The Olympic Oval Invitational marks the first time in over a decade that either BYU or Utah has hosted an indoor track and field event. The Utah Olympic Oval was built to be the speed skating venue for 2002 Winter Olympics, but was designed to be fully functional for track and field events as well, with a four-lane, 442-meter state-of-the-art Mondo Super X track.
Schools participating with either a full squad or only a few athletes will be Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Weber State University, Southern Utah University and Utah Valley State College.
BYU women's track and field team will be led by sprinter and jumper senior Nikki Hughes, who was the MWC Indoor and Outdoor Champion in the long jump in 2002. Hughes also placed eighth in the long jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. BYU's distance team is as strong as it is deep, with junior Michaela Mannova setting the pace. Mannova was the 2002 MWC Champion in the 3,000m and placed eighth at last year's indoor national championships.
The BYU men's team will look to improve on last year's 15th-place finish at indoor nationals. Junior jumper Aron Szmuda and sophomore distance runner Kip Kangogo will take the helm for the Cougars. Szmuda placed first in the long jump at the MWC Indoor Championships and 10th at indoor nationals. Kangogo comes to BYU as a transfer, having placed second in the 1,500m at the Canadian Track and Field National Championships in 2002. Also adding strength to the men's team will be the pole vaulters, including Mark Barry, Trent Powell, Erik Rasmussen and Jeremy Stowell.
The University of Utah women's team will be led by senior pole vaulter Brooke LoBue and senior heptathlete Kristy Slade. LoBue placed second at the MWC Indoor and Outdoor Championships last year and holds Utah's school record in the pole vault (13-05.25). Slade also placed second at the MWC Indoor Championships in 2002, scoring 3,775 points in the pentathlon.
Utah men's track and field team shows strength, with junior Nephi Tyler leading the distance crew. Tyler recorded a second-place finish in the mile at the MWC Indoor Championships in 2002. He also finished second in the 1,500m at the conference outdoor championships.
The University of Illinois women's track and field team will add excitement to the meet, boasting Perdita Felicien as the defending national champion in the 60-meter hurdles and the 100-meter hurdles. Last year, Felicien set the NCAA record in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.90. Senior Nicole Whitman will also be a strong competitor for the Fighting Illini. Whitman was named an All-American for running the second leg of the 400-meter relay team during the 2002 outdoor season. In addition, she is ranked second on the all-time Illinois indoor triple jump records, jumping 41-09.75
Weber State's Joel Atwater will be a strong competitor in the mile with a person best 1,500-meter time of 3:39.40 (equivalent to a 3:56.8 mile). He is also a five-time All-American and a school record holder. Junior Jeff Day, three-time All-Big Sky and school record holder, will add strength in the pole vault.
Southern Utah University's distance team will also compete at the Olympic Oval Invitational with senior Kelly Richards and sophomore Alisha Bezanson leading the charge. Richards was the Mid-Continent Conference Indoor Champion in the 800m and the mile, and Bezanson was named the 2002 Mid-Continent Conference Female Athlete of the Year after winning the individual title. Senior Majeed Abudu will pilot the men's distance runners as the defending 800-meter champion for the Mid-Continent Conference.