Track and Field Opens Up 2009 Indoor Schedule at Eastern Illinois Mega Meet
Jan. 22, 2009
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis track and field team opens up their 2009 indoor season on Saturday, Jan. 24 in Charleston, Ill. for the Eastern Illinois Mega Meet.
The Tigers will be competing at Lantz Indoor Fieldhouse on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. Currently 276 athletes are scheduled to compete in the all-day event. The field events begin at 9 a.m. with the long jump and weight throw. Running events are slated for a 10:30 a.m. start with the 4x800 relay. The final events are scheduled to begin 6:25 with the 4x400 relay. An open 3K run will start following all regular events. The meet is a non-scoring event.
"In our first meet of the year, our coaching staff will have the opportunity to step back and evaluate the progression that our team has made in the offseason," said track and field head coach Kevin Robinson. This will give us an idea of where we need to go in the future both short term and long term, and it will show us what kind level that we will be able to compete at this year. It will also give us an evaluation point to see how well we have prepared our athletes for competition this year."
Athletes from the following schools and clubs are scheduled to compete on Saturday: Eastern Illinois, Chicago State, Greenville College, McKendree University, University of Memphis, Rend Lake C.C., Saint Louis University, St. Xavier, Brooks/CTC, Illinois XC/Track Club, Indy's Racing Cheetahs, and Untouchables.
"We're obviously very excited for our first indoor competition," said Robinson. "We're going to see a lot of competition this weekend from the lineup of teams. There will be several division one schools present and this Eastern Illinois Mega Meet should prove to be a highly competitive competition. We have a lot of talented athletes who will be performing for the first time in a Memphis uniform for the first time this weekend. We're really anxious and excited to see how our newcomers will perform, but we will rely heavily on the group of returning kids to lead the team. They have been to battle with us before. I'm anxious to see what happens."
Women's Track and Field Preview
The attitude of the women's track team and coaches is not that they have a chance to win the C-USA Championship, but they plan to win it. Since head coach Kevin Robinson took over the combined men's and women's program for the 2007 season, his women's squad has never won a C-USA Title, but in just two short years as head coach, the Lady Tigers track and field team is on the brink of C-USA winning their first C-USA title in 2009. The women's team finished alone in third place at the 2008 C-USA Indoor Championships which goes down as the best team finish the Lady Tigers have turned in at the C-USA Indoor meet. The team tied their best finish at the outdoor championships with a sixth place finish at the 2008 C-USA Outdoor Championships.
"As a unit, we have assembled the best and deepest group of female track and field athletes that have ever stepped foot on this campus. As long as we do our job to keep these young ladies healthy, hungry and motivated, then we will go into that conference championship meet only accepting of a team C-USA championship," said Robinson.
In the offseason, Robinson and the Memphis Tiger coaching staff recruited tirelessly signing several new additions to the Tiger team. This group of newcomers looks to add another dimension to the overall team success during the 2009 indoor and outdoor track seasons.
"We have a lot of top end talent, but we also have kids that have the ability to score in areas that we have not scored before," said Robinson. "I really look forward to getting out and competing. This is a starting point. 2009 is ground zero and this is where we are trying to go from here. We're going to add some more individual championships, more regional qualifiers, more NCAA Championship competitors and more All-Americans by the time we're finished here."
"We have become a nice broad group of talented individuals, but we're going to stick together with the foundation that we began last year and I think the throwers and the multi events are the heart and soul of our program. We expect great things from them."
Junior LaShundra Kershaw returns as the Tigers' highest ranked sprinter in the 60 meter dash, the 100m dash, and both the indoor and outdoor 200m races. Kershaw has had her fair share of injuries throughout her career at Memphis, but her training has been adjusted to compensate for previous issues. She has remained healthy through the fall and expect the junior speedster to shine in the short sprints for the Tigers in 2009
"If we can keep LaShundra healthy throughout the year and put her on the track at the conference meet at 100 percent, she can be a very dominant force," said Robinson.
At the winter break, the Lady Tigers added junior transfer LaBrittany Horton from Barton County C.C. She has a 200m dash personal record of 23.52 and she runs a sub 12 second 100m dash. The coaching staff expects her to make an immediate impact on C-USA. She has already posted NCAA Regional qualifying times in multiple events.
"We look for LaBrittany to be one of the best sprinters who has ever walked through the doors here and we are really excited about what she can bring to the table this year," said Robinson.
The Tigers will also rely on freshmen Keyosha Yarbrough and Christian Arnold to make an early impact in both the short sprints and in the jumps in their initial seasons at Memphis.
