Syversen, hurdlers lead young squad into 2010-11
Dec. 2, 2010
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Tiger track and field seasons will kick off this weekend, at the Arkansas State Kick-off Klassic in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The weekend will kick off with the multi-events on Friday, beginning at 3:00 p.m. Saturday will feature the final multi-event categories, as well as all track and field events for the meet, beginning at 9:00 a.m.
This weekend will begin the track and field season, and with it, several questions will begin to be answered. The men’s team will see who will step up to replace departed Steffen Nerdal, the first and only four-time All-American in Memphis history and the most decorated thrower in a long line of accomplished throwers.
While Nerdal’s Tiger contributions probably won’t be replicated any individual, there won’t be much drop-off to the throwers in 2011. Senior Knut Syversen, an NCAA Regional qualifier in 2008 and 2010 and 2009 indoor shot put champion, spent three years learning from Nerdal and head coach Kevin Robinson; 2011 will be his chance to escape from Nerdal’s shadow and make a name for himself.
“Knut will be a force this year,” said Robinson. “While it would be crazy to think that we will be able to replace Steffen’s performance, we have such a strong team from top to bottom, starting with Knut, that we feel we’re deeper this year.”
With the departure of Nerdal and fellow throwers Seth Major and Harding Zills, the cupboard is barer than it has been in several years for a storied Memphis throwing program. A host of newcomers, headlined by Savvas Arestis and Elijah Mahaley, will receive the finest tutelage available through Coach Robinson and will look to progress quickly during indoor season.
“Savvas is going to be a very special athlete for us,” said Robinson. “Elijah is a very strong, powerful athlete who can compete for us right away.”
This isn’t a team that succeeds or fails based on the merits of its throwers, though; the sprinting and hurdling groups for the men’s squad have earned every right to be considered an elite group. The success of that group begins with senior Richard Lowe, who is a two-time Regional qualifier and last season earned his first trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Lowe, along with regional qualifying-junior Robert Jackson, will be counted on to lead a veteran, talented squad that will be charged with improving on last season’s fifth-place indoor finish.
“This group has to be considered one of the best in the conference,” said Robinson. “Richard and Robert are two of the top returning athletes in the conference and I expect them to be even better than they were last season.”
Senior Jerome Leslie is now a six-time all-conference performer, second-most on the current Tiger squad behind Syversen; in 2010, he broke out in a big way with a bronze-winning high jump performance at the C-USA Outdoor Championships and made his first Regional outdoor appearance. Leslie is the most accomplished returning jumper and will be flanked by talented, but unproven freshmen, such as D’Ernest Rucker and Darius Lynwood.
Junior Karlis Pujats returns this season following his school-record setting performance in the pole vault at last season’s C-USA Indoor Championships, where his 5.21 meter vault made him runner-up. Pujats returns with his eyes on a first-place finish and bettering his school record, both goals that are within the crafty Latvian’s reach.
“Karlis is poised to do some special things this year,” said Robinson. “His fall jumping has gone very well and he’s bigger, stronger and faster.”
For the first time in a good many years, there’s also light at the end of the tunnel for the men’s distance runners, owing mainly to the success that freshman James Maglasang had during the fall cross country season. The newcomer from Paducah, Kentucky, will be a contender in every distance race during track season and his development will be one of the key factors in the Tigers success.
“Our men’s squad is very strong,” said Robinson. “We have a lot of senior leadership and we’re very excited to get this season started.”
The season’s first test will feature teams such as Ole Miss, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Central Arkansas in addition to host Arkansas State.
Check back with gotigersgo.com all season for updates regarding all things related to each Tiger track and field squad.