2013 men's track and field season preview

(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah -- Despite losing two-time NCAA National Champion Miles Batty to graduation, the No. 13 BYU men's track and field team returns for the 2013 season aiming for another top-25 finish.

"Our overall goal is always to be in the top 25 at nationals," head coach Mark Robison said. "I think we have the potential to be in the top 20, we’re just going to see how we develop."

Besides Batty, BYU will also miss the talents of sprinters Chris Carter and Shaquille Walker. Carter, a two-time All-American, finished his senior season by placing eighth in the 400 hurdles at the 2012 NCAA Championships. Walker, who is currently serving an LDS mission, earned second-team All-America honors at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 4x400 relay and advanced to the semifinals of the 800 meters at the IAAF World Junior Championships last year.

"We lost some good athletes, but I really like the team we've got this year," Robison said. "We’ve got the talent, we’ve just got to see how we can progress and grow and stay healthy."

As part of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the Cougars will compete against powerhouse programs like Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA in the MPSF Indoor Championships Feb. 22-23 in Seattle prior to the NCAA Indoor Championships. BYU finished fifth in the MPSF last indoor season.

Robison enters his 13th season as head coach of the men’s track and field team after leading the team to No. 5 and No. 14 finishes at the 2012 indoor and outdoor NCAA championships, respectively.

BYU opens its season at the BYU Invitational at the Smith Fieldhouse. The meet starts Thursday evening and runs through Saturday morning. Visit the event page for more information.

Distance

"We’ve got some really good distance kids," Robison said. "Jared Ward had a phenomenal cross country year and he was an All-American last year in the 10,000 meters. When we look at who the stars are going to be here, he’s one of them."

Among the other distance runners are seniors Ryan Waite and Rex Shields. Waite qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2012 and finished with a time of 1:49.09 to take 18th in the preliminary round. Shields battled injuries during the 2012 cross country season, but can make a big contribution to the team if he remains healthy. At last year's MPSF Championship meet, Shields was part of the distance medley relay team that won the event with a time of 9:29.00, setting a new BYU record and qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the process. 

Sprints and Hurdles

“There are a lot of seniors this year that should be really strong for us," Robison said. "Rhyan Atrice is finally healthy and he’s going to help us. And Cade Lindahl should have a great season, he was excellent for us last year."

Lindahl was part of the distance medley relay team that finished third at the NCAA Indoor Championships. He also finished second at the 2012 MPSF Championships in the 400 meters. 

Fan Fan Charles and Jason Hinds join Lindahl as the sprinters to watch in 2013. Robison said some of the incoming freshman will have the opportunity to make contributions for the Cougars, as will Bejon Bryant, a transfer student from Long Beach City College.

“We’re very excited about having Bejon," Robison said. "We’ll have to see what kind of shape he’s in because he’s never done indoor track before, but I’m very interested to see what he’ll be able to do.”

Jumps

Robison said he's very optimistic about his high jumpers, with Russell Nielson and Dakoda John returning from solid seasons in 2012. Sam Rockwood, who redshirted last season, has impressed Robison in practice and Robison believes all three jumpers can clear the seven-foot mark this season.

Pole Vault

Senior Victor Weirich returns after advancing to the NCAA Western Region Championships in 2012. Weirich earned second-team All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a height of 5.30 meters and placed fourth at the MPSF Championships with a height of 5.23 meters. His season best was a 5.50 meter vault at the Blue and Orange Opener at Boise State. In 2011, Weirich finished fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, earning All-America honors.

Braydon Bringhurst is also returning to pole vault for the Cougars. Bringhurst qualified for the NCAA West Regional meet in 2012, clearing 5.20 meters at the Georgia Tech Invitational.

Throws

For the javelin, Kyle Baker returns after competing in the NCAA West Regional meet in 2012. Baker qualified for the regional meet by throwing 66.08 meters at the Georgia Tech Invitational, taking second place.

Keith Keller also qualified for the regional meet last year, taking fourth at the Georgia Tech Invitational with a throw of 64.02 meters.

Aaron Clark, Clinton Prestwich and Winston Wilkinson are among the discus throwers for BYU this season. Robison said last year's team didn’t perform as well in the discus as he had hoped, but he has confidence in the talent on the roster this season.

For the hammer throw, Joseph Stull and Jacob Foutz look to be serious contributors. As a senior at Sheldon High School in Portland, Ore., last year, Foutz won the 6A state championship in discus. He was also the discus and shotput champion for his district.