March 1, 2013
Nationally, the Aggies are also making a name for themselves after All-America finishes last year by distance specialist Sarah Sumpter in the 10,000 and graduated discus thrower Ashley Hearn. With veterans dispersed throughout both the men's and women's teams, UC Davis will look to continue to raise its profile even further in the 2013 season, which begins Saturday in earnest at the Stanford Opener.
Second-year head coach Drew Wartenburg said last year's women's title, which came in a narrow half-point win over second-place UC Santa Barbara, was a milestone for the program but said it also provides a challenge.
"Last year's championship is definitely a factor on people's minds," he said. "We've encouraged them to not have that be something that weighs upon them. Essentially it's the same team with some additions and very few departures to graduation. That's a great factor to have but at the same time, we also stress that we can't sit on our laurels. It's a new year.
"We have to come out and be better than last year to repeat. And, so far, as our indoor season has proved, that's been the approach," he added. "We don't want to be satisfied with anything we did last year but to keep pushing forward."
The Aggie men and women combined to send 14 individuals to the NCAA West Region Prelim Meet in Austin, Texas, last year after strong showings at the Big West Championships. Jonathan Peterson, now running professionally, highlighted the men's conference showing with 1,500- and 5,000-meter titles.
The women captured seven individual Big West titles, with the winners in five of them back in 2013. Junior Melanise Chapman tied school records while winning the 100 (11.67) and 200 (24.09), Sarah Sumpter - the Big West's Female Track Athlete of the Year - won the 5,000 and 10,000 events, and Alycia Cridebring was victorious in the 1,500 while also earning critical points with her second-place finish in the 5K.
Wartenburg said he expects contributions to this year's team to come throughout the events and not be focused in one particular area
"Given the sheer number of events on the sprints and hurdles sides, those are some areas we expect to score a lot of points, obviously," he said. "But I think the broad-balanced attack is going to be the best way for us to go about trying to win a championship."
Chapman is part of a talented sprint corps that also includes sophomore Ashley Marshall who set the indoor 60-meter school record this winter and is in South Bend, Ind., this weekend trying to rise high enough in the national rankings to receive a berth to the NCAA Championships. Both Aggies advanced to the 100 final at last year's championship and comprised half the third-place 4x100 team along with Cekarri Nixon and Leslie Reed who are also back.
Sumpter has enjoyed a standout cross country and track career for the Aggies and was last year's winner of UC Davis' Hubert Heitman Award as the school's top female athlete. She owns the school's 10,000 record and will be a threat in the distance events once again. Cridebring, Nicole Aha, Shannon Harcus and Kristine Lozoya are also among the veteran distance runners that give the Aggies a formidable presence on the track.
Senior Lauren Wallace, who redshirted last year, returns to the lineup in the middle distances after already advancing to a pair of Big West 800 finals. She'll anchor that part of the lineup along with sophomore Katie Fry who was second in 2012 and Raquel Lambdin who was fourth in the 1,500.
The Aggie men finished sixth last year after hitting second place two seasons ago, but return veterans and welcome newcomers they hope will return them to the top half of the conference.
"One of the things we talked about coming off of last year was getting more guys to second-day finals at the Big West Championships," Wartenburg said. "It's a young group but one that also has some veteran leadership that, as we approach the outdoor season, will hopefully now pull together."
Nathan Strum, who finished third in the 1,500 and was eighth in the 800 returns to the middle distance events. Grayson Hough and Trevor Halsted will help lead the distance group which will welcomes six talented freshmen to competition this season.
Jason Chandler earned a spot in the Big West's 400-meter final last spring, finishing sixth in 48.90 and will be back to that event this year. Sophomores Lawrence Doherty and Corey Hobbs, junior Hosea Tate, and seniors Everardo Villalobos and Kaio Sena are among sprinters also back in the 2013 lineup. Karl Moran returns to the 400 hurdles while also competing in the 400.
Junior Brandon Greenberg was sixth in the Big West shot put a year ago and will also anchor UC Davis' discus group this year. He was fifth in the event at the conference meet as a freshman. Sophomores Ben Parodi and Andrew Mo also bring experience in the throws events.
The Aggies will also feature a larger contingent of decathlon and heptathlon competitors this spring with hopes of gaining valuable points at the Big West Championships.
"When you talk about the conference, ideally we're shooting to be in the hunt for a championship or in the top three every year for both the men and the women," Wartenburg said. "It's a good track conference and it's a good measure of the strength of our program if we're in the top half and hunting for titles."
But as the program grows its presence in the conference, Wartenburg said sights are also set on the next level.
"The other goal we've really talked about on the staff, and try to keep in the athletes' minds, is trying to getting (more people) to the regional and then each year having more presence at the national championships," he added.
UC Davis will showcase its team at home twice this spring, the first time coming next week at the Aggie Open. The annual Woody Wilson Classic will have a new look during its Apr. 19-20 run when the Woody Wilson High School Invitational is interspersed with the collegiate/open portion to provide fans a wide variety of track and field events to enjoy.
The Aggies will also compete locally at Sacramento State and regionally at Stanford at meets throughout the season while also traveling to the Arizona State Sun Angel Invitational for more high-caliber competition.
The Big West Championships will be hosted by Cal State Northridge on May 10-11. The Big West Multi Championships will be conducted a week earlier.
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