Jan. 24, 2013
SEATTLE, Wash. - Fourteen Aggies will see early season competition in earnest this weekend when the UC Davis women's indoor track and field team travels to the UW Invitational, hosted by the University of Washington at Dempsey Indoor.
The meet, one of several hosted by the Huskies during the indoor season, brings together some of the country's top collegiate and professional athletes to one of the nation's premier indoor facilities.
Events begin on Friday afternoon and continue through late afternoon on Saturday. UC Davis is taking a large sprint corps but will also be represented in distance and field events.
The meet is the first of three trips to Washington for indoor meets this winter, a schedule which also includes the Husky Indoor Classic on Feb. 8-9 and the Washington Final Indoor Qualifier on Mar. 2.
Aggie head coach Drew Wartenburg said the indoor season adds an important element for the the track program which will continue with the outdoor season, beginning in March.
"What we find is going indoors really serves as the impetus to start getting that competitive mindset going," he said. "Getting those early race opportunities pushes our women's group ahead in ways that are good. For the select group that goes up there, it's a great opportunity to get an early indication of where we are."
Half of the Aggies' team this weekend will be busy in the sprint events, including seven that will open on Friday evening with the 200-meter dash. Veterans Kayla Carter, Ashley Marshall, Leslie Reed, Melanise Chapman, Cekarri Nixon, Kira Rienecker and Kellie Grigg will compete in that event.
All but Rienecker, Grigg and Nixon will continue the next day with the 60-meter dash while Rienecker will race in the 60-meter hurdles and Grigg and Nixon will move on to the 400. Carter will also race in the hurdles with UC Davis rounding out the sprints with a 4x400 relay entry.
"This is the first opportunity for sprinters (this year) to get in uniform," said Wartenburg. "Distance runners, obviously, had the fall (with cross country)."
Outdoor All-American Sarah Sumpter will race in the 5,000 on Friday evening, Katie Fry and Alycia Cridebring are in the 3,000 invitational on Saturday afternoon, and Shanie Landen will complete the Aggies' running competitors with the 800.
Washington's high-caliber competition provides an opportunity and a challenge for UC Davis' athletes, Wartenburg said.
"It's a great test," he said. "It's an opportunity to measure what we're able to do physically in competition but it's also seeing how the athletes react to those around them, and putting them in a situation where they'll have to get out of their comfort zone.
"We talk about 'beating someone you're not supposed to beat,' " Wartenburg added. "These are great meets to do that. It's early in everyone's season. By and large, people aren't in (personal-best time) condition so you can sneak up on folks. It's a great opportunity to make a name for yourself without having really any expectations or pressure.
The season provides unique challenges for several track and field events which are adjusted for indoor competition, Wartenburg said, however, some events such as the 60-meter dash could play into some Aggies' strengths. He specifically mentioned Marshall.
"She's someone that can get out of the blocks and really has some top-end speed," he said. "This is an opportunity for her to get out and get a look at that shorter race. Melanise Chapman has as much range as any sprinter we have. Going up and having her race in a couple of races gives her a good opportunity to get the wheels turning."
While the Aggies normally don't take many distance runners to the early indoor meets, Wartenburg said this could be a good weekend for UC Davis' trio.
"Katie Fry, Alycia Cridebring and Sarah Sumpter are all ready to run times that might turn some heads and just might be something that sets them up something further down the road when we get outdoors," he said.
UC Davis, which enjoyed a rich championship history in its NCAA Division II era, has not qualified anyone for the Div. I championships although alumnus, volunteer assistant coach and Olympian Kim Conley came close in the 3,000 four years ago.
"It would be good recognition," said Wartenburg. "What we battle is (without a conference championship) to go to we really miss out on a piece of closure and a meet where people would really be competing all out.
"We have to go up to Washington and try to get something out of one of those meets. It's not our brass ring to get someone on the national indoor scene but if it were incidental to our procedure, it would be a nice perk."