Bearcats Prepare for Successful Track and Field Season in 2009

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Coming off another Northwest Conference championship last season, the Willamette University women’s track and field team will look for its eighth straight NWC title this spring. Meanwhile, the Bearcat men’s track and field team will focus on regaining the NWC title which it won from 2002 through 2006.

Both teams return a talented group of athletes and will receive added help from the incoming freshmen. Willamette seeks to be successful in the Northwest Conference, while sending athletes to the NCAA Division III National Championships.

Willamette will open the season by hosting the Willamette Opener at the Charles Bowles Track on Saturday, Feb. 28. The meet is scheduled to get underway at 9:30 a.m. (PST).

Distance

Leading the Willamette program are the distance runners, who have had continued success season after season in the both the NWC and NCAA Championships in cross country and track and field.

Men:

The Willamette men are working to continue their success in the distance races with the help of strong competitors who raced at the national level during the cross country season. Junior Kyle Kotaich (Florence, Ore.) will lead the Bearcats after winning the conference title in the 1,500-meter run in 2008. Willamette seniors Josh Clough (Auburn, Wash.) and Tristan Knutson-Lombardo (Juneau, Alaska), who both scored in the men’s 5000-meter run and 10,000-meter run at the Conference Meet in 2008, will join Kotaich as key distance runners.

Women:

The Bearcat women’s team returns a talented group of distance runners who are experienced and competitive. Senior runners Jena Winger (Bonney Lake, Wash.) and Maddie Coffman (Boise, Idaho) will provide the national experience and team leadership that is needed to have a successful season. Winger was the NWC champion last season in the 1,500-meter run, the 5,000-meter run and the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She also participated at the NCAA Championships in the steeplechase and the 5,000.

Coffman was the 2008 West Region individual champion in cross country. She took fourth place at the NCAA Division III Championships. The Willamette women also have an experienced group of younger runners who gained national-level experience during last fall’s cross country season.

Sprints, Hurdles, Jumps, and Multi-Events

Men:

In the decathlon, senior Grant Piros (Newberg, Ore.), who has been to the National Championships in the javelin the past two seasons, will lead the Bearcats. Last year, he earned All-America honors after finishing seventh in NCAA Division III in the javelin. Piros will be joined by a solid group of decathletes who have the potential to help the Bearcats score points at the NWC Meet in both the decathlon and single events.

The men’s hurdles will be led by seniors Drew Lackman (Gig Harbor, Wash.) and Garrison Coy (Gig Harbor, Wash.). Both scored at the Northwest Conference Meet in 2008 in the 110-meter high hurdles and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles.

Top sprinters for the men’s team will be returning NWC scorers George Colton (So., Pasadena, Calif.) in the 100-meter dash and Merben Woo (Sr., Salinas, Calif.) in the 200-meter dash. Andy Meuser (Jr., Portland, Ore.) and Tristan Bodding-Long (Jr., Woodinville, Wash.) will look to gain points at the Conference Meet in the 400-meter dash.

Jonathan Woodland (Sr., Creswell, Ore.) returns for the Bearcats in the triple jump and has the skills to place well at the Conference meet. In the pole vault, Brandt Nevin (So., Grants Pass, Ore.) and Colby Takeda (So., Mililani, Hawaii) will be joined by several newcomers who will contribute to Willamette’s success.

Women:

The WU women return a strong contingent in the sprints, jumps, hurdles and heptathlon, and are ready to continue their Conference success, which was led last year by Brooke Smith (Idleyld Park, Ore.). Smith, who is a senior this spring, had a successful season in 2008, as she qualified for the NCAA Championships in the javelin and the heptathlon. She gained All-America honors with a seventh place finish at Nationals in the heptathlon, while setting a Willamette record with 4,536 points.

Also coming back with National Championship experience are junior sprinters Lydia Marsalli (Klamath Falls, Ore.), Jennifer Luecht (Milwaukie, Ore.), and Kaitlin St. John (Bend, Ore.), who were all part of the women’s 4 x 400-meter relay team that qualified for Nationals in 2008. All three participated on Willamette’s 4 x 100-meter relay team as well.

Luecht was the NWC champion in the 200-meter dash last spring and was followed by a second place finish from Marsalli. The sprinters are looking forward to additional help from a strong group of incoming freshmen.
The women’s jumps will be led by Elizabeth Andrews (Jr., Bellevue, Wash.) and Jess Cobley (So., Queensbury, NY). Andrews will compete in the pole vault and Cobley will compete in the triple jump and the long jump.

Throws

Men:
Heading the list of men’s throwers is senior Jacob Monroe (Keizer, Ore), who scored in the shot put, discus, and hammer throw at the Conference Meet last season. Monroe will be assisted by junior Steven Collins (Zillah, Wash.),who scored at the NWC Championships last spring. In the javelin, Piros will look to improve on his seventh place finish at Nationals.

Women:
Christina Edholm (Jr., Pleasanton, Calif.), the 2008 NWC champion in the shot put, will lead the Willamette women’s throwers. She will be joined by Smith, who returns after qualifying for the NCAA Championships in the javelin last year.

Grant Piros earned All-America honors in the javelin last season.

Grant Piros earned All-America honors in the javelin last season.

Jena Winger won three events at the 2008 NWC Championships.

Jena Winger won three events at the 2008 NWC Championships.

Drew Lackman has scored five times in the hurdle events at the NWC Championships.

Drew Lackman has scored five times in the hurdle events at the NWC Championships.

Jacob Monroe scored in three events at the 2008 NWC Championships.

Jacob Monroe scored in three events at the 2008 NWC Championships.