More than 15 talented athletes will join the men's track and field team this year, adding more depth, but also creating a young and inexperienced team.
The 2003 track season will bring several other new turns. BYU will host two indoor meets at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah. The meets will be the first time BYU has hosted an indoor track and field event since the late 80's.
The format of the outdoor season will also change this year. The conference meet will be a week earlier than normal to make room for a regional meet. The top five athletes in each event at regionals will automatically go to nationals. So instead of 18 athletes competing at nationals, 28 athletes can qualify.
Men's head coach Mark Robison is optimistic about the new format. "I am excited about the regional format," he said. "It will be head-to-head competition, and we will have more people to go to nationals." Although it will add another week to an already long season, the BYU coaches welcome the change.
BYU should put together one of its best track and field teams in several years, with the pole vault, 800m and the decathlon being the strongest events. The jumpers and the distance runners will also show a great deal of improvement.
Most of the sprinters are newcomers to the team, but veterans Matt Rowe and Matt Nielson will add experience. BYU will be stronger in the long sprints than the short sprints. Returning from missions this year are Nate Soelberg and Cody Fonnesbeck. New additions to the sprinting squad will be Montrell Dunn and Paul Smith.
Sprinters' coach Leonard Myles-Mills said he is very impressed with the strength the team has acquired so far, and they will continue to improve. He said their main weakness is just that they need to adjust to the college level. Some of the younger runners still have their high school habits, and this year will be spent getting them used to the pace and intensity of running at the collegiate level.
Senior Russell Elggren will lead the 110-meter hurdlers, and he will be backed up by Ben Gardner and Greg Flint. Flint, who is the third best 400-meter hurdler in BYU history, will redshirt the indoor season because of a stress fracture, but will be ready for an All-American outdoor season. Freshman Nate Page and junior Daymon Visser will compete in the short hurdles. Also adding depth in the hurdles will be Kansas Whitear, Devin Howe and Curtis Pugsley.
The 800m race has traditionally been one of BYU's strongest events and this season shouldn't be any different. Jeffery Hopkinson should be the top 800m runner, followed by Chad Simkins, Scott Adams, Lars Kjerengtroen, and freshman Jacob Gustafson.
Junior college transfer Kip Kangogo will join the distance team this year after a strong cross country season. Kangogo placed second in the 1,500m at the Canadian Track and Field National Championships with a time of 3.42.36. This season Kangogo, Nathan Robison, Bryan Lindsay and Steve Barrus will make the 1,500m the deepest in decades.
Sophomore Bryan Lindsay, an All-American in the 1,500m, will be a top competitor for the Cougars. Nate Robison, Kangogo and Steven Barrus will be strong in the 1,500m and the mile.
Matt Adams and Tyler Bushnell will lead the steeplechase runners. Bushnell will return for the outdoor season after receiving a medical hardship. Andy Carman and Chad Durham will be strong in the 5,00m and 10,000m run, respectively.
Distance coach Ed Eyestone feels BYU could have 14 or 15 distance athletes qualify for regionals this season.
Aron Smuzda will return for his senior year and has been healthy enough to train the entire off season. Coach Robison thinks Smuzda has a good chance of being an All-American in the long jump and the triple jump.
Most of the jumpers are young, including Montrell Dunn, who was a top 10 high school triple jumper in the nation. Justin Palmer, a high school state champion, will also compete in the long jump.
The high jumpers this year will mostly be decathletes, including Curtis Puglsey, Devin Scorsesby and Devin Howe.
Pole vaulters' coach Larry Berryhill said, "This is potentially the best group of pole vaulters we've ever had. There is a possibility of five athletes making nationals."
Four of the returning vaulters have jumped higher than 17 feet, including Mark Barry, Jeremy Kemp, Trent Powell and Erik Rasmussen. Robbie Pratt, who competed in the Sydney Olympics for Mexico, will also add strength and experience to the team. Pratt's personal best in the pole vault is 18-04.5, which exceeds the BYU all-time record.
Returning for the Cougars will be Curtis Pugsley, who in 2000 was the Mountain West Conference Champion and placed sixth at outdoor nationals. In 2001, Pugsley finished fifth at indoor nationals, but a hamstring injury kept him from competing in 2001 outdoors and in the 2002 season.
Also competing in the decathlon, will be Devin Scoresby, Justin Palmer, Devin Howe and Justin Biggers. Scoresby placed second at the Junior College National Championships and Palmer is a high school All-American in the decathlon. Biggers transferred from Rick's College where he placed fourth at the Junior College National Championships.
Several young athletes will compete in the throwing events. Juniors Daniel Arrhenius and Matt Holcomb will look to lead the team in the discus, shot put and the hammer throw. Matt Hickman and Spencer Smith will compete in the javelin.
The Cougars will look to continue their dominance in the Mountain West Conference, with a second-place finish at the MWC Indoor Championship and a first-place finish at outdoors last year. They will also look to improve on last year's 15th-place finish at NCAA Indoor Nationals.