Throwers lead track at home

By J. Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 21, 2005

In hosting their second meet of the outdoor season Friday and Saturday, the Arizona track and field throwers had a great day, notching seven of the 10 Wildcat NCAA regional qualifiers.

"This week the throwers absolutely led this team, beyond a shadow of a doubt," Arizona head coach Fred Harvey said. "Our philosophy is that we fully expect all areas to lead - that's the way we've built the program - and that means that our throwers are always going to be a very strong portion of what we're going to do."

Junior Kelli Burton led the Wildcat women, placing second in the shot put and the hammer throw, and also finishing third in the discus. Burton's 50-6 1/4 toss in the shot qualified her for the NCAA West Region Championships May 27 through May 28 in Eugene, Ore.

She garnered her second regional qualifier of the day in the hammer throw with a mark of 184-1, and hit 154-10 in the discus to place third.

Harvey said Burton, a transfer from Utah State, adds depth to an already potent women's throwers lineup.

"We are ecstatic having Kelli on our team. Just a great young lady to be around, and a heck of an athlete," he said. "We already felt we had the best women's throwing group in the country, and when you add her to them, it really solidifies that."

Sophomore Rachel Varner won the women's discus with a throw of 164-9, also a NCAA regional qualifier.

Freshman Megan Howard added her name to the list of regional qualifiers by placing fourth in the shot put (47-7 3/4).

Also qualifying for the women was senior Sharifa Jones, who placed second in a strong 100-meter hurdles field with a time of 13.44.

"We are most definitely a much better outdoor team than we are an indoor team," Harvey said. "We add so many things to the program outside that we just don't do indoors."

Not to be left out, the men's team had five regional qualifiers of its own.

Seniors Chris Chappell and Kevin Opalka paced their teammates in the men's pole vault by placing second and fourth, respectively.

Chappell cleared 17-3/4, and Opalka's best mark was 16-6 3/4.

Sophomore Adam Kuehl and junior Sean Shields added their names to the postseason slate by finishing 1-2 in the discus. Kuehl's throw soared 191-5, while Shields' attempt flew 186-4.

Kuehl earned another NCAA regional qualifier by placing third in the shot put (57-6 1/4).

Over the break, the Wildcats finished off the indoor season in Fayetteville, Ark. at the NCAA Indoor National Championships.

The men's team placed 10th with 20 points in the team-score competition, and the women's team scored 5.5 points, good for 38th place.

"We did not achieve our goals on the women's side," Harvey said. "That had a lot to do with the numbers that we brought in."

"On the men's side, to be in 10th - track and field is so competitive in this country, it's incredible," he said. "To place 10th at the national championships, we felt extremely proud of what everyone accomplished."

Five Wildcats earned All-American honors, including Shields in the shot put (third place, 64-1/4), junior Robert Cheseret in the 3,000-meter (11th, 8:09.22), junior Jonah Maiyo in the mile (third, 4:02.07), Jones in the 60m hurdles (11th, 8.25 seconds), and senior Connie Jerz in the pole vault (third, 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches).

The Wildcats host two meets this week, with the Wildcat Combined Events running Thursday and Friday, and the Jim Click Shootout Saturday.