Wednesday, February 26, 2014

LSC Scoop Exclusive Preview - LSC Indoor Track & Field Championships

The Lone Star Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships will take place March 1 & 2 in Lubbock, Texas at Texas Tech University.

For the top times so far this season, heat sheets and Live Results (once the meet has started) go to the  Official Link

Coming into the meet, LSC teams are ranked:
Angelo State - 12th nationally, 6th SC Region
West Texas A&M - 31st nationally, 4th SC Region
Texas A&M-Kingsville - 50th nationally, 7th SC Region
Eastern New Mexico - 86th nationally, 16th SC Region
Texas A&M-Commerce - 89th nationally, 15th SC Region
Tarleton State - 13th SC Region

Texas A&M-Kingsville - 12th nationally, 7th SC Region
West Texas A&M - 33rd nationally, 5th SC Region
Eastern New Mexico - 53rd nationally, 12th SC Region
Texas A&M-Commerce - 57th nationally, 6th SC Region
Tarleton State - 60th nationally, 8th SC Region

And now, for an exclusive look into the teams competing, our LSC Track & Field guru, Don Garrett.  Don has been involved in the LSC track scene for a long time, and he will be the announcer at this weekend's meet.  If you get a chance, tell him Hello and thank him for his excellent work.


LSC Indoor Track and Field Championships
2014 Predictions

Like last year, Great American Conference member Harding University is an affiliate member of the LSC for track and field, both indoor and outdoor, as the GAC does not field enough track teams to host a championship. This year, Heartland Conference member McMurry will also be an affiliate member, as the HC does not host a track championship meet. This might be the only year for McM to do this, as they drop down to D-III this coming season. The McMurry team of 2-3 years ago might have contended for the title, but they are still a good enough team to make an impact in this meet.

Even more important, the LSC was able to convince both TAMU-Commerce and Tarleton to field indoor teams this year. Both teams are “on the rise” and this championship should be highly competitive. With 7 men’s teams – for some reason, Angelo does not run their men indoors and Midwestern does not have a men’s team at all – and 9 women’s teams, the meet will be scored for 8 places (only 6 places were scored in 2013). The teams with the most depth will be rewarded as never before.

I will look at the teams in their predicted order, looking at their approximate point range and some of their key performers, starting as any gentleman should, with the women.

1.  West Texas A&M – a very deep team that could potentially score in every single event of the meet. Excellent sprinters and hurdlers, solid distance runners, strong jumpers, and one of the best throwers in the conference. Their only weak event may well be the pole vault. I see them scoring in the 155-165 point range, which should be plenty enough to win it all. Key performers include:
·         Sprinters Bri Leeper (60, 200); Jasmine Pitts (60, 200), and Biance Farrington
·         Middle distance runners Rhemecka Graham (400, 800) and Mireia Guarner (800-1500)
·         Distance runners Haley Sparks (mile, 3K) and Emma Love (3K, 5K)
·         An outstanding group of hurdlers in Sharon Kwarula, Rachel King and Trianna McAllister (who is also a terrific jumper, both LJ and TJ)
·         Pentathletes Libby Strickland (also a strong contender to win both the HJ and the LJ) and Sarah Climer (also a solid high jumper)
·         One of the best throwers in the LSC in Casey Nelson (SP, WT)
·         Malika Ouedrago will be part of one the premier events of the meet – when she competes with Angelo’s Kearah Danville in the triple jump. They are the 2 highest ranked D-II triple jumpers in the nation. And, last year, the only person to beat Kearah at indoor nationals was Amanda Ouedrago, ACU’s former national champion in the event and the older sister of Malika

