USC Track & Field 2012 Season Outlook
Feb. 22, 2012
Every track and field season is special at USC and the years in which there is an Olympics competition it is even more exciting as our current student-athletes strive to reach that goal while many of our former athletes are succeeding in their efforts to display their talents on the biggest stage. USC's track and field history and Olympic success is unparalleled and is a great motivator as we enter this season.
Our men's team placed 12th at the NCAAs last season but knows that it left a lot of potential points on the track and lost only two NCAA scorers in Brendan Ames who took third in the 110m HH and Trey Henderson who placed fourth in the hammer throw at the 2011 NCAA Championships. The women's team is coming off a sixth-place finish at the NCAAs and returns virtually everyone except Nia Ali, but that is a lot as the 2011 Pac-10 Female Track Athlete of the Year won the NCAA 100m HH title and placed sixth in the high jump.
We look for the men's team to return to the top 10 this season, something we had accomplished the previous six seasons and in 14 of the last 17 seasons. We definitely stubbed our toes a bit in Des Moines, Ia. at the championships last season, so this is a very focused team and I think that with the 2012 NCAA Championships in the same place it will help our team keep last season's disappointment in the forefront of their minds.
The strength of the team once again should be the 400m runners which are led by All-Americans senior Joey Hughes and sophomore Josh Mance. Hughes placed fifth at the NCAA Championships in the 400m after taking second at the Pac-10 Championships and ranks sixth all-time at USC with a best of 45.05 in the event. Mance placed sixth at the NCAAs after taking fourth at the Pac-10s in the 400m and set the USC freshman record with the 9th-fastest time ever by a Trojan of 45.29. And let's not forget redshirt senior Bryshon Nellum who placed third between Hughes and Mance at the Pac-10 Championships a year ago. He since has undergone yet another surgery and has been feeling better than he has since he first came to USC.
The depth at the position continues for the Trojans as seniors Scott DeYoung, Josh Tennefoss and Duane Walker have all made great strides and figure to available and valuable in the relay pool.
Junior Reggie Wyatt is a 400m IH by trade, but also has been a key member of the 4x400m relay team with the above mentioned athletes. Together they have teamed up to create two of the top 10 Trojan 4x400m relay efforts ever and three-quarters of another team and will likely be one of the top groups in the country. Individually in the 400m IH, Wyatt is a two-time All-American and just missed reaching the NCAA finals last season which featured five seniors. He placed second at the Pac-10 Championships a season ago and owns a PR of 49.41 which is eighth-best on USC's all-time list.
Sophomore Aaron Brown will again anchor the sprints for USC, but this season and will have help in freshmen Jovante Slater and Davonte Stewart. Also, we are not ruling out the possibility of getting additional support from football players Marqise Lee, George Farmer and Robert Woods.
Brown had a freshman best of 10.38 in the 100m dash and advanced to the NCAA semifinals. We look for big things from him this season and certainly cracking into USC's top 10 in the event is a possibility.
Senior Blake Shaw was an NCAA semifinalist in the 1500m race last season and owns the school's third-fastest time ever in the event of 3:43.08. He is also a strong 800m runner and posted his PR of 1:48.81 last season. Freshman Myles Andrews comes to USC with strong credentials from powerhouse Long Beach Poly and owns an 800m best of 1:50.63 and a best 1600m time of 4:14.59.
Sophomore Adrian Rafiee was a pleasant surprise for us last season running the 3000m steeplechase. He showed great potential in his first season and his best time of 9:16.31 run at the Dual Meet is the eighth-fastest 3000m SC time by a Trojan.
We also took a hit in the hurdles where Ames and fellow All-American Oscar Spurlock have graduated. Our top 110m hurdler is expected to be junior transfer Aleec Harris who has run 13.75, but is coming off an injury which caused him to miss most of last season. Freshman Sam Barkley, brother of football quarterback Matt Barkley, will compete in both hurdles for the Trojans with bests of 14.08 in the 110m HH and 37.51 in the 300m IH. Also, we have added freshman hurdler Allen Williams who placed third at the U.S. Junior Championships in the 110m HH with a time of 13.84.
We may be a little thinner in the field events than I would like, but I believe that the people we do have are capable of representing USC well. Senior Cooper Thompson won the 2011 Pac-10 javelin championship before going on to place ninth nationally. His best throw of 253-3 ranks second all-time by a Trojan. Junior Jeffrey Churchman showed good promise last season in the javelin with a best of 206-1 at the Dual Meet and we look for him to take another step forward this season.
The big news for the team was the addition of Hungarian hammer thrower Daniel Szabo in January. He will immediately fill the void left by the graduation of four-year star Trey Henderson and keep USC in the race for the NCAA hammer title. Szabo placed placed 10th in the hammer at the 2011 European U23 Championships and owns a PR of 232-5 which would put him fourth on USC's all-time list.
