Track & Field Season Preview: Sprints/Jumps
Jan. 9, 2012
This is the first in a three-part series previewing the 2011-12 Marquette University men's and women's track and field teams.
The return of NCAA regional participants Tyler O’Brien and Kyle Winter, along with a group of experienced jumpers, sparks a great deal of optimism for the Marquette men’s sprints and jumps group in 2011-12.
“I am pretty excited about our men’s group this year,” fifth year head coach Bert Rogers said. “We are going to be good and deep in a lot of areas and I think we definitely could have our largest regional group in my tenure. We have a lot of folks who have a year of improvement under their belts.”
O’Brien missed qualifying for the NCAA quarterfinal last season by a mere three-hundredths of a second in the 200-meter dash and that, along with a runner-up finish at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships, provides excitement for the coming year.
Back as a team captain in his fifth season at Marquette, O’Brien expects to compete for a BIG EAST Championship and All-America honors. Rogers says last season’s disappointments will only add to the hard work he has put in during his career.
“Tyler is very motivated and he has always been a very hard worker. He brings it every day and the guys really look up to him. He has really developed into a nice leader and grown up during his time here. He is the face of the program at this point,” Rogers said.
O’Brien’s school-record mark of 21.05 seconds in the outdoor 200 at last year’s BIG EAST meet was the fastest time in the conference in 2010-11. He has already bettered his personal record in the indoor event with a time of 21.75 seconds at the Notre Dame Blue & Gold Invitational on Dec. 2.
Winter also had a very impressive end to his second campaign at Marquette, posting a surprise fifth-place finish at the outdoor conference meet in the 800-meter run and qualifying for the West Preliminary Rounds of the NCAA Championship. He and O’Brien have both performed at their best in bigger moments and Rogers sees similarities with another former Golden Eagle who holds the MU record in the indoor 500- and 600-meter runs.
“I’ve coached a few guys who perform their best when the pressure is on, especially Jon Schaffer,” Rogers said. “When I was recruiting Kyle I thought he had that same kind of swagger and similar tools. Kyle got to the point where he thought he should be last year and he should move past that first round of the NCAAs. It was Kyle’s first time at regionals and that taste has served as motivation.”
His time of 1:49.84 at the BIG EAST outdoor meet in 2011 was the No. 3 mark in Marquette history, while the junior also ranks among MU’s top-10 in five other individual events.
“Kyle has become a lot more of an endurance guy, especially this fall and I have been really impressed with the workouts he and Ben (Schmitz) have put together while upping their mileage. Most importantly, he is healthy and ready to begin the new season,” Rogers said.
Winter has already gotten off to a fast start, notching a BIG EAST qualifying mark in his first-ever 1,000-meter run at the Blue & Gold Invitational on Dec.2, finishing in 2:27.08, the fourth-fastest time in MU history.
Ben Schmitz also competed with Winter in that event and recorded a conference-qualifying mark and personal best. Rogers expects strides from Schmitz this season as someone who thrives with more mileage.
“Ben has been looking very strong and is definitely one of the most aerobically-strong guys among those I have coached. He is running close to what some of the cross country guys are running, but he is mostly going to be an 800 and 1,000-guy.”
Sophomore sprinter Connor Stengel suffered through hamstring issues last year, forcing him to redshirt the indoor season and hampering his ability during the outdoor campaign. If he can stay healthy he is someone who could have a breakthrough performance in 2012. Stengel will be joined in by a trio of freshmen, two of whom have made an early impression on Rogers.
“Glenn is another guy who is such a hard worker. As a freshman I don’t think he is going to be tearing up the BIG EAST, but he could be a nice relay leg for us. We have moved Connor, Dan Nierzwicki and those guys into a training group with Tyler and so far things are going well.”
“Marcell was in a lot better shape this Fall than he was last year. He is just a big strong guy and we are working to make him a little more efficient with his technique. In high school he was just able to blow through the lower heights, but now he has to be a little more technically sound.”
