2009-10 Track & Field Ready For Challenges
Jan. 13, 2010
MILWAUKEE - The Marquette men's and women's track and field squads dive fully into the indoor season Saturday morning at the Badger Quadrangular in Madison, Wis. The program heads into this season with big expectations for a talented senior class and underclassmen looking to make their respective marks at MU.
Tyler O'Brien returns in 2009 as the squad's top sprinter. The Connecticut native set the Marquette school record in the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes in his first collegiate meet in 2007 and will look for more of the same as a junior. O'Brien will focus more on the 400 meters this season, while Randey Fisher and Antonio Jones will look to close out their MU careers in a positive fashion.
"Tyler definitely has been the most successful at the BIG EAST level, but so far this fall I have been impressed with Randey Fisher and Michael O'Brien," head coach Bert Rogers said. "Those three guys have been looking really solid."
Michael O'Brien is back for the Golden Eagles in the hurdles and will look to improve his standing on Marquette's top 10 list in those events. Jay Emmer also returns for his final season in Milwaukee and Mike McCarthy brings experience to the group as well.
Of the newcomers, the biggest splash is expected to come from freshman Kyle Winter of Kettle Moraine High School. Winter excelled in a few national meets and Rogers expects Winter to be an important part of the longer sprinting group.
"Kyle Winter has really been looking good in workouts and we will see how he does. Ben Schmitz, Mike McCarthy, those guys are in a nice training group. They are mostly 800-meter-type guys and are having a great fall. We will see how it translates over, but we have a lot of depth in the sprint group."
Although fairly young, the middle distance group has the chance to do some special things. Assistant coach Mike Nelson concedes the complete results might not show for a year or two, but the Golden Eagles do have a bright future.
"I think we are going to be very, very strong," Nelson said. "I don't know that some of these young guys are ready to take on our school records, but within the years to come, they will take down some of those marks. It's just a matter of giving them enough shots to do it."
Junior Peter Bolgert is the lone upperclassman in the group and after redshirting the indoor season last year, will look to get back to the form he showed as a freshman. During his freshman campaign, Bolgert took sixth at the U.S. Junior National Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
A returning group of sophomores will bolster the middle distance group this season for the Golden Eagles. Blake Johnson performed well in 2008-09 as a freshman, but Nelson would like to see him run longer distances in 2009-10.
"We will have Blake concentrate a little more on the 5k this year. I would love to see him do a steeplechase-5k double at the conference meet."
A sophomore whom Nelson believes has made the most of his off-season training is Dominick Rosario.
"Dominick Rosario is a guy who has made huge strides in cross country and that endurance is really going to help him. I see him qualifying for the conference meet in the mile."
"Jack Hackett will be a strong force for us from the 800 all the way into the 5k, although I think the mile is his best event. He is a very focused athlete and when he is on, he is pretty darn good," said Nelson.
"Evan Ross is a guy who has the talent to break some school records. If he can stay healthy, just about anything is possible from him. I am really excited about watching him this season and into the future. If he doesn't get close to four minutes or under in the mile by the time he is a senior, I would be surprised."
The distance group loses two program stalwarts in Scott Mueller and Kyle Saginus and will look to upperclassmen Brice Cleland and Nick Szczech to provide leadership. Cleland is in his fourth year with the program, while Szczech is in his third.
Cleland and Szczech each rank on MU's top-10 list in both indoor and outdoor 5,000-meter runs and will attempt to move up in the 10,000 meters during the outdoor season.
"Brice is pure distance and I wish they had an indoor 10k for him. We are going to get him qualified for the 5k indoors and the 10k outdoors. Nick Szczech can do some pretty special things if he is healthy and ready to go."
Patrick Keeley competed last season in the U.S. Junior Nationals in the 5,000 meters and should improve this season. As should fellow sophomore Keith Schueller, who along with Keeley continued his development in cross country.
"Spencer Agnew is going to run the steeplechase, 5k and 10k for us. As a freshman he will have the opportunity to qualify for the U.S. Junior Nationals after having done so last year as well. I am really looking forward to watching him run the steeplechase."
"Shawn McLarney has been having the best fall he has had since he got here," Rogers said. "He started out as a multi-event athlete and after injury issues, scaled back and focused on being a sprinter and long jumper. Hopefully he can be a little bit of a surprise for the men's team."
Freshman Cheldon Brown was a 6-foot, 10-inch high jumper in high school and his natural ability should be on display at MU from day one.
"Cheldon, in terms of raw talent, is the best incoming jumper that I have seen here," Rogers said. "He has got some springs which are pretty impressive. Right now we are working on the technical aspects of things. We will see how this indoor season goes, but I would expect that he is going to be jumping pretty high."
The lone student-athlete in the pole vault this season is freshman Ron Vick.
The throws group for the men is one of the more veteran-laden squads for the Golden Eagles.
Senior Jeff Kluge is back for his third season as a team captain and will lead the group once again in 2009-10. Kluge has etched his name in the Marquette record book, holding top-10 positions in the discus, shot put and weight throw.
Associate head coach Mike Koenning believes that the Golden Eagles poised to make the biggest jumps are Kluge and junior Jonathan Kusowski.
"Jon has been steadily improving and he is set to make a jump this year. The same with Jeff, it looks like he will have a big senior year."
Robert Bleem, the MU freshman record holder in the javelin will focus on the other throwing events after having worked himself back from injury. Bleem will have sophomore eligibility remaining outdoors after sitting out the 2008-09 campaign.
