USC Track & Field Season Outlook
Feb. 21, 2013
The USC men's and women's track and field teams will open the 2013 season on Feb. 23 at the 17th Rossi Relays in Claremont, Calif. The meet begins at 11 a.m.
The following is the USC track and field season outlook:
USC TRACK AND FIELD OUTLOOK - By Director of Track & Field Ron Allice
TROJANS LOOK STRONG IN 2013; HOST PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIPS
The arrival of a new track and field season is always exciting to me and maybe none more than those following an Olympic games where you get to see the Trojan athletes have such great success. It is these seasons between the Olympic contests where the athletes really develop and refine their skills, and that is exciting to watch.
We have a lot of people to replace on both the men's and women's teams, but I believe we have the talent here to once again compete for top 10 finishes at the national level. Another reason to be excited about this season is that USC will be hosting the Pac-12 Championships at Loker Stadium, which I believe is the best conference track meet in the country.
The men's team is coming off a tie for 11th-place at the NCAA's last season, which saw the 4x400m relay team place second with the second-fastest time in school history. The Trojans' 1600m relay returns Olympic silver medalist in the event redshirt senior Bryshon Nellum and All-American senior Reggie Wyatt, but will need to replace the other two legs and alternates. This will be an event we will be experimenting with throughout the season in hopes of finding a winning combination.
Conversely, our men's 4x100m relay team may be better than it has been in years led by Canadian Olympian junior Aaron Brown, sophomore transfer BeeJay Lee, football players redshirt freshman George Farmer, sophomore Marqise Lee and redshirt sophomore D.J. Morgan, sophomore Davonte Stewart, redshirt freshman Jovante Slater and others to choose from. They will also give the Trojans a strong presence in all of the sprint races.
The Trojan men have finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships in six of the last eight seasons and in 14 of the last 18 seasons. This year's NCAA Championships will take place at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., a place that Trojans are very familiar with and have had great successes over the years, including at the 2012 Olympic Trials.
The strength of the team may well be the sprint crew led by Nellum and Brown. Nellum won the 2012 Pac-10 title in the 400m race and owns the fourth-fastest time in school history of 44.80. He also represented the U.S. at the London Olympics in the 400m dash and the 4x400m relay. He ran the leadoff leg in the 4x400m relay finals to help the USA team capture the silver medal. In the open 400m race, Nellum was the top American finisher, taking ninth, just one spot out of the Olympic finals. Just being around Nellum is an inspiration to us all after all he has been through and I think we all will benefit from having him compete as a Trojan for one last season.
Brown also reached the Olympic semifinals, finishing ninth in the men's 200m dash. It was there that he ran a PR of 20.42 to move into eighth place on the USC all-time list. Brown was also the 2012 Pac-12 champion in the 100m dash and an All-American in the 200m race at the NCAA Championships.
Senior Reggie Wyatt is also a big key to the team as one of the top 400m IH runners in the country and a very strong relay runner. He ran 49.11 to place third at the 2012 NCAA Championships in the 400m IH which is the fifth-fastest time ever by a Trojan male. Wyatt also reached the finals of the 400m IH at the U.S. Olympic Trials where he placed sixth.
Sophomore Davonte Stewart had an impressive first season for USC, improving every step of the way, culminating with a PR of 20.55 in the 200m and a third-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships. He also place 12th in the 100m dash at the conference meet and advanced to the NCAA Championships in the 200m dash where he placed 19th to earn honorable mention All-America honors.
It will be interesting to see how our 110m HH group does. We have had a Trojan male earn All-America honors in the event in 10 of the last 16 seasons. Last year, reshirt sophomore D.J. Morgan came off the football practice field and with very little practice was able to capture fifth place at the Pac-12 Championships. If he can focus on the event a little more this season, we may see him resemble his old form which earned him a win in the 110m HH at the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships with a time of 13.28. We also will have Aleec Harris available after missing last season while recovering from achilles surgery. He was the 2010 national junior college champion in the 110m HH and owns a PR of 13.55. Sophomore Allen Williams also returns to add depth at the position for the Trojans. He is a former third-place finisher in the 110m HH at the U.S. Junior Championships.
Lee placed fourth at the Pac-12 Championships, 12th at the regional and 17th at the NCAA Championships in the long jump and is only getting better. Speaking of better, we are hopeful Slater will return to form which saw him win the CIF Southern Section LJ title over Lee.
In the triple jump we will have Viktor Fajoyomi and Allen Williams leading the way, and in the high jump we have returners Fajoyomi and Tyler Ruiz, as well as talented newcomers in JC transfer Herb Dew and freshman Errin Baynes and all of them can potentially clear seven feet.