Saindon burst onto the scene as a true freshman last year before struggling a bit in the middle of the indoor season, but turned it on for a strong finish to his first campaign. He and Brown have formed a great training duo and appear primed to compete for a spot in the preliminary rounds of the NCAAs. Both began the season with BIG EAST-qualifying marks at the Blue & Gold Invitational on Dec. 2.
Senior James Muehleman returns as MU’s lone competitor in the horizontal jumps, while Brown, KirkmanBey and Saindon will compete there from time to time as well. Muehleman has developed into a steady and reliable conference qualifier as the No. 7 MU athlete all-time in the triple jump.
“James is one of those guys who was a walk-on as a freshman and has improved every year through hard work. You like to have guys like James around because while they might not be your superstars, they will be BIG EAST qualifiers. He can do a lot of different events at dual meets and is good in the locker room.”
While the men’s side posts a great deal of depth and experience, the women’s squad has only five upperclassmen on the roster, but does include constant BIG EAST contributors Chanel Franklin, Stephanie Grant and Lauren Darnall.
Darnall will redshirt the indoor season and look to build upon last year’s stellar performances during the outdoor campaign.
The Hanover, N.H., native started the 2010-11 indoor season off with a bang, shattering the Marquette pole vault record in her first meet. That mark of 12 feet, 8 ¾ inches, broke the old program record by more than six inches and her own personal best by over a foot.
After suffering a wrist injury prior to the outdoor season last year, Darnall should be back in the mix for a spot in the West Preliminary Rounds of the NCAAs.
Sophomore Abby Croft will join Darnall in the pole vault after a record-setting indoor campaign. The Richfield, Wis., native notched a Marquette freshman record at the BIG EAST Indoor Championships with an 11th place finish before also redshirting the outdoor season.
Franklin and Grant return as Marquette’s headliners among the women’s sprint group, where both rank among MU’s all-time best in their respective events. Franklin had a solid indoor season last year, recording the No. 6 mark all-time in the 60-meter dash (7.78 seconds) and the No. 5 mark in the 200 (25.29 seconds).
“Chanel has dealt with some injury issues earlier in this fall but she is really starting to get things back together and is looking like the Chanel of old,” Rogers explained. “She lost a good chunk of the outdoor season last year to a hamstring injury, but is looking really solid and it is coming around for her.”
Grant returns for her senior season along with a group of sophomore women who will compete in the 200- through 500-meter dashes. That group includes Kate Hein, Gretchen Homan and Katie Kemmerer along with senior Jenny Zahn.
Hein set the No. 5 indoor mark in school history in the 500-meter run at the 2011 Meyo Invitational, while Homan also jumped into the fray with the No. 7 all-time mark at the same meet.
Rogers has seen significant strides from those individuals in the offseason and expects that group of sprinters to form potent relays this season.
“I think Katie Kemmerer started coming on strong at the end of last year and we had that strong group with Gretchen leading off, Jenny Zahn second and Kate Hein third with Stephanie as the anchor. That was a pretty good mix. It is going to take somebody running really fast to break that up this year but I look at Katie (Kemmerer) and Krista (McClure) or maybe Katie Tolan, who will be in the 800 mix a little more. Sarah Ball on the distance side can step down and run some of the longer distances as well.
"I felt like they really developed some chemistry last year and they ran one of the fastest 4x400s in 10 years. I hope to make our top mark last year the starting point for this year’s group.”
After one of the most impressive freshman campaigns by a Marquette athlete, Carlye Schuh returns after setting the program record in the outdoor long jump at the Stan Lyons Invitational on April 30. Schuh was successful in whatever event she competed in as a freshman, ranking among MU’s top 10 in the 60-, 100- and 200-meter dashes as well as the long and triple jumps.
“Obviously Carly Schuh had an awesome freshman year in the jumps and is someone who is always going to be a relay leg for us from time to time. Carly is one of those talents who can be very good at whatever she decides to focus on. I think she comes into this year really having a good idea of what her potential is as she has continually raised the bar.”
Rogers also sees Sarah MacCourtney as someone who could make some waves in the BIG EAST as a high jumper. MacCourtney joined the squad midway through her freshman year at Marquette and has continued to improve, currently ranking No. 6 and No. 10 in MU history in the indoor and outdoor events, respectively.