The injury bug has hit the CSU men’s and women’s track teams early this season, and it could cost them.
The biggest hit thus far has come on the men’s side where the defending Mountain West Conference champion Rams find themselves without junior sprinter John Woods. It was Woods who last season led the team to its first conference championship by scoring a meet-high 20 points.
“We’re battling with injuries right now in a lot of areas,” said assistant head coach Tom Flood. “John is out for the indoor season, (senior) Eric Hill is struggling with a football injury and (junior) Tom Waido is dinged for indoor.”
Though the loss of 20 points from last season’s conference championship team is hard to replace, Flood said the team has enough athletes capable of picking up the slack.
“With Woods’ injury our chances of repeating take a big hit,” Flood said. “But our team is determined to repeat without him. Others are going to have to step up.”
Flood mentioned senior sprinter/hurdler Brian Williams, freshman hurdler Justin Hazard and jumpers Jacob Benson and Tim Merz as athletes who are expected to have strong seasons.
“Both Tim Merz and Jacob Benson have jumped over seven feet in the high jump this year. That is something we didn’t have last season,” he said.
The Rams should also expect some big help coming from some big men as throwers Jeremy Graff and Drew Loftin look to pick up where they left off last season as the best weight and shot put throwers in the conference.
“Jeremy was the conference champion in the shot put during outdoor and is the favorite to win conference in shot this season,” said throwers coach Brian Bedard. “Hopefully Drew Loftin will give him some competition as his teammate.”
On the women’s side, the athletes will be focused on taking their second-place conference finish, behind Brigham Young last season, and turning into a championship of their own.
“This is the most balanced attack CSU’s ever had during my time here,” said Flood about the women’s team. “Their mission is to win conference just like the men did last season.”
Helping lead the team to that goal will be all-conference throwers Loree Smith and Hannah Metzler.
“Loree seems more confident than ever,” Bedard said. “She has set some high goals for herself and is operating at a new level this year.”
As for Metzler, Bedard said the senior is looking to repeat as conference champion in the shot put this season, but should see some tough competition from Smith.
Apart from the two throwers, the lady Rams also expect big things from sprinter Katrice Thomas, who had a breakout season last year as a freshman, all-American miler Katie Yemm, middle-distance runner Kim Watson, who broke onto the scene last year in the 1,500 meter run, and Meg Larson and Jen Kintzley, who sat out last season with injuries.
Both teams face their first test of the season this Friday and Saturday in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Invitational.
“This meet will tell us where we are and who did their homework over break,” said Dylan Olchin, who will look to supply the Rams with some points in distance events.
The meet – featuring 500 athletes from 15 different schools – is one of the largest in the indoor track and field season and should give the Rams a chance to see where they stand with regards to their competitors, Olchin added.
Events begin Friday at 1 p.m. with the men’s weight throw, and Saturday at 10 a.m. with the women’s weight throw.
“We want to win the meet, but at the same time we want to use it to gauge where everyone is at,” Olchin said. “We’ll do good if everyone did their training over break.”
Unfortunately, it may take more than that for these Rams to repeat.