2. TAMU-Kingsville – a solid team in 2013 became a good team in 2014 with 1 excellent transfer. The Achilles heel of the Lady Javs still remains their less-than-stellar distance running corps – there is a good chance they will not score a point in the 800, mile, 3K, 5K or the distance medley relay (a race only run indoors at conference and one that favors teams with strong distance runners). Based on a slew of sprint points, I still think Kingsville can break 100 points.
·         Shykilia Sheppard – an outstanding transfer from Wayland Baptist who will be a major contender in the 60, 200 and long jump
·         Amber Perry – the reigning LSC champ in the 400, should also point in the 200
·         Kathy Trevino – able sidekick to Perry in the 200 and 400
·         Britny Biles – excellent hurdler
·         Valerie Vrana – top-3 shot putter
·         Alexis Williams – an excellent freshman pole vaulter who will contend for the crown

3. Angelo State – not quite as deep as in recent years, but a team that is always in the hunt. I think I see them scoring 90-100 points, but they may stack up enough 6th, 7th and 8th places to move up well over the 100 point mark
·         Jaylen Rodgers – one of the top half milers in the country in D-II, she also is the anchor of their 4x400 and ASU is never out of a race when Jaylen gets the baton
·         Jordan Gray – one of the top multi-athletes in the LSC, who will also contend for big points in the high jump and long jump
·         Kearah Danville – a great triple jumper who is also a solid long jumper and high jumper – Kearah will be part of a potentially great duel in the triple jump with Malika Ouedraogo

4. Tarleton State – the next 6 teams may be separated by no more than 25 points, with TSU heading that next tier of teams. I see the Lady Texans scoring 60-65, but that could climb to a much higher total if their distance runners come through.
·         Excellent distance runners in senior Lindsey Hinton (mile, 3K) and Northwestern State transfer Aly Coughlin (mile, 3K). One or both of them may well try to add the 5K to their plate – a very busy weekend indeed
·         Shelby Terry – one of the best high jumpers in the LSC
·         Freshman Danyelle Dillard could well be the top of the class among shot putters this year

5. Midwestern – always a hard team to predict, except to say I am certain their points will come in the distance events (they only recruit distance runners). They could score as many as 55-60 points, all in the 800, mile, 3K, 5K and the distance medley relay.
·         Big addition this year of JC transfer Gabriela Ruiz (3K, 5K)
·         Returnees Ashley Flores (mile), Janel Campbell (3K, 5K) and the Krezonoski twins – Kim and Michelle (3K, 5k) should all figure in MSU’s scoring

6. Eastern New Mexico – a team that is steadily improving, but still has several events where they will not score a point. I see them scoring 50-55 points.
·         Strong distance runners in Alesha Jones (800, mile), Sabrina Huelga (800, mile), Brittany Buchanan (3K, 5K) and Beth Blind (3K, 5K). This nucleus also builds one of the top distance medley relays in the LSC
·         Kris Ann Walters – a solid jumper who could help this team terrifically if she moves into the top-3 of the TJ, LJ, and/or HJ
·         A good, young group of weight throwers – Breanna Pendleton, Laura Grube, and Jenae Wolfram

7. McMurry – they appear to be down a bit from recent years, but they have one of the top athletes in the meet and a good group of pole vaulters
·         Tiana Alexander is a top-3 contender in the 60 hurdles, long jump, AND triple jump – could well be one of the top scorers in the meet
·         Good pole vaulting corps – Mariah Steinbock, Brittney Burgess, and Sophie Southwell

8. TAMU-Commerce – the Lady Lions have shown steady improvement over the past few years, but are still a few years away from being conference contenders. I see them scoring 40-45 points.
·         Brikel Bailey – a good halfmiler
·         Terra Truitt – a leader among a young and improving group of distance runners (5K)
·         A solid distance medley relay
·         Ashley Ross – a good shot putter

9. Harding – they come in as close as a team can be to a “one-woman team”. Harding has the best distance runner in the LSC and not much else, this year. They should score 35-40 points and as many as 30 points may come from one woman!
·         Ewa Zaborowska – the best distance runner in the LSC, she just blew away the field last year in the 3K and 5K. She could run the mile, 3K and 5K and has a chance to win all three.
·         Bailey Pearson – a good high jumper who may score most of the rest of the Harding points this year

It appears that WT is too deep for either TAMU-Kingsville or perennial contender Angelo to overcome this year. The next 6 teams are not separated by many points – a surprise winner from Tarleton, Midwestern, ENMU, McMurry, Commerce or Harding could move their team up 1-2 spots. A corresponding poor performance from a key athlete could move that team down 2-3 spots in a hurry.

