Track measures up to tough competition in Los Angeles

By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 12, 2004

The Arizona track and field teams faced off against "world-class" competition last weekend in the second annual Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational hosted by UCLA.

On Saturday, the Varner sisters once again dominated the women's throws competition. Sophomore Rachel Varner led the Wildcat women, as she finished third in the women's discus competition, tying her season-best throw of 176 feet, 4 inches (a Pacific 10 Conference and NCAA regional qualifying mark).

Senior Amber Varner also earned Pac-10 and NCAA regional qualifying marks in both her events, coming in sixth in the shot put and eighth in discus.

The Arizona women claimed the crown in the 4x100-meter relay, clocking a time of 45.50 seconds and shaving a few tenths of a second off their season-best time.

Sophomore Robert Cheseret was victorious in the mile run with a Pac-10 qualifying time of 4:01.43.

In the men's triple jump, senior J.R. Harrison finished second with a leap of 50 feet, 4 inches - his third meet with a jump exceeding 50 feet. In the long jump, junior Mark Ramos earned second place with a personal best distance of 23 feet, 2 inches.

Senior Matt Wagner had another commanding performance in the javelin. Wagner won the event with a mark 221 feet, 5 inches, surpassing his closest collegiate competitor by more than 30 feet.

Fellow senior Kevin Opalka took home second place in the men's pole vault, clearing 17 feet, 4 inches. Junior Chris Chappell wasn't far behind, earning fourth place with an outdoor season-best vault of 17 feet.

On Friday, the Wildcats battled windy conditions but were still able to produce quality performances.

"(The weather) did not necessarily affect performances," said UA head coach Fred Harvey. "More than anything, there weren't as many fans to keep that level of excitement up. It let a few people down, but we don't want to use that as an excuse."

Junior Sharifa Jones claimed the title in the women's long jump competition, with a Pac-10 qualifying leap of 19 feet.

On the track, sophomore Marquita Taylor finished second in the 200-meter, clocking a time of 24.38 seconds - just off her season-best and Pac-10 qualifying time of 24.36 seconds.

Varner earned a Pac-10 qualifying mark and placed second in the discus with a distance of 153 feet, 11 inches.

In the pole vault, junior Sheena McKay tied for third place at a height of 11 feet, 5 inches.

The men were equally impressive. Senior Adrain Thomas finished fourth in the 400-meter, with a time of 49.14 seconds.

The Wildcat men earned the top honors in the long jump. Harrison came in first (23 feet, 2 inches) and was followed by freshman Daniel Marshall in second (22 feet, 1 inch).

Marshall had a victory of his own in the triple jump, as he improved his Pac-10 qualifying mark to 48 feet, 1 inch. Senior Mike Mensah finished third with a distance of 46 feet, 3 inches.

Though the Arizona teams wrapped up the competition with solid performances, Harvey said expectations going into the event were extremely elevated.

"We did relatively well. Our expectations were really high (because) it was a world-class event," Harvey explained. "We did get some wins. ... We thought we would have much bigger marks because of the size of the meet that it was. We wanted super performances."

Also on Friday, several Wildcats competed in the Mesa Classic, hosted by Mesa Community College.

Freshman Nikki Martin took home two second-place finishes - in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. In the 100, Martin was clocked at 12.17 seconds, and in the 200, she ran a time of 24.95 seconds.

In the 5000-meter, freshman Karen Langdorf finished second with a NCAA regional qualifying time of 18:23.45.

"Our whole concept (of the Mesa Classic) was to give athletes at this level a chance to travel to this meet to continue to develop and get competition," Harvey said. "Anything they did there in terms of their performances was acceptable to us. The only way they are going to get better is by competing more."

On Wednesday, the Wildcats return to Southern California for the 46th annual Mt. SAC Relays hosted by Mt. San Antonio College.