The ASU track and field team wanted to make a statement in its first championship meet of the season.
By the end of the meet, both men and women did just that.
The No. 13 men shot into first place overall by the end of day one and were in position to sweep the meet.
“I thought our men would win,” coach Greg Kraft said. “I though we were the favorites going in. There’s always a couple agendas you have coming in. For us on the boys side, we had some set backs.”
The men had to essentially compete without the assistance of their top 60-meter sprinter Ryan Milus. The redshirt junior cramped up in the preliminaries and simply jogged through the final to earn his team at least a point.
According to Kraft, Milus will not compete in the indoor national championships to reserve him for the outdoor season.
Redshirt senior thrower and 2012 NCAA champion Jordan Clarke helped balance out any problems on the men’s side, sweeping the weight throw. His throw of 19.96 meters (65-06.00) was his career best and fourth best in ASU history, not to mention his first time competing in the event this season.
“He’s such a monster talent,” Kraft said. “He’s able to go it there and get it done. He’ll obviously be the favorite in the last indoor event.”
On day two, Clarke’s first throw was well over the 20-meter mark, which became the winning toss. There has only been one other competitor in the indoor season that has thrown over 20 meters and Clarke has done it in each event this season.
“It feels good knowing that,” Clarke said. “I feel very confident going into NCAAs since I have done it three meets in a row and the other guy hasn’t.
“If I go in and execute the way I should, I feel like I would be hard to take down. I am a natural competitor.”
His partner in crime, redshirt senior Joe Riccio, also helped the men’s team with a few points by finishing third in the weight throw behind Clarke.
Senior jumper Chris Benard placed second in the long jump with a leap of 7.63 meters (25-00.30), qualifying just short of his career best. The jump should put him into the NCAA Championships.
On Saturday, Benard sealed his second-straight MPSF Championship in the triple jump with a season’s best, 16.14m (52-11.50) jump. The leap put him in the top five in the nation and shut the door on ASU’s competition for the weekend.
The men defended their MPSF team title and will head into the national championship on a high note.
Women get silver
For the No. 8 women, their performance will continue to push them further up the rankings.
However, the women did have a key set back.
One of their leaders and star athletes, senior Keia Pinnick, did not compete over the weekend. Kraft said she had cramped up earlier in the week and is much more important to the outdoor season.
This opened the door for someone to step up. Luckily for the Sun Devils, they got an answer.
Senior multi-competitor Christabel Nettey filled in the shoes of Pinnick and No. 11 redshirt junior thrower Chelsea Cassulo continued her success for the lady Sun Devils.
Nettey, who ranks No. 2 in the long jump, sealed her second-straight MPSF title with a jump of 6.49m (21-03.50). The No. 29 60-meter hurdler blazed off the line in the final, winning by .02 seconds.
“It was huge because Keia was a favorite in the hurdles,” Kraft said. “She ran the race of her life and blasted everyone from the start. You can’t win championships without champions.”
Nettey was nothing short of a champion, taking home three championships to her name with another victory coming in the triple jump where she isn’t even ranked.
Without Nettey stepping up for her fellow senior, the women may not have finished in the second overall spot.
Cassulo entered the MPSF championship meet on a five-event winning streak and didn’t have any intention of stopping now. Her throw of 20.76 (68-01.50) in the weight toss outdid No. 20 Oregon sophomore Jillian Weir. Cassulo is riding on some momentum moving on to the indoor national championship.
“She’s a little undersized for the weight, but an excellent technician and excellent competitor,” Kraft said.
Another woman that rose to the occasion was sophomore distance runner Shelby Houlihan, who competed in the mile for the first time all season.
Houlihan ran away with it, beating her competition by over two seconds.
“Shelby stepping up in the mile and out of her comfort zone was great,” Kraft said. “She’s our standby in the 4×400 if Keia cannot compete.”
Kraft was pleased to say the least about the championship weekend, but his goal has still yet to be achieved.
“Our goal is to have both teams finish in the top 10 (at nationals),” Kraft said. “Our department prides itself on the Director’s Cup. We obviously like that type of responsibility and look forward to competing in two weeks.”
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