By J. Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, February 25, 2005
Following a largely successful indoor regular season, the Arizona track teams travel to the University of Washington for the Mountain-Pacific Conference Championships today and tomorrow.
The meet, held in Washington's Dempsey Indoor in Seattle, follows a team score format, meaning the men's and women's teams will compete as a single squad against other universities, including UCLA, Stanford and Oregon.
"Any time you get that much talent together, the Oregons, the Stanfords of the world, UCLA, and put everyone in the same arena on a good track, you're going to have great performances," Arizona head coach Fred Harvey said.
The preliminary rounds will be held Friday, with the finals on Saturday.
The men's team dropped in Trackwire's rankings for the second straight week, falling four spots to No. 18. In the same rankings, Oregon came in at No. 12 and UCLA was No. 24.
"We think we have an opportunity, more so on the men's side, to be one of the top two teams, without a doubt," Harvey said.
While the Wildcat women continued to be unranked, Stanford and UCLA ranked first and 11th, respectively.
The Cardinal has won the event three years in a row.
Both the men's and women's teams enjoyed a more relaxed week of practice, something Harvey said is key to conserving their energy for the tournament.
"Now it is really more a matter of getting them mentally focused and getting them ready for the competition," he said, adding that it was important to find the correct balance between being relaxed and lethargic.
Freshman jumper Steve MacGregor said that a good practice was vital, but noted the importance of saving energy.
"Personally, I'm a person who jumps better well-rested than when I work real hard," he said.
Harvey said that his team must continue to keep its focus.
"We have to go in and perform the way we've been performing the last three weeks," he said.
Those performances the last three weeks increased the total number of athletes competing this weekend to 39 - 20 from the men and 19 from the women.
Because it's a team score event, Harvey said that athletes will compete in events where they can help the team the best.
"We sat down (Monday) morning and strategically plotted where we want to put people to maximize the number of points that we can get," he said.
Freshman sprinter Bobby McCoy will compete in the 60 and 200-meter races in lieu of his normal 400.
Junior distance runner Robert Cheseret will not compete on the distance medley team, but will instead focus on the mile and 3,000.
Coaches and players alike agreed that being familiar with UW's Dempsey Indoor complex will play to their advantage.
"(Two weeks ago) was my first time there, and it really messed with my head. Now I'm gonna be prepared for it," MacGregor said.
"Before one of your biggest meets you always want to make sure you know the track," sophomore hurdler Dan Cook said. "It's a fast track, and I'm excited. I'm so excited."
"If you've been in that arena, it's different," Harvey said. "All the fans are in the middle of the field. You have to warm up in the middle of the field, your trainers are in the middle of the field - moms, dads, everyone has access to you," he said. "Athletes who haven't been there and been a part of it are going to have a difficult time."
The athletes welcomed the two- day event setup.
"Lately, we've been having prelims and finals on the same day," Cook said. "It stinks, because you'll have a race, then you'll have to warm down, and then a few minutes later, you'll warm back up. It's mentally better this way."
Cook said the conditions, both physical and mental, are more important than they seem.
"This is conference," he said. "It's not just any old regular meet."