2006 Men's Track Preview: Making The Turn
Nov. 27, 2006
MEMPHIS - While it may only be his first season as head track and field coach at the University of Memphis, Kevin Robinson is already expecting to see his athletes make major improvements and for the Tigers to have one of their highest ever finishes in Conference USA. The Tigers' 2007 schedule reflects the lofty expectations of their new head coach. The team is slated to compete in several events hosted by national powerhouses such as Arkansas and LSU as well as the widely respected Texas Relays.
Sprints One of the most improved areas on the team should be the sprints, where Memphis returns a host of experienced runners. Senior Willie Green figures to be one of the Tigers' biggest standouts in the short events. Green has one season of outdoor eligibility remaining, and the school record holder in the 100 meters will try to improve on his third-place conference finish from 2006. "I think we're going to be the best that we've been in sprints for years," said Robinson. "We bring Willie back, and he's taken as high as third in three different conference championships, both indoor and outdoor. He's the best sprinter we've had here in the past five years." During the indoor season look for Barton Community College transfer Andre Hicks to make an impact in the 60-meters. The Tigers will also look for points from Daemien Jefferson, Larry Harris and Stephon Greenlee in the 200-meters and the 400-meters. Greenlee missed much of last season with an injury, and will return to shore up an already strong squad of hurdlers. Harris, a 2004 NCAA Regional Qualifier, took fourth in the conference in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2006 outdoor meet and second in the 60-meter hurdles at the indoor meet. Fellow Tiger hurdler Amaechi Oselukwue took second in the 400-IM. "Our hurdlers will be among the best in the conference," said Robinson. "We return both Amaechi and Larry who were solid scorers last year and we get back Stephon, who we didn't have last year in the outdoors. I'm looking for hurdles to be one our biggest strengths this year." Sophomore Jarred Jones had a strong fall and is expected to lead Memphis in the 400-meters. Green, Thomas and Jefferson return to anchor the Tiger 4x100 team that reached the NCAA regionals in 2006.
Middle Distance Led by Coach Mike Power, the Tigers' middle distance group will see immediate results. Geoff Standen will likely be the Tigers' standout in the middle distance events. The sophomore had a great fall, leading the Memphis cross country team in two of their meets. "Geoff's personal best is very competitive with the rest of the conference," said Robinson. "He had a good fall in cross-country and made some major improvements there. I think that's going to make him much stronger this year." Standen will be joined in the 800 by fellow cross country runner Sam James, who specialized in the 400-meters last season
Distance In the distance events, sophomore Juan Arboleda will be called upon to jump into the forefront. Arboleda was the Tigers' top runner in the fall cross country season and was named C-USA Male Athlete of the Week after his performance at the Arkansas State Sweepstakes. "Juan has the potential to be a factor," said Robinson. "We hope that he continues to improve. He worked hard during the cross-country season and made some significant strides, so we hope that he will be a factor."
Jumps During Robinson's four years as a field coach, the Tigers experienced unprecedented success, and now Memphis looks to move to the front of the pack in C-USA in the jumping and throwing events. In the jumps, Memphis returns Brandon Winbush, who was an NCAA Championships automatic qualifier in the long jump in 2005 and 2006. He has finished second in the event at both the C-USA Outdoor and Indoor Championships and is a two-time all-region athlete. "Brandon is an excellent jumper," said Robinson. "We're looking for him to go well over 25 feet this year and possibly get to all-American status." Triple jumper Richard Swaby had a rough transition last season after coming to Memphis from Jamaica. However, Robinson is impressed with the sophomore's athleticism and expects him to compete well in 2006. "I don't think Richard ever found his groove last season," said Robinson. "He has a lot of talent and a tremendous work ethic. I've seen him long jump 24 feet before. Now we just need him to put it together in a meet situation." Andre Hicks will compete in the high jump. The transfer set a personal best of 6-10 in the high jump last season while helping to lead Barton Community College to the Junior College National Championship. "Andre is another kid who has a lot of untapped potential," said Robinson. "He has phenomenal work ethic and a great disposition. I think he'll go on to great things while he is here." Sophomore Brian Prackett will be the Tigers' sole competitor in the pole vault. The West Memphis, Ark., native scored for the Tigers at the conference level during his first year at the U of M and can provide solid scoring for the Tigers again this season.
Throws The Tiger throwers group will have to replace NCAA Championship qualifier J. D. Erickson, who set a school record in the indoor weight throw last season. The most likely candidate is Nobert Gulyas, a multiple time regional qualifier who has scored in every conference meet he has competed in during his collegiate career. Robinson is also excited about the potential of transfer Glen Edwards, who the coach feels has a good chance to challenge for the C-USA title in the shot put. Edwards was a two-time junior college all-American at Barton County Community College. "Glen is going to be a great thrower," said Robinson. "He has a lot of talent and a lot of heart. I'm really excited to see how he performs for us this year." Memphis will also count on Greg Norrid who scored in both the javelin and the shot put at the C-USA outdoors and should be a factor in both events this season. Senior Tyler Frazier, who will represent the Tigers in the javelin, is coming off a fifth-place finish in the C-USA Tournament in 2005. Rounding out the throws group will be redshirt freshman Harding Zills in the shot put, discus and weight throw.
Local product Jason Morgan will be the Tigers' lone representative in the multi-events. The Germantown native was third in the heptathlon at the conference indoor meet before being forced to withdraw because of injury. This season he will compete in both the heptathlon and the decathlon in the outdoor season. He will also provide help in the javelin and 400IM as well.