the 2010 Nike Indoor Championships and sixth at the NSIC High School National Championships. He was also named a Junior Olympics All-American.
"Bret's biggest transition this year is making that jump from the 25-pound weight throw to the collegiate 35-pound version," Koenning said. "He has a great feel for the hammer throw and is a quick athlete despite his smaller stature. I am expecting big things from Bret once he adjusts physically."
Hardin will look to make the U.S. Junior National Team at the conclusion of his freshman campaign with a top-three finish at the U.S. Junior Championships, and compete during the summer at the 2011 Pan-American Games.
*BIG EAST competitions
The women will look to replace Thiel and Kelley Corcoran, a BIG EAST qualifier herself in the weight and hammer throw, with senior Jamie Roth and three freshmen. Roth will compete in the weight throw during the indoor season and holds the eighth-best MU mark in the hammer throw. She recorded that mark of 169 feet, 2 inches in the hammer throw at the dual meet with Milwaukee to win the event on April 2, 2010.
"Jamie Roth redshirted the 2010 indoor season and has had great training over the summer and fall in the hammer throw," Koenning said. "Learning the hammer really takes time and she is turning the corner and separating herself from everyone else in the event."
The only returners in addition to Roth are javelin throwers Catherine Benage and Lauren Benjamin. Benage was selected as a captain on the women's squad and ranks third in school history in the event, behind Benjamin at No. 2.
"Catherine is the most experienced of all our returning throwers and as a team captain she has continued to improve. I expect a breakout performance from her and that both she and Lauren will challenge the school record," Koenning said.
Freshmen Kathryn Koeck, Kristen Gaffey and Kirsten Walker all join the Golden Eagles for their first seasons at MU and will look to provide some depth behind Roth. Koeck, a native of Winneconne, Wis., set school and conference records in both the shot put and discus at Winneconne High School, while Gaffey finished third in the 2010 Iowa 2A outdoor state meet as a senior at Regina High School (Iowa City, Iowa).
"Of the three freshman, Gaffey and Koeck had similar PRs in high school so it will be interesting to see how they come along. Kirsten Walker is in the mix as well, but she does not have a lot of experience."
The trio of freshman will use most of the indoor season to adjust to collegiate meets before Koenning expects them to fully grasp their roles.
"It is hard to predict how they will treat their first indoor season but we will use it as a springboard to the outdoor season. They have to adjust to the different environment with the goal of making the BIG EAST meet and gaining experience to start their careers. We have a really solid group in their first year of training and that should show once they get to the outdoor season."
*BIG EAST competitions
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