"Rob Bleem has matured a lot," Koenning said. "He will be a scorer in the discus and he is learning the hammer after a couple javelin injuries. He is a very good athlete and he should be able to pick up any event."
Fifth-year senior Eric Matsuzewski and Joe Kohut have both gotten a lot stronger over the past year and should be able to score points at the BIG EAST Championships.
Two freshmen join the women's sprinting group in 2009-10 and both should make an immediate impact. Ri'ana Johnson and Chanel Franklin, along with Jessica Person, who has four years of eligibility remaining, are all local products looking to make their marks.
"During fall testing Ri'anna was our most explosive athlete," head coach Bert Rogers said.
"In the short sprints group, Chanel Franklin ran very fast in high school last year and is looking really smooth. Jessica Person was out last year with a knee injury and will be a solid contributor in the sprints as well."
Katlin Millin and Sarah Verdoliva return in the long sprints, looking to improve their spots in the MU record book. Verdoliva recorded the fastest time in school history in the indoor 800 meters at the Alex Wilson Invitational last year and should have a chance to better that mark. Millin has been battling off-season injuries, but ranks among the top-10 performers all-time at MU in seven different events.
"Katlin has been a rock for us the past few years, while Sarah has dealt with injury issues. Sarah is finally healthy and she has been able to do all the workouts and is looking fantastic."
Injury issues also affected Alyssa Stevens last season, but the junior still has two years of eligibility remaining and has impressed Rogers in the offseason.
A veteran group returns in the throwing events, but will be hurt by the graduation of Jessica Ehlen, who left Marquette second in school history in both the weight and hammer throws.
A fully healthy Rachel Thiel should offset the loss of Ehlen as the senior looks to improve upon her school record in the outdoor shot put and move up from fourth place in the indoor event.
"Rachel Thiel is a potential indoor and outdoor national meet qualifier. She will have a chance to throw at the U.S. Indoor Nationals in February if she throws far enough," Koenning said.
Also competing during the indoor season will be Kelley Corcoran, who ranks among the top-10 in both the hammer and weight throws.
"Indoor it will only be Kelley Corcoran and Rachel Thiel, who is fully healthy this year and it looks like she should be in for a big year. Kelley will be throwing the hammer, not focusing so much on the shot put."
Outdoor, Jamie Roth will come off a redshirt after finishing ninth in the BIG EAST meet a year ago in the hammer throw.
In the javelin, sophomore Lauren Benjamin, who competed at the U.S. Junior Nationals in 2009, returns as the top thrower in that event, holding down the second place in MU history with a distance of 133-7. Catherine Benage and Audra Ketelsen round out the top four spots in school history and should be in for a good year as well.
With all the experience back in the throwing group, Koenning believes the group could possibly provide some big results for the Golden Eagles.
"With five seniors in their last year it will be very exciting to lock it in a little bit and go out with a bang."
James tied the indoor school record in the high jump at 5-9.25 at the Alex Wilson Invitational and moved into second place in MU history during the outdoor season. James also dealt with health issues last offseason but should be ready to improve her marks this year.
"Erynn was out all summer and fall last year and it was around this time that she really started training," Rogers said. "She is way ahead of the game and has been looking really good in practice."
Redshirt senior Carrie Schmid did not compete for the Golden Eagles last year but is ready to go after breaking the school pole vault records as a junior. The former walk-on holds the indoor record at 12-1.5 and the outdoor record at 12-7.5.
"The goal for Erynn and Carrie is to provisionally qualify for indoor nationals and hopefully qualify fully."
Alyssa Davis holds the third spot on the MU list in both the indoor and outdoor triple jump and should continue to improve as a junior.
A solid group returns in the middle distance events, led by senior Jayne Grebinski, who has been successful in just about every event she has tried at Marquette.
After setting the school record in the outdoor 5,000-meter run in 2008, Grebinski and assistant coach Mike Nelson agreed that she would give the steeplechase a shot.
In her first race last season, Grebinski recorded the second fastest time in MU history and qualified for the NCAA Regionals in the event.
This season Nelson would like to see Grebinski reach a couple of other personal bests and qualify for the regionals.
"The priority for Jayne is to make the regional down in Austin, Texas in the steeplechase, athough I think she could do it in 5,000 meters too." Nelson explained. "She had a better cross country season and seems more focused than she was last year. I think she will walk away with a time significantly under 10:30 in the steeplechase."
Olivia Johnson spent some time adjusting to competition at the NCAA Division I level last year but recorded the fourth-best time in school history in the 1,000 meters at the BIG EAST Indoor Championships. Johnson also ranks 10th indoors in the 800 meters at MU.
"Olivia is really strong in the 800 and mile," Nelson said. "One of the things we have worked on with her is getting stronger and faster. If she does that she could be the school-record holder in the 800."
Arenberg, who joins the squad from the Marquette women's soccer program, was able to help the Golden Eagles greatly during the cross country season.
A strong veteran presence will lead the MU distance group in 2009-10. Amanda Beggs, Maureen Keane and Anna Weber are all entering their fourth season with the program and Nelson believes that a different approach will lead to improved results.
"We have taken a different approach with our women's long distance runners. We are not necessarily trying to reach marks but build a base and endurance for the outdoor season," Nelson said.
Weber will redshirt during the indoor season and will look to move up the record book in the outdoor 10,000 meters, where she currently ranks ninth in school history.
Laurie Dalrymple will have a full year at MU under her belt after transferring in from Tulane before last year and should improve with the increased training.
"If Laurie is standing on the line healthy in the BIG EAST outdoor 10,000 meters, she and Anna can be a factor in that race."