Chelsea Shapard set several school records in the sprints and hurdles last season and was an NCAA Regional qualifier.
Jan. 7, 2008
The goals are simple for the 2007-08 University of Utah track and field team. In order to improve the team, it needs to raise the bar for each student-athlete.
Last year, both indoor and outdoor track teams finished sixth at the Mountain West Conference Championships. The outdoor team also had, two conference champions, five regional qualifiers and two national qualifiers. Utah also finished 28th in the country academically.
With the graduation of Amanda Feigt (conference champion in the heptathlon and two-time national qualifier), Susan Atwater (regional qualifier in the pole vault) and Jennifer Cutrer (one of the team's top hurdlers a year ago) third-year head coach Kyle Kepler knows that progress this season isn't going to come without effort. But, the team isn't lacking in experience to reach its goals.
"We have a great nucleus returning, especially in the junior and sophomore classes," said Kepler. "They will need to step up and replace those points. We also added some new faces to the mix that could have an immediate impact. The make-up of our team in terms of where the points will be coming from should be a little more balanced, which I think will make for better team chemistry."
Even though the bulk of the team has only one or two years of collegiate-level experience, the student-athletes know what it takes to be successful. A large portion of this team was here last season when they combined to set 242 new personal bests, 78 new all-time top 10 U of U times, and 11 new school records. It's safe to say this team comes into the season with a solid competition background.
"Because this group was `thrown into the fire' so early in their careers, I think they have a better understanding of what it takes to be good on a daily basis," remarked Kepler. "They all have big goals as a team and as individuals. To meet those goals, they know they will have to use their past experiences and continue to grow by becoming leaders, and they need to be the ones applying pressure to their competitors on the track."
The indoor conference championship is at the Air Force Academy (Feb. 28 - March 1) while the outdoor conference meet is at TCU (May 14-17).
Even though they both battled injury in their rookie campaigns, both turned in solid efforts last year. Wellington is the school-record-holder in the 60m.
Shapard was the MWC Champion in the outdoor 400m hurdles and Patterson scored at the outdoor meet with a seventh-place effort in the 400m.
The heady task of replacing Cutrer will fall on her sister, sophomore Chelsey Kaplar. Kaplar showed a lot of improvement last year while adapting to the collegiate level, and she should be able to step in and fill the void left by her sister.
Jazmin Dickey will also figure in the mix and has potential to be a contributor on the track this season.
The distance group boasts a solid core of sophomore and juniors.
Abbott was a regional qualifier in the 800m and finished fifth and sixth in the event at the MWC outdoor and indoor meet, respectively. DiGrazia was a conference finalist in the mile and 1500m last season while Anderson was fourth in the 10,000m two years ago.
Lauren Endersen will also be counted on in the distance runs. She showed marked improvement in the 10,000m last year, but was slowed by a hip injury at the end of the year.
McAllister will lead the team in the long jump while Rowell will compete in both the pole vault and triple jump. Rowell was a regional qualifier in the pole vault last season.
Adding depth to the jumpers will be senior Sarah McFee and sophomore Laryssa Simpson. McFee still shows a lot of potential and, if she becomes more consistent, should figure in the mix as well. Simpson ended the 2006-07 season on a positive note and could play a bigger part on the team if she builds upon last year's experience.
Both have scoring potential in the hammer and weight throw. Berg may also be competing in the shot put and Grimm may also throw the discus.
Sarah Dowland was on the team in 2005, and scored in the shot put and javelin. She returns from an LDS mission and, as technically sound as she is, should pick up from where she left off.
Chastity Toilolo and Jessica Hampton are the lone returners among the group and have demonstrated great improvement during the offseason. Newcomers Kastin Frostl and Wanda Dalton should be able to step in and contribute this season.