Multi event athlete senior Eryka Morris will share time in the short sprints when she is not participating in the indoor pentathlon or the outdoor heptathlon.
In a deep event for the Lady Tigers, Robinson looks to seniors Ashley Stewart and Eryka Morris to provide experience and leadership to the hurdle events. Alongside the two veterans are sophomores Holland Thomas and Charlotte Abrahamsen who should also record solid numbers and score plenty of points in 2009. Freshman Inger Anne Froyesdal looks to step in immediately to be a solid performer for the Tigers in the hurdles as well.
The transfer from Barton County C.C. Tayana Simpson earned junior college NJCAA All-American honors in the 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, 60m hurdles indoor, and 4x400m relay team. She already owns personal record times in the 100m hurdles and the 400m hurdles below NCAA Regional qualifying marks.
"She will be a very dominant force at the C-USA Championships in the hurdles," said Robinson.
Expect to see Simpson and fellow newcomer LaBrittany Horton to be impact legs of the 4x100 meter relay and 4x400meter relay teams as well.
"Heavy expectations lie on their shoulders, but I believe that they are experienced and have the professional attitude to handle it," said Robinson.
Entering the season, Robinson knows that he has the luxury of having a deep group of hurdlers. This facilitates a competitive atmosphere in training. If each of the girls continues to push the others in practice, look for many if not all to find a lane for the finals at the C-USA Championships.
"Even though they are both in their first track and field seasons, we are expecting good things out of this pair of athletes in the future," said Robinson. "They have showed a lot of heart in practice. They have done everything that we have asked and we're anxious to see where they are at this point."
Emily Malinowski is the lone Lady Tiger distance athlete in her final year of collegiate competition. She is one of the few distance athletes who has a proven record. As a senior, she has a whole list of accolades, both athletic and academic behind her. She was an NCAA Regional qualifier for the Tigers in 2007 in the 5000m run.
"She had a lot of injury problems during the 2008 season, but I believe that we're beyond those," said Robinson. "We know that Emily can have a successful senior campaign," said Robinson. "We want her to have something to be proud of when she graduates."
Malinowski has been very motivated and diligent to her training regime this fall in order for her to get back to her previous form. Her experience and leadership will allow her to give some direction to the young group of distance runners that the Tigers have brought in. She is expected to be at full strength entering the 2009 indoor and outdoor season.
Freshman Kaileigh Brown comes to the University of Memphis as a native of Wales. She has a personal best time of 4:44 in the 1500m run. Tiger coaches hope that she can instantly strengthen the distance program. She will step in immediately as one of the best distance athletes.
Fellow freshman Joslynne Serna is also looking to make an impact in 2009. The hopes are that the pair will help contribute to the Lady Tiger team in their search for a C-USA Championship.
Between former Lady Tigers, assistant coach All-American Gail Lee and All-American Susan King, the Tigers have claimed both the indoor and outdoor shot put championship for the past two years. Robinson does not foresee the trend dying in 2009. The Lady Tigers return the number one and two shot put athletes in C-USA. Senior, Sivan Aballi is by far the most experienced of the two carrying two NCAA Regional appearances and one NCAA Championship appearance with her. In her senior year, she is going to be the leader of the Lady Tiger throws group.
"She has had phenomenal fall training and she is in the best shape of her life," said Robinson. "We expect her to be the one to beat at the conference championships."
Sophomore Charlotte Abrahamsen enters 2009 with far less experience than Aballi, but she is coming off a phenomenal freshman season in 2008 having won the C-USA title and setting a C-USA meet record for the indoor pentathlon and placing fourth in the shot put at both the indoor and outdoor C-USA Championships in 2008. The Lady Tigers also add newcomer Kristin Sundsteigen. She should follow closely behind the pair in the points race in 2009. Junior transfer athlete Karmyn Clark has established herself as an elite thrower at the national collegiate level at Rend Lake College and will be participating in many of the throwing events for the Lady Tigers adding plenty of depth in every event.
Serbia native Marina Vojonivic is a transfer student from Manhattan. The sophomore has a shot put personal record of just under 51 feet. She set the MAAC record in the shot put and competed at the world juniors
"She is yet another force to add to our already strong group of female throwers," said Robinson. "I'm confident that all of my shot putters will score well at the conference meet. I believe there is a very good chance that our young ladies will sweep the women's shot put this year. Beyond that, we should send some competitors to participate in the NCAA Regional and National Championships."
