For three weeks the athletes of CSU’s men’s and women’s track and field teams have been wishing for warmer weather to compete in. Perhaps they should be wary of what they wish for.
By traveling to Mesa, Ariz., for today’s Mesa Classic and to Tempe, Ariz., for Saturday’s Sun Angel Classic, the Rams should see the ideal conditions they covet – but at the cost of competing against the best the nation has to offer.
“We’re taking on the best of the best,” said assistant coach John Carter. “We’ll be going up against USC, Florida, LSU, Auburn, BYU … the best teams in the nation.”
For most of the Rams, the trip to Arizona represents their first big test against nationally-ranked competition, Carter said. But they are anxious for the challenge.
“We have a lot of athletes looking to run regional qualifying marks,” Carter said. “And a lot of them are going to have that chance on a neutral surface in good weather at low altitude.”
On the men’s side, the pressure will be on sprinters John Woods – who currently is atop the Mountain West Conference in the men’s 100-meter dash – sophomore Jake Simpson (100), freshman Mike Horton (110 high hurdles) and senior Chris Riggs (200), who form what Carter said he considers one of the strongest 4X100 relay teams ever at CSU.
Each will also look to improve his NCAA regional qualifying mark in his respective event.
For the women, the weight will be on sophomore Katrice Thomas’ shoulders, as she looks to show her worth in the women’s 200- and 400-meter events by running qualifying times in both.
Another athlete to be tested at the meet is jumper Jacob Benson, who holds the school record in the men’s triple jump and must now put his best foot forward while facing top-ranked triple jumper Alan Simms of the University of Southern California.
“This will be the first test for Jacob at the triple jump outdoors,” Carter said. “It will be interesting to see how he responds.”
The most exciting competition, however, could come from the Rams’ throwers, who take their highly-ranked program up against the very best.
“The throws are going to be loaded,” said throwers coach Brian Bedard. “Florida is absolutely loaded and so is Southern California; they’re probably the best two throwing schools in the nation right now. It will be a real challenge for our guys.”
Adding to that challenge is the disadvantage the Rams have been at recently having to practice a good part of the season indoors because of the weather, Bedard said.
Leading the charge for the men is senior Drew Loftin, who was named Mountain West Conference Athlete of the Week earlier this week after throwing 220 feet, 2 inches in the hammer throw, placing him third in the nation. Accompanying Loftin is senior Brian Trainor, who ranks in the top five in the nation in the discus, sophomore Adam Trainor and freshmen Heyrman and James Cale.
For the women, versatile junior Keela Niemeyer looks to continue improving in what Bedard called her best season ever, by bettering her regional-qualifying marks in the women’s shot put, discus and hammer throw. Senior Hannah Metzler (shot put, hammer throw), sophomore Katie Hansen (discus) and freshman Haley Hunt round out the women’s team of throwers.
“To go head-to-head against the best programs is a big incentive,” Carter said. “It’s a great opportunity for these athletes to shine.”
And, finally, the sun will be shining on the Rams as well.