West Texas looks very strong this year. The biggest news in my opinion is the rapid improvement of the TAMU-Commerce team. Lots of good young tracksters seem to be matriculating to Commerce. The odd situation where Angelo fields a women’s indoor team, but not a men’s indoor team, will make this meet look very different than the outdoor version in the spring. McMurry will probably have a one-year stint as an affiliate LSC member in track, but this one year LSC track fans will get to see arguably the most dominant D-II athlete in any sport (Paul Davis – more about him later).

Here are the predicted finishes for the men, with a predicted range of points they could score and some key athletes to watch:

1. West Texas A&M – just like the WT women, the men’s team is very balanced, with the very strong potential to score points in every single event in the meet – excellent sprinters/hurdlers (even with the academic loss of Cameron Lacour and the transfer of Courtney Macon), strong distance runners (even with the LSC cross-country champ Dylan Doss –arguably the best distance runner in the LSC - redshirting indoors), good jumpers and the best throwing corps in the LSC. Coach Flowers at WT has done a superb job of recruiting west Texas and supplementing those kids with key international athletes. I see the Buffs scoring 150-160 points, with only a surprising TAMU-Commerce and perennial contender TAMU-Kingsville within shouting distance of them.
·         Excellent sprinters and hurdlers – Jerell Banks (60, 200), freshman Tadarius Ridge (60,200), freshman Kennedy Prescott (400), Spanish newcomer Arnau Erta (60H).
·         A strong contingent of distance runners led by Baptiste Moreu (800, mile), Martin Puga (800), and Steve Lagat (3K, 5K).
·         Excellent jumpers in Micah Washington (HJ, TJ), Paul Alongo (LJ), Benoit Nadin (TJ)
·         Some of the best throwers in the LSC, including Zach Weatherly (SP, WT) and Casey Lantelme (WT)

2. Texas A&M – Commerce – this squad has been building steadily in the last 2-3 years and this year, it appears they become a legit conference contender. They are doing a good job of developing some of their young (freshman, sophomore) talent and picking up some key transfers in a few areas. Look for them to score 130-140 points, an unheard-of total for them just a few short years ago.
·         Dexter Lee – a very impressive freshman in the 400
·         Luis Romero – only a sophomore and a top contender in the 800 and mile
·         Dorian McCradic – again, just a soph and a top contender in the mile and 3K
·         A strong group of multi-athletes, who do what a coach wants to see from your multi-athletes, score in the heptathlon AND score in 1-2 other individual events as well – Matt Rich (also a good pole vaulter); Hendrik Nungess (also a good high jumper) and James Lundy (also could also score in the HJ and the hurdlers)
·         K’Don Samuels – one of the most interesting stories in the LSC – a Jamaican kid who went to HS in Connecticut and then somehow, ended up at South Plains. There, he vaulted 17-5 – a new Jamaican record and was JC national indoor and outdoor champ as a freshman in 2012. Then, for some inexplicable reason, he transfers to Monroe College in NYC – a business school that does not even have an on-campus track. Last year, he vaults 15-7 to finish 2nd at JC indoor nationals and does not vault over 15 feet all outdoor season and no-heights at JC outdoor nationals. Then, he transfers to Commerce and has not gone over 14-11 this year. If the Commerce coaches can get through to him, he could push Jordan Yamoah, the national PV champ from Kingsville. Intriguing story to watch this weekend.

