TCU Track & Field Preview
Jan. 8, 2007
Coming off a 2006 campaign that was highlighted by 13 All-Americans, 13 school records, Jackson Langat's NCAA title in the 800 meters and a No. 1 relay ranking by Track & Field News for the men's team, the TCU track and field team will look to parlay last season's successes into even greater returns in 2007.
Despite losing two of the most decorated student-athletes in TCU track and field history to graduation following the 2006 season, the Horned Frogs cupboard of talent is far from bare with the return of nine All-Americans from last season.
The success of last season coupled with the return of 15 individuals who won Mountain West Conference titles last season and the continued growth in the balance of the program should be a formula for a successful season under third-year head coach Darryl Anderson.
"Obviously we want to have All-Americans and national champions and we want the men's team to be looked at as a top-10 team," Anderson said. "For our women, we want to gravitate toward that and I think we are heading in the right direction. But for our men, being a top-10 team, having conference and national championships are our goals and they aren't going to change."
In order to grow the program and to be able to compete for championships, Anderson understands the importance of having a well-balanced program, and his dedication toward creating a program that is not just known for sprints and relays was evident last season with TCU winning conference titles in the triple jump, shot put, 60-meter hurdles, 100-meter hurdles, 1500 meters, mile run and 3,000 meters.
"Obviously, continuing to blend the team together into one of the most well-rounded teams at the Division I level is what we want to do," Anderson said. "We were well-represented by sprinters at the national meet last year and we also had Calandra Stewart in the 1500, but also we want to have Candis Kelley at the national meet in the shot put and Neidra Covington at the national meet in the long jump and triple jump. We just want to continue to have balance and well roundedness on this team.
"We aren't just looking for balance for the sake of doing it, but making it an effective balance so that it functions at the Mountain West Championships and at the NCAA Championships."
With a rich sprinting and relay tradition that includes the fastest 4x100 and 4x200 men's relay teams in NCAA history, Anderson has been dealt with the difficult task of selling the program as more than just a school that succeeds in sprints.
"Making the program well-rounded has to be done with recruiting, we have to be able to get kids in the program that can make a difference," Anderson said. "If we go out and say to a thrower that we are really going change the program, it is important that we make a point that we follow through and take care of business with that kid in our program."
I think Candis Kelley is living proof of that and Neidra Covington is the next step for us in the horizontal jumps. The commitment in the distances is living proof with Calandra Stewart being successful. It is just about following through on everything. Our next step is to get to the NCAA meet and be accounted for."
A new look to the 2007 season is the addition of a second home meet to the schedule - the Horned Frog Invitational. The Horned Frog Invitational will be held on March 24 and the eighth annual TCU Invitational will take place April 21.
"We have a nice facility," Anderson said. "We are getting a scoreboard and adding things to the facility and when you are doing that, you want to be at home. If you are going to be on the road all the time, why add a new scoreboard, why talk about adding new stands and why resurface the facility."
"It is kind of one of those things where it is a mini rebuilding situation," Anderson said. "We could walk away and say, 'how do we replace those guys?' Otis McDaniel, Justyn Warner, Tommy Killen, Ché Chavez, Delwayne Delaney and Jonathan Jackson will all play a role in that. So we replaced the three of them with a lot of people that have had a lot of experience.
"We can't replace Lewis Banda or Jackson Langat with one person, so we are going with a group of men. We don't have an 800 guy right now and that's an area we are working on filling in recruiting. Freshman Festus Kigen is a long distance guy and should help replace Kip (Kangogo). In replacing Banda and Langat, we are hoping that guys like Ché Chavez, Dell Guy, Evan Wright, Jay Cooper, Raymond Jones and people like that can continue to get better."
Although the loss of Banda and Langat will be difficult, the Horned Frogs have a quartet of All-America sprinters returning, led by junior Otis McDaniel and sophomore Justyn Warner. Both McDaniel and Warner excelled on the international stage this summer and both will be counted on to lead the men's squad. Warner placed second for Canada in the 100 meters at the IAAF Junior Championships, while McDaniel claimed gold in the 200 at the NACAC Under 23 Track & Field Championships.
