For one year, the athletes of CSU men’s track and field have waited to prove that last season’s Mountain West Conference Indoor championship was no fluke; they now have their chance.
The MWC indoor track and field championships kick off today at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs with the pentathlon, and continue through Saturday afternoon.
“I think we have a good chance of winning the conference title again,” said head coach Del Hessel. “It’s going to be competitive because every team in the conference brings something special.”
Last season the Rams won their first MWC title, beating Brigham Young on the strength of a meet-high 20 points from sprinter John Woods; but Woods – out with tendonitis – is not competing at Air Force.
“Every year, every team is different,” Hessel said. “I’m not sure our sprints will be as strong this year, but we have scoring options in other events.”
Hessel mentioned jumpers Jacob Benson and Tim Merz as two Rams whose points should make up for Woods’ absence. The strength of the team, however, should come from its distance events, where a group of proven athletes attempts to lead the charge to victory.
“We can win if we put everything together,” said junior Paul DiGrappa.
The team’s main competition should come from BYU, which has athletes seeded first in 10 of 17 events.
Hessel, however, said he is not concerned with the Cougars or anyone else. His concern is getting the best from those who compete.
“It’s difficult to select 28 athletes to compete at conference,” he said. “Those 28 represent everybody and it is their responsibility to maximize their ability.”
Victory should be more difficult for the women as 10th-ranked BYU stands in the way.
“I think our team is very strong and we have a lot of depth in different events,” said Katie Yemm, 2001 MWC champion in the mile. “We have a legitimate shot at challenging for the title … BYU can be beaten.”
The Rams now have the chance to prove it.