It’s a whole new season.
After competing in the MPSF Championship meet on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23, the men and women Sun Devils will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., for the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 8 and March 9.
But unlike the MPSF meet, the NCAA championships feature the top 16 athletes in each event.
“Everybody’s got to carry their own,” coach Greg Kraft said. “You have to have champions to be a trophy team.”
The men’s team is entering the weekend not only as the No. 16 in the country, but also having just defended their MPSF championship in Seattle.
The meet was dominated by Jordan Clarke. The redshirt senior thrower has tossed over 20 meters multiple times in each event this year and blew out his competition in the Mountain Pacific regional meet.
“The boys team will start with Clarke,” Kraft said. “Of all our players, Clarke leads by example. He’s our leader.”
Clarke understands the task at hand as he will be defending his NCAA indoor championship.
“I need to execute,” he said. “This title is very important for me to defend. If I win, this will be my 4th NCAA title, which hasn’t been done by many.”
Clarke is on track to be one of ASU’s most decorated and successful athletes, and he knows this weekend is a first step.
“It will look good for my athletic résumé and should help me with my pair-collegiate career,” he said.
Along with Clarke, Kraft looks at senior Chris Benard as an underdog who is destined to do big things.
“Chris Benard coming in at No. 6 in the rankings is someone that could surprise,” Kraft said. “We feel he could steal the championship.”
The jumper placed second in last year’s NCAA championships. He is shooting for the top spot this season. Benard is also coming off a MPSF triple jump championship victory two weekends ago.
Redshirt junior Derick Hinch, junior Bryan McBride and redshirt senior Nick Happe will all also be traveling to Arkansas as well.
Women continue rolling
Senior Christabel Nettey is going to take the reigns for the Sun Devil women.
With the absence of senior Keia Pinnick, Nettey will have to step up in a big way for ASU in the sprints and jumps.
The senior multi-athlete is coming off three MPSF championship victories and will look to roll off that success into the weekend.
“I’m zoned in,” Nettey said. “I’ve been waiting for this meet since we started fall training in August, and now it’s finally here.”
But Kraft says the women will also be leaning on their redshirt junior thrower, Chelsea Cassulo.
In her last six meets, Cassulo hasn’t left a meet without the victory. All fingers point to her keeping that streak alive.
As the No. 14 seed, Cassulo is in the mix with some tough competition.
The other women competitors competing in the NCAA meet will be sophomore Shelby Houlihan and redshirt junior Anna Jelmini. Sophomore Brianna Tate, and juniors Sarah Geren and Alycia Herring will also represent ASU in the 4×400 relay.
“This is a fairly seasoned group,” Kraft said. “They have an idea of what it takes. We’re going to go there and compete.”
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