Sophomore high jumper Viktor Fajoyomi had a solid first season placing seventh in the triple jump and ninth in the high jump at the Pac-10 Championships and it is believed his best days are in front of him. Last season he had a best of 7-0.25, just outside the Trojan all-time top 10 in the event. He battled some leg injuries throughout the season, but was able to post a PR in the triple jump of 50-6.25 and a best wind-aided long jump of 24-4.50. Junior Tyler Ruiz made great strides last season in the high jump, too, clearing 6-11.75 and also seemingly poised to crack the Trojan top 10.
Football player Tony Burnett returns to compete in the long jump and triple jump and looks like he'll be joined by freshman wide receiver standout Marqise Lee in the jumps. Also, freshman Jovante Slater comes to USC with a PR of 24-11.75, winning the 2011 California State long jump title.
Our women's team looks like it might be even stronger, returning a strong core and adding depth at several positions to provide a pretty balanced team.
A year ago we had a lot of young athletes and we weren't too sure how well they would perform in their first season, but the results were very good. We have the No. 3 ranked women's recruiting class added to that group and if they can make the same seamless transition, we could accomplish some pretty special things.
In the sprints we have All-American 200m runners sophomore Jessica Davis (22.84) and senior Aareon Payne (22.83) returning to anchor this group. Davis' 200m time set the USC freshman record and ranks sixth all-time by a Trojan female just behind Payne. Davis also posted an 11.19 100m time good for sixth on USC's all-time charts. Sophomores Jenna Puterbaugh and Loudia Laarman also are a big part of our sprint corps and they all teamed together to finish third in the 4x100m relay at the NCAA Championships and post the fourth-fastest time ever by a USC women's quartet of 43.42.
Freshman Akawkaw (Coco) Ndipagbor and Vanessa Jones will strengthen us in the sprints and provide a 400m presence. Ndipagbor has a best of 23.38 in the 200m and 53.12 in the 400m, while Jones has run a 24.53 200m and a 53.58 400m dash. Ndipagbor won the 2011 California State meet 400m title with a time of 53.38 and took second in the 200m with a time of 24.05.
USC lost a lot with the graduation of NCAA Champion hurdler Nia Ali, but still figures to be strong in the event behind sophomore Lauren Blackburn. Blackburn had a best of 13.06 which set the USC freshman record in the 100m HH, .01 better than NCAA record-holder Virginia Powell (Crawford). We have also added freshman Melia Cox who comes to USC with impressive credentials. She had a best 100m HH time of 13.34 and 300m IH time of 40.94. She placed second in the 100m HH and won the 300m IH at the 2011 California State meet.
Senior Dalilah Muhammad again leads us in the intermediate hurdles. She set a PR of 56.04 in the 400m IH in the NCAA semifinals and went on to place sixth and earn All-America honors in the event.
We are fortunate to have senior Zsofia Erdelyi back for a final season of track and field. She is one of the top distance runners in school history, holding records in the 5000m, 10000m and the 3000m steeplechase. She has trained very hard this fall winning the Long Beach Half-Marathon and the Las Vegas Marathon and we expect her to be a factor at nationals in the 10K race this season.
Our throws group once again appears to be one of the main strengths on the team. We have three hammer throwers in sophomore Jenny Ozorai, senior Marissa Minderler and redshirt sophomore Lauren Chambers who are very capable of scoring in the event at the NCAAs. They rank third, fourth and sixth all-time in the hammer throw by Trojan females. Last season Ozorai took sixth at the NCAA Championships to earn first-team All-America honors and Minderler won the Pac-10 title. We have plenty of depth in the event, too, as redshirt seniors Tamara Baumann and Jade Niemeyer also have the potential to throw over 190 feet.
Kristine Busa is back from a redshirt season and immediately give us a potential NCAA scorer in the javelin. She ranks second all-time by a Trojan female in the javelin with a best throw of 179-1 and was an All-American in the event during the 2009 season. Minderler has also thrown 157-3 and has improved each year in all of the throwing events, including taking sixth in the javelin and eighth in the shot put at the 2011 Pac-10 Championships.
Freshman Alex Collatz will anchor the discus for USC and seems up for the challenge. She was injured for her senior season of high school, but placed fourth at the 2010 USTAF Juniors and was unbeaten as a prep in 2010. She has a best throw of 180-9.
Junior Alitta Boyd had really worked hard coming into the 2012 season and I expect her to have a break-through season. She really stepped it up at the end of last season, placing fourth in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump at the Pac-12 Championships and just missed out on advancing to the NCAAs in both events. She has a PR of 42-5 in the triple jump which ranks sixth on USC's all-time list. Cox also is a fine triple jumper with a high school best of 41-2.75.
I think you can see why we can't wait to get going on the 2012 track and field season. If we continue to compete hard and develop, I think by the end of the season both of our teams can be in contention at the NCAA Championships. And who knows, maybe some of the 2012 Trojans will be advancing on to represent their countries this summer at the London 2012 Olympic Games.