Senior javelin specialist Cooper Thompson returns from a redshirt season. He placed ninth at the 2011 NCAA Championships and owns the second-farthest throw in school history of 253-3. He will be joined in the event by Jeff Churchman and hurdler-convert Sam Barkley.
Sophomore Daniel Szabo placed third in the hammer at the Pac-12 Championships and 12th at the NCAA Championships and posted the eighth-farthest throw all-time by a Trojan of 220-2, all while competing with discomfort throughout his freshman season. He has since had surgery on both of his hips and when he returns to action will be a force to be reckoned with. So will transfer Remy Conatser who set the national junior college hammer throw record with a mark of 217-5.
Our women's team struggled last season, finishing tied for 24th after coming into the season with high hopes. I think that has helped fuel their passion to improve which we saw in the fall and early in the indoor season. It still is a fairly young team, so I have high hopes that they will show steady improvement throughout the season.
Perhaps the key to our resurgence would be the return to form of junior sprinter Jessica Davis. She was an All-American sprinter as a freshman, but could not repeat the feat as a sophomore. She is a very talented runner and I have no doubt she will be a key member for us moving forward. I remember when Virginia Powell was an All-American hurdler as a freshman, didn't reach the finals as a sophomore, only to return and become the greatest collegiate hurdler of all-time. There is only one Ginnie Powell, but Davis does own the sixth-fastest 100m and 200m dashes in school history and we know she can do better.
Joining Davis in the Trojans young and experienced sprint corps are fellow juniors Loudia Laarman and Jenna Puterbaugh and sophomores Akawkaw Ndipagbor and Vanessa Jones. Laarman was seventh in the 100m dash at the 2012 Pac-12 Championships and is a two-time All-American in the 4x100m, as is Davis. Puterbaugh was injured last season, but ran on the fourth-fastest 4x100m relay in school history in 2011 and Ndipagbor took her spot last year, with both earning All-America status. Ndipagbor was seventh in the 400m race at the Pac-12 Championships and Jones placed 14th. A key addition to this group is Ashley Liverpool, a transfer from Iowa. She was second in the 400m dash at the Big Ten Championships and 13th in the event at the NCAA Championships last season. She owns a PR of 52.47 and figures to run into USC's all-time top 10 in the event. The three 400m runners should team together to make a strong 4x400m relay team.
USC will surely miss the steady Dalilah Muhammad in the hurdles, but freshman Jaide Stepter may help ease the pain. She was the Arizona Gatorade Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year as she won state titles in the 100m HH, 300m IH and long jump, as well as setting the state 300m IH record. In addition, USC will have the returns of sophomore Meila Cox who was seventh in the 100m HH at the Pac-12 Championships with a time of 13.49 and junior Lauren Blackburn who placed 12th at the NCAA Championships a season ago, despite a foot injury which required surgery. If she can get back this season, the Trojans will have a strong contingent in the hurdles.
Senior Alitta Boyd will anchor the jumping group, as a talent capable of reaching the NCAA finals in both the triple jump and long jump. She ranks fourth by a Trojan all-time in the triple jump with a best of 43-8.50 and just outside the top 10 in the long jump at 20-6.50. Cox also ranks eighth on the USC triple jump list with a best jump of 41-8.50 and junior Oluwakemi Olonade ranks 11th with a jump of 40-9.50.
The women's throws group has been very strong of late and this season should be no exception. Junior Jenny Ozorai is a two-time All-American in the hammer throw, taking sixth in 2011 and fourth last season. Her best mark of 223-4 ranks second on USC's all-time list. We also return junior hammer thrower Lauren Chambers who ranks sixth on the USC all-time list with a mark of 206-5.
Sophomore Alex Collatz is coming off an All-American first season as a Trojan. She set the USC freshman record in the discus throw and posted the second-farthest throw all-time by a Trojan of 177-11. She also started throwing the hammer and had a best of 173-4.
Freshman Tera Novy should make an immediate impact on the Trojan program. She is a former USATF National junior discus and shot put champion. She is expected to throw the discus, shot and hammer for USC. She has a high school best of 153-10 in the discus and 48-8.75 in the shot put.
I think you can see that we have lots of pieces heading into the 2013 season, the big question will be how they fit together and how we can develop the talent. It should be an exciting season, especially on campus where we will be hosting high-end competition at the Trojan Invitational, then taking on crosstown rival UCLA at home and finally hosting the Pac-12 Championships. If a few people step up and things come together the way I hope they will, a top 10 finish at the NCAA Championships seems like a realistic goal for both our men's and women's teams.