“We need the new people to raise that level of performance and take over leaderships roles in some areas.”
—Coach Rick Sloan
Coach Rick Sloan has good reason to be optimistic. He welcomes back five All-Americans to the Washington State University women’s track and field team. Joining them will be several top returnees and a bevy of talented newcomers.
“The women’s team seems to be very strong right now,” says Sloan, entering his 29th season at WSU and eighth as head coach. “We’re real excited about what the newcomers are going to be able to accomplish.”
The fact that WSU will host the Pac-10 Championships May 18-19 is a bonus.
While the women’s team is strong and deep, the men’s team shows balance. Sloan sees a number of contenders on the men’s team “ready to bring the program back to prominence in the Pacific-10 Conference.”
The women will depend heavily on junior Whitney Evans, a three-time All-American in the high jump and once in the heptathlon. She is defending Pac-10 Champion in the high jump and placed third at the 2001 NCAA Championship, the highest finish for a WSU woman in a dozen years. She was runner-up in the Pac-10 heptathlon. Scheduling conflicts kept her from competing in the heptathlon at the NCAA meet.
Sloan thinks senior Cicely Clinkenbeard can qualify for the nationals in two events after being sidelined last year with an ankle injury. The All-American triple jumper also competes in the heptathlon. Junior Ellannee Richardson, a two-time All-American, is defending Pac-10 heptathlon champ.
Two cross country All-Americans will turn their attention to the oval track this spring. Senior Megan Maynard will seek greater success in her second season as a steeplechaser. Sophomore transfer Everlyne Lagat started her WSU career last fall with a bang. She placed fourth in the Pac-10 cross country finale and 30th in the NCAA Championship. She is the younger sister of Bernard Lagat, former Cougar All-America and bronze medal winner for Kenya in the 1,500 at the 2000 Olympics.
After three strong years in the intermediate and high hurdles, senior Randi Smith is looking to attain All-America status.
Three recruits from the prep ranks give Sloan reason to smile—Schquay Brignac, Woodland Hills, California; Tamara Diles, Bellevue; and Marie Muai, Tacoma. Brignac won the California state high jump. Diles won the Washington state pole vault while at Newport High. She’s cleared 12 feet. Muai, from Franklin Pierce High, captured the Washington state shot put title in 2001.
The men’s team will find leadership in senior Eric Dudley, defending Pac-10 intermediate hurdles champion and fifth-place NCAA finisher.
“Eric’s got everything you want in a student-athlete,” Sloan said. “I’m excited about seeing him finish up here at home. He can repeat as Pac-10 champion and make a run at the national title. Eric wants that school record in the intermediate hurdles. I hope he gets it.”
Considering he had to split time with spring football, sprinter Anthony Buchanan performed well as a freshman. He clocked 10.25 in the 100 meters, and ran well at the NCAA prelims, just missing All-America honors. He will join sprinters Anson Henry and Dan Brink, and newcomer, Bennie Chapman, from Texas, on a 4×100 meter relay team that Sloan thinks has NCAA potential.
Sloan strengthened the men’s team by adding five promising freshmen—Pat Harrigan, Reno; John Manthey, Federal Way; Darion Powell, Seattle; Jamil Smith, Palmdale, California, and Kyle Mitchell, Walla Walla.
Harrigan has cleared seven feet in the high jump. Manthey’s effortless, gliding stride as a 1,500 meter runner reminds Sloan of Bernard Lagat’s. Manthey clocked 1:47 in prep relay legs.
The 6-foot-4 Powell was the state high hurdles champion. He also won the national indoor pentathlon twice at Lake Washington High and was a prep standout in the decathlon.
Smith was the California state long-jump champ. His 50-foot-10 inch plus triple jump ranks among the nation’s top prep marks. “He is one of the best high school triple jumpers ever recruited to WSU,” says Sloan.
Mitchell was state champion in the javelin.
Sloan describes Piero Vojvodic as “a very gifted athlete without a lot of formal instruction.” The junior from Peru is potentially a 52-footer in the triple jump and seven-footer in the high jump.
“We have some outstanding performers at the top ends of some events with good coverage and depth overall,” Sloan says. “We need the new people to raise that level of performance and take over leaderships roles in some areas. And we need the returning people to raise their level of performance as well.”