Mar 232006

Although it was difficult to tell by all the snow on the ground, Monday was the vernal equinox, marking the transition from winter to spring. Spring is not the only season that will begin this week; the 2006 NCAA outdoor track and field season will also get started.

CSU will kick off its outdoor season with a home opener Saturday in the Robert Upton Invitational. The 2006 Rams squad is coming off a successful indoor season in which the women won a conference championship, the men narrowly lost the conference championship by four points, and more than 20 athletes were named to the All-Conference team.

Whatever the Rams do this season, they’ll have to do it without one of their best athletes, junior Janay DeLoach.

“We want to give her a chance to heal up,” said assistant coach Tim Cawley. “She could run if she had to, but this sets her up nicely for next year and the rest of her career.”

DeLoach sustained a stress fracture in her shin sometime during the indoor season, yet was able to finish despite the injury.

By sitting out this spring, DeLoach will be eligible to run next spring, which will be good preparation for the Olympic trials the following summer.

“I guess it works out for me either way,” DeLoach said. “But I still wish I could be out there.”

CSU will certainly miss DeLoach on the track, as she was All-Mountain West in three events during the indoor season.

DeLoach understandably has mixed feelings about her injury.

“I’m disappointed because I did so well during the indoor season, I wanted to see what I could do outdoors,” she said. “But in a way it works to my advantage because I’ll have extra time to train.”

Despite the loss of DeLoach, CSU will still sport a strong roster. Throwing is a strength for the Rams on both the men’s and women’s sides. In 2005, returning senior Katie Hansen was named an All-American in the hammer throw, while fellow senior Jill McCormick was an All-American during the recent indoor season.

As for CSU’s men’s team, seniors Nate Heyrman, Matt McKinney and Jace Rivera lead a talented and experienced group of throwers. At the indoor conference championships last month, Heyrman led four other Rams in sweeping the top five marks of the weight throw competition.

Junior Matt Cianciulli was All-Conference in the 10,000 meters and will be defending his victory in the 5,000 meters at last year’s Robert Upton Invitational. Since the 2001 Upton Invitational, a CSU distance runner has won the 5,000 each time the event was held. Thirteen other Rams also will defend their titles in various events.

CSU is led by the 2006 Regional Coach of the Year Del Hessel. Hessel recently announced that he will retire at the end of the season, bringing an end to an accomplished career in track and field.

This year’s Robert Upton Invitational starts Saturday morning at the Jack Christiansen Memorial Track. This is the first home indoor or outdoor meet of the year for CSU, a welcome change for some.

“It’s always nice to not have to travel, to sleep in your own bed,” coach Cawley said.

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