3. Texas A&M – Kingsville – before Ryan Dall arrived in Kingsville, the track situation was dire – Javelina track and field was on life-support. In a few short years, the program is thriving and in the past few years the program has boasted multiple national champions. Were is not for their Achilles heel (distance running), this team would have a good chance of winning the LSC. I see the Hoggies scoring 100-110 points.
·         Excellent sprinters/hurdlers, including Tim Price and Corbin Whalum (both 60, 200) and UT-Pan Am transfer hurdler Mac Zarate
·         One of the top halfmilers in D-II in Michal Idziak – a Polish kid who went to HS in Virginia at that well-known football “factory”, Fork Union Military Academy
·         National champions in the HJ (Jeron Robinson), PV (Jordan Yamoah) and LJ (C.J. Griggs) – all very entertaining kids to watch in their events
·         The only group of throwers in the LSC that can rival WT’s – a group that includes Javan Gray (SP, WT); Geronimo Lopez (SP) and Christian Garcia (SP, WT)

4. Tarleton – comes in with a very competitive team. The Texans have always recruited very heavily in small Texas towns and they have some very talented young kids to show for their efforts. They are on the verge of moving up into that top-2/top-3 level in the LSC – all they need is some more depth. I see them scoring 80-90 points and if the chips fell just right, they could press the 100 mark.
·         Excellent distance corps in Chase Rathke (800, mile); Dylan Willett (mile), Tye Doty (3K) and James Polasek (5K)
·         One of the better quartermilers in the LSC in Cameron Krc and a 4x400 relay that will be a serious contender
·         A top young hurdler in Randall Kadlacek
·         Good young jumpers in Travis Allison (HJ) and William Webb (PV)
·         Solid thrower in Kenny Odunaiya

5. McMurry – the Warhawks will bring the best small college shot putter in the nation to the meet, along with some other solid field event people, particularly jumpers. McM does not have the depth they had a few years ago, but they will make their presence known at this meet and score somewhere in the 70-80 point range
·         Paul Davis is a monster in the shot put – last year, he was the 2nd best collegiate shot putter in America, regardless of level, throwing over 68 feet. He is small for a shot putter – around 215 pounds and gets by on terrific technique and great strength. He seeks to be the first American shot putter weighing under 225 pounds to break the 70 foot mark. One caveat for this week: Davis apparently injured a finger on his throwing hand last week at the U.S. Indoor National Championship in ABQ – that could seriously hamper his efforts this week as well.
·         Victor Cruz is an good sprinter (60, 200)
·         Good hurdlers in Jacob Norris and Willie Poindexter
·         Always strong in the PV, this year with Sonny Morrow and Chris Veail
·         Excellent jumpers – Chris Ogle (LJ, TJ); Derrick Randle (TJ) and Desmond Williams (LJ)

6. Eastern New Mexico – the ‘Hounds are all about distance runners, they probably will not score in any sprint race or in almost any field event (they could score in the HJ). Look for them to score almost all of their 55-65 points in the mile, 3K, 5K and the distance medley relay.
·         With Dylan Doss redshirting indoors for WT, ENMU quite possibly has the 2 best distance runners in the LSC in Isaiah Samoei and Kaspars Briska, ably supported by Jacob Lozano and Zerrick Vriseno, among others

7. Harding – the Bison are not very strong this year and will probably only score 30-40 points. They had more impact on the standings last year, but appear to have had a dry recruiting year.
·         A realistic contender to win the 60 in Cory Bennett
·         A good distance runner in Andrew Evans (3K, 5K)

Looks like the top 4 teams in the LSC indoor championship on the men’s side will all be A&M affiliates – WTAM, TAMU-C, TAMU-K and Tarleton (ironically, one of the first A&M affiliates, but the letters “A&M” has never been in their name.)

I hope that some of the LSC sports fans will be able to attend the LSC Indoor Championship meet this coming weekend in Lubbock. On Saturday, March 1, the men’s heptathlon events commence at 10:30, with the first of their 7 events – the 55 meter dash. The women’s pentathlon kicks off at 11 a.m. with the 55H. Those events run throughout the day. The field events begin at 3 and the running prelims at 4:30 (although there will be finals in both the distance medley relay and the 5K that evening.) Hope to see you there! 

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Lone Star Conference

Angelo State University

Cameron University

Eastern New Mexico University

Texas A&M-Commerce

Tarleton State University

Texas A&M-Kingsville

Texas Woman's College

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

Western New Mexico