ASU track and field sweeps NAU in season opener

Tune-up games in sports have become a commonality in preparation for a team’s regular season. It involves a high-caliber team scheduling a matchup suited for a sure win.

The ASU track and field program participated in a tune-up meet with its in-state competitors to the north at NAU on Saturday morning. The Sun Devils made clean work of the Lumberjack competitors by taking first on both the men’s and women’s sides of the meet, and ASU coach Greg Kraft was pleased with his players’ performance.

“Overall, it was a great start,” Kraft said. “It was good to get a good look at each other and see how our team looks in competition.”

Redshirt senior thrower Jordan Clarke announced his arrival with a bang with three throws of over 20 meters, resulting in the best series of throws of his career. Kraft has no doubts that Clarke could improve from his national championship run last season.

“Absolutely he could,” Kraft said. “(But) it’s hard to expect more.”

Clarke may have even surprised himself after such an astonishing series of throws.

“It feels really good to start off on a high note,” he said. “I basically trained heavy all through this week … shows that there is a lot in the tank.”

After an opening best of 62 feet, 10 inches at last year’s NAU Invite, Clarke surpassed that feat by a mere five feet on Saturday, with his best being 67 feet, 7 inches.

That mark was just 10 inches from his personal best, and it was only the first meet of the season.

Clarke wasn’t the only male competitor in Flagstaff turning heads for ASU, however.

“The two newcomers, (redshirt senior thrower Joe) Riccio and (redshirt freshman sprinter Devan) Spann, were really unlooked coming into the season,” Kraft said. “They had a great fall and were bright spots for us today.”

Spann, who made the transition from football to track after several shoulder injuries, ran an impressive 6.79 seconds in the 60 meters.

Riccio may have been hard to set eyes upon with his teammate Clarke in the same event, but put his name in the mix up north.

“Joe had an excellent day,” Clarke said. “He threw two personal records in the weight throw and shot put, which is excellent for an opening meet.”

For the women, two Sun Devils set personal records in Flagstaff.

Junior sprinter Asiah Gooden set her personal best at the NAU Invite last year with a time of 7.44 seconds in the 60 meter. That record was broken again at the same meet a year later after Gooden ran a time of 7.40 seconds.

“She had a solid day,” Kraft said. “She was definitely a factor for us today.”

Along with Gooden, senior multi-competitor Keia Pinnick blew away her old record of 8.65 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.27 seconds. Kraft believes Pinnick could be one of the women to watch for the 2013 season.

“She had the best fall of any of the girls,” Kraft said. “She ran good in the prelims and anchored our relay. We will lean on her heavily.”

Redshirt junior Chelsea Cassulo will provide an impressive addition to the women’s throwing team after transferring from UNLV.

“Chelsea had a good start,” Clarke said. “It will be exciting to see her peak later in the season.”

The Sun Devils made an impressive start overall to the 2013 campaign, and Kraft expects great things from the season but knows there are some things to work on before Texas A&M in two weeks.

“It looked like our first meet … pretty average,” Kraft said. “But moving forward against tougher competition, we have to be greatly improved.”\

 

Reach the reporter at msterrel@asu.edu