Men, Women Look to Repeat as Outdoor Champions

Decathlete Erik Rasmussen is one of four BYU athletes who will begin competition on Wednesday at the 2003 MWC Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

ALBUQUERQUE -- The BYU men's and women's track & field teams will compete in the 2003 Mountain West Conference Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., beginning Wednesday, May 14 through Saturday, May 17.

The BYU women's team, which has won a nation's best 20 straight league outdoor titles, dating back to 1983, will enter the weekend competition expecting a tough battle for the overall team title.

"We told our athletes a couple weeks ago that we are going to have to come out here [to Albuquerque] and get after it," head women's coach Craig Poole said. "If not, it's going to be a long weekend. We're expecting to win the team championship. That's what our goal is, and that's what we are coming down here to do. It's going to be a very competitive meet, it's going to be close. We're expecting that."

With 20 league championships to their credit, including all four MWC titles, the Cougars are well aware of the tradition of the BYU track program and impact of winning a 21st consecutive title.

"There's a lot of history there," Poole said. "Our girls understand we have won a lot of championships. In the past, we feel like we have owned this league, but we can't stand around patting ourselves on our backs just yet. This is going to be one of the toughest meets in our league's history. The girls are aware of the tradition at BYU, and they are going to go out there and compete for the championship. That's what they've come here to do."

With injuries sneaking up on the Cougars at the worst possible time, Poole and the coaching staff will rely on the team's depth in the distance events, as well as select athletes who will be competing in difficult combinations in order to defeat any would-be contenders.

"Not having everyone is going to be difficult," Poole said. "We've had some rotten luck with injuries coming at the worst possible time. But, we think we can do it. Our two best 10,000-meter runners are not here because of injury. Our national champion in the steeplechase is not here and we have a fine hurdler who is not here. We're redshirting one of the league's top multi eventers so that her Achilles tendon can heal. We've had to cover our bases by deploying our personnel in a manner where we feel we can be successful. We have to score points in events where people didn't expect us to do so."

Poole said Aneta Lemiesz, a junior from Poland, will compete in perhaps the most difficult double in track competition. Lemiesz will run in both the 400- and 800-meters, as well as the distance relay. Lemiesz is a projected top-five finisher in both the 400- and 800-meters. Jen Rockwell, a junior from Tooele, Utah, will compete in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter hurdles, in addition to the 4x100 and 4x400-meter relays.

Poole also indicated the need to do well in the jumping events, and said they will be looking for some girls to surprise some people in the throwing events.

All-American Lindsey Steele Metcalf, a sophomore from Orem, Utah, is listed as the favorite to win the high jump with a season-high mark of 5-09.25. Junior Missy Wood also enters the meet as the favored to win the javelin, while the Cougars are also the pre-meet favorite to pick up victories, as well as key scoring positions in the 1,500-meters, 5,000-meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase.

"Our plan is to pick up points in every event, not just the ones we're expected to," Poole added.

The BYU coaching staff expects San Diego State will present the toughest challenge in defending the league championship.

"They are extremely strong in the power events--the sprints, hurdles and relays," Poole said. "They also have a good pole vaulter and discus thrower. They also have a couple kids in the heptathlon who should score some points. If we can stay close in those events, and not finish in eighth place each time, we should be o'kay.

"It is going to be the closest league championship in a long time."

On the men's side, the Cougars are favored to win as many as 11 of the 20 events over the four-day competition, and will compete for their 20th outdoor league title. BYU has won five straight outdoor championships, including all four MWC titles.

BYU head coach Mark Robison said while things look good on paper, the Cougars still have to go out an compete in order to claim their fifth straight outdoor league championship.

"Everything looks good on paper," Robison said. "But, you never know what can happen. So, while we feel good about our chances, our guys will have to be focused and take care of business."

The Cougars are slated to take the top three spots in the 400-meters, and are in contention to finish one through four in the 800- and 1,500-meters. In addition, the Cougars are projected to win the 4x100 and 4x400 relays, 400-meter hurdles, pole vault, long jump, shot put and decathlon.

The 2003 Mountain West Track & Field Championships will get underway on Wednesday with the men and women beginning the first day of the two-day multi-event competition.

Senior Anna-Lee Walcott will be the lone BYU competitor in the heptathlon, while Curtis Pugsley, Devin Scoresby and Erick Rasmussen will compete in the decathlon. Pugsley is the pre-meet favorite with a previous best of 7,249 points, followed closely by Scoresby, who has registered a season-best 7,051 points in the decathlon.