Track and Field Preview - Jumpers
Dec. 2, 2009
The Memphis track and field teams are gearing up for the 2010 season and are in the midst of the fall training regiment in preparation for the season.
Second in the five-part series updating the Tigers progress, we preview the jumpers
Memphis, Tenn. – With the 2009-10 indoor track and field schedule set to open on Sat. Dec. 5 at the Arkansas State University Kick-Off Classic, University of Memphis track and field head coach Kevin Robinson looks for consistent output from the upperclassman jumpers and immediate impact from the newcomers in the upcoming season.
“Historically over the last eight to 10 years, we have had a very sound tradition in jumping,” Robinson said. “We have won multiple women’s high jump titles in the past. This year we are in a situation where we don’t have as many numbers in jumpers as I would like, but the jumpers we do have I am very confident in. I feel like if we are going to have a chance to win the conference title this year, our jumpers are going to have to step up and perform big when it matters the most.”
Robinson and his staff have put the jumpers through an extensive fall training schedule to increase the student-athlete endurance level as well as their strength.
“I think field event athletes have the same basic demand which is being explosive and as powerful as possible to propel them at the greatest distance,” Robinson said. “The jumpers have to maximize their speed as well as their power output. The jumpers spend a lot of time on the track training with the sprinters in order to maximize their speed and velocity and that in turn helps them to create more power. In the weight room the jumpers are doing weights to increase their power output.”
The U of M men’s track and field jumpers group has an experienced cast of four returning letterwinners for the 2009-10 season and one freshman will join the cast in Memphis’ quest for a C-USA Championship.
An NCAA Championship qualifier, junior jumper Aaron Whetstone anchors the array of Tiger jumpers. Whetstone finished first in the long jump at the C-USA Outdoor Championships with a personal best leap of 7.50m to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. A top-five finisher in each of the outdoor meets he participated in, Whetstone also participated in the triple jump where he posted a personal best leap of 15.90m at the C-USA Outdoor Championships. The Carlisle, Pa. native had four first place finished during the 2008-09 indoor season including a personal best triple jump leap of 15.56m at the Arkansas Last Chance meet.
“Aaron is a guy that I have seen jump tremendous distances, 26 or 27 feet in the long jump and 55 or 56 feet in the triple jump,” Robinson said. “Aaron’s biggest enemy is the board and when he becomes consistent at hitting the board, jump after jump, he will become one of the greatest jumpers in the U.S. I am confident he has the jumping ability and the speed to become a dominant force at the NCAA level and then move on to the professional ranks if that is his goal. Aaron works really hard and he is a great athlete to coach. He is a student of his event and is a great person for any of the young kids to watch and learn from.”
Junior Jerome Leslie looks to build off a strong 2008-09 campaign that saw him finish in the top-five nine times during the indoor season and seven top-10 finishes during the outdoor season. Leslie finished third at the Joey Haines Invitational with a personal-best high jump of 1.98m during the outdoor campaign and his best finish in high jump during the outdoor season came at the SEMO Invited where he finished third with a leap of 1.93m. The Plainsboro, N.J. native also competed in the long jump and triple jump in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
“Jerome is a guy who I feel like has the ability and the talent to become a force,” Robinson said. “He hasn’t spent nearly as much time as he has needed to in the high jump, but we are going to rectify that this year. He is going to do high jump more and more this year and I feel like he can jump 6’8” or 6’10” on a regular basis with the increased exposure to the event. I look for Jerome to break the 50 feet barrier in the triple jump this year. I think Jerome and Aaron, given the right conditions and the right training, can be two of the best jumpers in the conference.”
The men’s pole vault will feature senior Brian Prackett who has compiled 12 top-five finishes in his three seasons at the U of M. Prackett posted a first place vault of 4.41m (14-6.00) at the SEMO Invite during the 2008-09 indoor season. Prackett will be joined by freshman Nathan Arnold as the two will represent the Tigers in the pole vault this season.
“Brian has been with me for five years now and has been a guy we can count on,” Robinson said. “He has always performed at his best when it matters the most. He has been with the team so long that it is hard to think about the team without him. We brought Nathan in and he is going to be a very good jumper. He was a highly successful high school jumper, jumping 16 feet. All indications are that he is prepared to jump higher than that this season. Nathan and Brian together don’t do anything but train and do everything the right way. You couldn’t ask for any better kids.
The U of M women’s track and field team will be led by sophomore Kyosha Yarbrough in the upcoming season. Brittany Brewster is the only other jumper returning for the Lady Tigers as the young squad will have three freshmen join the jumpers group this season.
Yarbrough had a standout freshman season for the Lady Tigers as she posted seven top-10 finishes during the 2008-09 indoor season and nine top-10 finishes during the outdoor campaign. Yarbrough finished first in the long jump at the Memphis Tiger Invitational with a leap of 5.71m (18-9.00). The Town Creek, Ala. native captured her best finish of the outdoor season at the SEMO invite with a triple jump of 11.20m (36-9.00).
“I still don’t know what to expect from Kyosha,” Robinson said. “She has so much ability and she is just now starting to realize that she has so much ability. She doesn’t fully understand how good she can become. She is training really hard and has a great attitude about it and I expect a huge breakout year for Kyosha.”
Brewster competed in six meets during the outdoor season, posting a season best pole vault of 3.20m (10-6.00) on three different occasions. The Kingsport, Tenn. native saw limited action during the indoor season as she competed in two meets, posting a third place finish at the EIU Mega meet with a vault of 2.90m (9-6.25).
A talented trio of freshmen will enter the ASU Kickoff meet on Saturday for the Lady Tigers. Kirsten Berding, Lauren Gale and Alyssa Northcutt all look to have an impact for the Lady Tiger track and field team this season.
“It is going to be exciting to see our women’s pole vault this year,” Robinson said. “Brittany comes back after scoring points last year as a freshman. I am really excited about Alyssa and Lauren coming in with personal records that would place them in the top three in the conference last year. They are phenomenal students and are everything I am trying to create with this program, working hard, studying hard and meet the requirements of this program.”
Whetstone joined Memphis Tigers All-Access for an interview on the upcoming meet and season and the interview can be seen by clicking here. Yarbrough also joined Memphis Tigers All-Access and the interview with Yarbrough can be seen by clicking here. Assistant Coach Nick Fortenberry was also interviewed and click here to see his interview.