Cougars Face Top Competition in Washington

Laura Turner will lead a strong BYU women's distance team against top-ranked competition at the UW Indoor Invitational. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- The No. 9 BYU men's track team and No.14 BYU women's team will compete against athletes from 11 of the nation's top-25 teams this weekend at the University of Washington Indoor Invitational.

"This meet will be a lot better," BYU women's coach Craig Poole said. "There are a lot of good teams. The competition will be much better."

The Cougars will be face challenges from Stanford, Oregon, USC, UCLA, Cal Poly and Colorado. The Stanford and Oregon women's teams are ranked in the top-10 nationally, while the BYU is the top ranked men's team in the meet.

Poole said he expects the team to get some better marks with the increased competition. He said the team has worked very hard this week, but should be rested in time for the meet.

Sophomore Liis Berendsen will lead the Cougars in the women's heptathlon during Friday's competition. Poole said Berendsen has looked good in practice and should make some good marks during the competition.

The men's team will look to add to its total of NCAA qualifying marks.

Several of the men's jumpers were just shy of receiving qualifying marks last week, but should be able to get the needed marks in Seattle.

High jumper David Pendergrass cleared a personal best six feet 10.75 inches, which was just shy of a provisional mark, while triple jumper Rodrigo Mendes, pole vaulter Trent Powell and thrower Leif Arrhenius all received provisional qualifying marks. BYU men's coach Mark Robison said he expects more of the same this week.

"We've looked very sharp this last week," he said. "With a faster track this week, we should see some of the best marks of the season."

Robison also said the men's team should also qualify a few more individuals in the distance events.

The women's team will be bolstered by the return of senior Lisa Pratt. Pratt will be making her first appearance of the indoor season. The distance specialist from Alpine, Utah, finished third in both the 3,000 and 5,000m at last year's Mountain West Conference Indoor Championship.

With the return of Pratt, the talent of the freshman trio of Heidi Magill, Julie Cameron and Ann Marie Thomas and the experience of sophomore Chelsea Smith and Laura Turner, the women's team should post some good times in the distance events.

"I expect our distance numbers to be much better in this meet," Poole said. "Our distance runners will see the most improvement in times."

The meet begins Friday at 4 p.m. PT in UW's Dempsey Indoor with the women's pentathlon and the men's heptathlon followed by the hotly contested distance medley relays.

The meet resumes Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. with all the remaining track and field events.