Despite being new to the Tiger roster, Robinson will rely heavily on Clark to provide strength in the weight throw. She may be a newcomer to Memphis, but she was the junior college champion in the weight throw last year for Rend Lake College.
"She is very dedicated and very motivated," said Robinson. "She has learned a lot about the event since she arrived at U of M. In addition, she has improved her technique and added even more distance to her already impressive numbers. She will improve immensely and hopefully we'll continue the trend of our dominance in the throwing events."
The freshman from Norway, Sundsteigen will step in early to provide a solid amount of depth to an already impressive contingency of throwers. The Tigers will also look to junior Angela Wigley to be major factor in helping the team rack up as many points as possible to bring the Lady Tigers' first C-USA Title in 2009.
Aballi, Sundsteigen, and Clark will be very good competitors in the discus for the Tigers. This multifaceted trio is solid in each of the throwing competencies. Aballi has the best personal record in the discus of the Lady Tiger throwers entering the 2009 season, but expect there to be some competition from teammate Sundsteigen for the top spot on the team by season's end.
Because of the similarity of the two events, Clark who will be the Tigers' marquee indoor weight thrower should also be the frontrunner for the number one scorer in the outdoor hammer throw. Clark will come in and make an immediate splash in conference competition where the Tigers lost graduating All-American Susan King.
"This is Karmyn's domain," said Robinson. "That's where she shines, but I also believe that Kristin Sundsteigen and Angela Wigley will do very well in the hammer. We should have a pretty solid showing in the hammer throw at the conference championships."
All-American pentathlon athlete Abrahamsen had successful shoulder surgery in the offseason and expects to be healthy entering the season and throughout 2009. The sophomore is a 50m javelin thrower, but she didn't get to compete last year in the javelin because of her ailing shoulder injury.
"She is a very good javelin thrower when she is healthy," said Robinson. Hopefully now that the shoulder surgery and recovery is behind her, she will be able to show us what she can do this year."
Freshman Inger Anne Froyesdal is another Lady Tiger multi event athlete who has had some experience with the javelin. She is an added javelin thrower for the Lady Tigers in 2009. Through the fall and winter workouts, she has shown a lot of improvement in her technique and distance with the javelin.
The Tigers have two experienced pole vaulters in Ashton Baldwin and Whitney Bolton who are both in their senior campaigns in 2009. Each has earned top-3 honors at multiple championships, and both hold school records. They share the same goals for the 2009 season which are for each to be present on the medal stand at the C-USA Championships and for both to obtain NCAA Regional qualifying marks during outdoor season.
The Lady Tigers add depth in the pole vault with freshman Brittiany Brewster who has had the opportunity to train with the pair of seniors throughout the fall workouts. This has proved to be a blessing for her as she can learn from the experienced girls during her training. Baldwin and Bolton are at a level in their collegiate careers that Brewster is striving towards.
The jumps will be anchored by pentathlon All-American Abrahamsen, but a newcomer that should make an immediate impact for the Tigers is the freshman Froyesdal. She comes to Memphis possessing international experience having competed in the world junior championships in the triple jump. The freshman's personal record is nearly a foot further than the existing U of M school record.
"We expect her to break our school record this year and more," said Robinson. "She will come in and be a productive point scorer not only at the conference level, but on the national scene as well."
Triple jump is by far her best event, but she is experienced and has solid enough marks to be competitive in the long jump and high jump for the Tigers in 2009 as well.
Abrahamsen comes into the year as an experienced and skilled high jumper. She earned second place at the 2008 C-USA Indoor Championships and if the conditions are right should challenge for the C-USA high jump title in 2009. Fellow multi event athlete Eryka Morris has turned in good performances in the jumping events.
The Lady Tigers have two new jumpers, freshmen Christen Arnold and Keyosha Yarbrough. The newcomers have shown a lot of promise this fall during training.
The Lady Tigers return All-American Pentathlon athlete Charlotte Abrahamsen in 2009 to the multi events. She earned All-American honors with an eighth place finish at the NCAA Championships and broke her own school record with a score of 4103 in the indoor pentathlon. Abrahamsen also set a new school record and a C-USA Indoor Championship meet record with a score of 4004 in the indoor pentathlon at the 2008 meet. Memphis senior Morris, joined Abrahamsen on the medal stand at the 2008 C-USA Indoor Championships with a third place finish in the pentathlon. They are joined by the freshman Froyesdal who makes the group one of the strongest and deepest in the conference.
"Our goal is to go one, two, three and sweep the pentathlon at the C-USA Championships," said Robinson. "The girls are very motivated and dedicated to achieve it."