The ASU track and field team begins its season in Flagstaff on Friday as the Sun Devils head to NAU for the Lumberjack Invitational.
This season is one with high expectations as the Sun Devils look to continue their dominance under coach Greg Kraft. Kraft has been the Sun Devils’ head coach for 18 seasons and has led ASU’s rise as a perennial power.
Since Kraft has taken over, the Sun Devils have won four national championships and have earned 12 top-four finishes.
Kraft said the expectation remains the same in 2014.
“The team changes every year but our expectations never change,” Kraft said. “(We expect) to be the top three in the conference and the top 10 in the country,” Kraft said.
The men’s team will have some large shoes to fill this season, losing national champion Jordan Clarke, in-state runner-up Chris Bernard and previous All-American Bryan McBride, who is redshirting indoors.
Redshirt senior All-American pole vaulter Derick Hinch returns this season looking to continue his dominance after facing a minor setback with off-season ankle surgery.
“He’s a little slow to form coming off the surgery, but he’s a great competitor,” Kraft said.
The men’s team needs big years from athletes like senior short sprinter Ryan Milus, who will help drive the sprint group. All-American sprinter Daveon Collins transferred from Boise State and also looks to help lead the team.
One athlete to keep an eye out for is freshman Bernie Montoya, who is one of the most decorated high school distance runners of all-time coming out of Yuma, Ariz., making him one of the highest-ranked recruits in the country.
“I think the whole country will be interested in seeing how his transition goes to the collegiate level,” Kraft said.
Another freshman who looks to make an impact this season is sprinter Tatum Bernard-Taylor who was a high school All-American coming out of O’Dea High School in Seattle.
The women’s team will look to have yet another successful season after finishing seventh in the country last year. Junior mid-distance runner Shelby Houlihan is a rising star amongst the women’s team. Houlihan placed first in the 1500-meter and second in the 5000-meter Pac-12 Track and Field Championships.
Expectations for the season are high and the Sun Devils look to add more hardware to their trophy case. However, it’s not just the trophies that matter to Kraft.
“At a minimum, our expectation is that everyone is a good teammate,” Kraft said. “Whether it’s giving a ride to someone, getting their laundry done, going to the grocery store, just getting them a cup of water, or just pulling them off the track.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @TylerSuddarth