Track and field faces heavy competition at Texas A&M Challenge

After dominating its first meet of the year in Flagstaff, the ASU track and field team shifts its focus to its next meet that features much tougher opponents.

The Sun Devils will travel to College Station, Texas, to take on Texas A&M, Tennessee, Texas Tech, TCU and USC on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26.

With some tougher competition, coach Greg Kraft expects to know a lot more about his team following this weekend’s meet.

“We just want to make some progress,” Kraft said. “I think we’ll have a better idea of where we are, because there will be some stiff competition.”

The No. 4 ASU men’s team should make easy work of most of its competition. But the No. 2 Texas A&M men’s team is the only other school ranked in the meet.

A battle of the two top-five teams will draw a lot of attention to College Station, and Kraft is excited to see how the men stack up.

“We should have a better idea of how we match up with the rest of the country,” Kraft said. “Every race will be very competitive.”

Senior jumper Chris Benard will continue to make a name for himself in the long jump and triple jump, where he ranks No. 13 and No. 3, respectively. His competition will come from Texas Tech senior long jumper Bryce Lamb, who ranks No. 6. Benard should have no problem leaping to victory in the triple jump.

The No. 1 shot put thrower, senior Jordan Clarke, should also cruise to victory, but No. 9 Tennesee sophomore Matthew Hoty will look to dethrone the 2012 national champion.

The high jump, led by No. 6 junior Bryan McBride, will be another event the Sun Devils should lock up.

All eyes wil be on the 60-meter competition. It will feature No. 2 ASU redshirt junior Ryan Milus against Texas A&M No. 7 junior Prezel Hardy, Jr. and No. 11 senior Ameer Webb, and TCU No. 10 senior Charles Silmon.

Overall, Kraft feels confident in the men’s ability to have a great weekend in most of the field events.

“We’ll be pretty prevalent in all of the sprints, jumps and throws,” Kraft said. “We’ll be a little light in the distance areas, but we’ll have (senior distance runner) Nick Happe.”

While the men’s team continues to develop talent and remain on top as of late, the Sun Devils lost the help of a multi-talented athlete.

Senior sprinter and wide receiver Rashad Ross decided to turn his focus to football.

“He was the Mountain Pacific Champion last year at 200 meters,” Kraft said. “It takes away from our depth. Fortunately for us, (redshirt sophomore sprinter) Devan Spann came on board.”

Ross will be preparing for the NFL Draft in April.

On the women’s side, the Sun Devils’ worry as a team is No. 4 Texas A&M.

Senior multi-competitor Keia Pinnick is coming off her career best time in the 60-meter hurdle while being ranked No. 21 in the event.

Pinnick is dedicating herself to perfect every detail so she can perform an upset against No. 8 senior Donique’ Flemings from Texas A&M and No. 14 senior Katie Grimes from Texas Tech.

“I have a lot of work I can still do on the hurdles,” Pinnick said. “So basically, just working on my arm, my technique, being more technical and potentially get under 8.00.”

Pinnick will also join her teammates, juniors Alycia Herring and Sarah Geren, and sophomore Brianna Tate, in the 4×400-meter relay. The unit’s No. 21 ranking is the underdog among the field of No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 10 Tennessee and No. 11 Texas Tech.

“We’re going to try to push it,” Pinnick said. “We ended up running it with no competition really in the first meet. So basically with competition we’re planning on getting a stable time so we can be at nationals.”

Also competing with Pinnick in the 60-meter is senior Christabel Nettey.

Nettey just missed her personal best against NAU two weekends ago and finished in third place behind Pinnick.

“Last weekend was a really good start for me,” Nettey said. “I want to just keep working on the small things to keep dropping times.”

Nettey will also compete in the long jump for the Sun Devils along with Pinnick. Nettey ranks No. 9 in the country in the event but will compete against the No. 1 jumper in the country, TCU sophomore Lorraine Ugen.

“I opened up, it was a decent jump (at NAU),” Nettey said. “But hopefully for A&M, I’ll get over 20 feet.”

Other women that should stand out in the meet will include No. 7 redshirt junior thrower Anna Jelmini and No. 16 sophomore runner Shelby Houlihan.

“Our coach talks about always trying to gain our respect back,” Nettey said. “That’s what we’re really working for. Every week we come out here, we just keep working hard and keep dropping times, and that’s what we’re working for.”

 

Reach the reporter at msterrel@asu.edu