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Track and Field runs wild in Reno tomorrow

By Christopher Wuensch
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday January 17, 2003

The UA track and field squads look to get their season off to a running start this weekend, as both the men's and women's teams compete in their first two meets.

First up for the Wildcats is the North West Pole Vault Summit, today in Reno, Nevada. UA will send two to three athletes from both the men's and women's teams to the competition. The competition is open to squads from collegiate ranks, masters and high schools as well as beginning levels.

Head coach Fred Harvey said the weekend is designed to place athletes in a learning environment where they can compete while having fun at the same time. For many of the students, the games represent a chance to fine-tune their skills for the upcoming season.

Leading the Wildcats to Reno this weekend will be standout sophomore pole-vaulter Amy Linnen. The 2001 All-American currently holds the Arizona school record with a vault of 4.2 meters, which she accomplished at last year's NCAA indoor championships. The New York native was the No. 1 ranked pole vault athlete in the nation during her prep career.

Part of Arizona's squad will be in Flagstaff Saturday for the Northern Arizona Invitational. The men's team will compete with no more than 14 participants in the indoor events, while the women will send a squad of 19 to the competition.

Harvey said he feels this weekend's meet will provide the Wildcats their first opportunity to perform in competitive situations.

"We will be looking for an assault on the conference qualifying marks and the NCAA qualifying marks as well," Harvey said.

Harvey said his squad is as diversified as it is talented.

"I feel good about our opportunities. Our goals are always high. We strive to be the best," Harvey said.

Harvey, in his first year as head coach, has high expectations for his talented squad. Considered one of the premier sprint and hurdles coaches in the nation, Harvey is entering his 15th season with Arizona.

Harvey's squad will be looking to place in the top five in both the Pac-10 and the Western Region as well as in the top 10 in the NCAA national rankings.

"We look to provide the best academic and athletic opportunities for our teams and coaches. The athletes at the UA have been extremely successful. We know we have the talent. It's up to us to provide the best opportunities for these students," Harvey said.

Harvey is expecting another outstanding season from several of his talented athletes. Linnen anchors the solid women's squad and, according to Harvey, has the potential to become the national champion in the pole vault.

The Wildcats are looking for a spark from newcomer Angel Perkins. Perkins, a sensational former high school track star, will be competing in her first season with Arizona track and field.

On the men's side, sophomore Sean Shields returns as one of the premier shot put and discus throwers in the country. Shields holds the freshman discus record with a toss of 193 feet. His record of 62 feet 8 inches is the current freshman record for shot put, a record he has broken four times.

All-American sprinter Matt Lea anchors the men's squad. The Wildcats will look to Lea's experience and leadership to guide the team throughout the 2003 season. The red-shirt senior out of Camarillo, California returns the fastest 400 meter time on the men's squad.

The women's team will look to sophomore Beth Hoge to provide leadership, despite being in just her second season of competition. She is one of the UA's top distance runners, competing in the 1,500 meter and the mile races.

Harvey said the team's tremendous recruiting class will pay immediate dividends. Freshman Rachael Varner and transfers Ilona Rutjes and Sharif Jones should provide the biggest boost to the roster.

Rutjes is slated to be one of Harvey's top three throwers this upcoming semester. Jones, a Georgia native, escaped the cold climate of the University of Michigan to bolster an already strong Arizona lineup. Also expected to rejoin that lineup is Amber Steen. Steen has been hampered by a foot injury, forcing the distance runner to sit out the past two seasons. The sophomore will be brought along slowly, but is expected to return and be competitive for the Wildcats.

After this weekend's meets in Reno and Flagstaff, the Wildcats are scheduled to travel to Madison, Wisconsin to compete in the Wisconsin Invitational.


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