In 2006, McDaniel and Warner earned All-America honors as member of the 4x100 relay team that placed fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. McDaniel also received an All-America certificate for his part on the men's 4x400 relay team that placed eighth at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
In addition to McDaniel and Warner, the Flyin' Frogs return junior Ché Chavez and senior Delwayne Delaney, who both earned All-America honors as members of the 4x400 relay team that placed second at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The transformation of TCU into a program that succeeds beyond just sprints and relays is evident in the talent the Horned Frogs have in other events. In horizontal jumps, senior Michael DePriest and junior Jonathan Jackson will pace TCU. Jackson is the school record holder in the triple jump (16.16m) and won the MWC Outdoor title in the triple jump in 2006 while DePriest placed second in the triple jump at the MWC Indoor Championships. Jackson also finished second in the long jump at the 2005 C-USA Indoor Championships.
TCU returns one of its strongest duos of throwers with sophomore Tommy Killen and junior Joe Brown leading the way. Killen qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the discus and had the longest throw of any freshman in 2006. Brown has set the school record in the javelin in each of his two years on campus. Junior Joey Kramer and freshman Trey Jordan will also contribute this season.
In distance events, TCU has a slew of returnees who have experience, including senior Alex Morris and J.T. Reinert, juniors Steven Solazzo, Houston Bolin, Cody Cook, Matt Manly and Brett McKnight and freshman Festus Kigen. Kigen will be counted on to contribute immediately.
After not having a hurdler last season, the Horned Frogs filled a void during the offseason with the signing of freshman Clint Renfro, who will compete in the 400-meter hurdles and 110-meter hurdles.
"We want to be a top 20 team and have All-Americans," Anderson said. "It is also important for us to move Virgil Hodge to the next level and put her into a position where she has a chance to win the NCAA title."
With a returning class of eight seniors, leadership should not be hard to find.
"We have an older team this year with our senior class," Anderson said. "I am expecting a great deal of leadership from that group. Obviously, Virgil Hodge is going to be at the focal point of what we are doing. We also feel like we have enough people that can do well at the Mountain West meet and NCAA meet and that we have a lot of people that we can lay a lot of expectation on."
Hodge, who finished second in the 200 and third in the 100 at the Central American and Caribbean Games during the summer, owns TCU's record in the 60 meters (6.33) and indoor 200 meters (23.46).
Including Hodge, TCU has a stable full of sprinters that includes seven All-Americans. Included in that group are Kandis Bell, Marquita Davis, Hodge, Nathandra John, Deborah Jones, Jamee Jones and Kishelle Paul.
John won the 400 meters at the MWC Outdoor Championships, while Deborah Jones won the 400 meters at the MWC Indoor Championships. TCU also returns both its 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that won MWC Outdoor titles in 2006. The 4x400 team also won the MWC Indoor title.
The success of TCU does not end with sprints and relays, however, as the Horned Frogs continue to evolve their program by having some of the top athletes in the country at multiple events.
In horizontal jumps, the Horned Frogs will welcome the return of junior JimAnne Baker-Hejny, who did not participate last season and was an NCAA participant in the long jump as a freshman. Freshman Neidra Covington will also be expected to make an immediate impact.
"Neidra will need to come in and take care of business and grow up quickly in the long and triple," Anderson said.
Freshman Leslie Starnes, a two-time state runner-up in the pole vault will give TCU depth in an event they did not score in during the outdoor season last year.
TCU has a solid tandem of throwers returning with sophomore Candis Kelley and senior Zelma Wade. Kelley won the MWC Indoor and Outdoor titles in the shot put last season and Wade owns the school record in the discus with a toss of 157-11.
Distance events should be strong for TCU with senior Calandra Stewart leading the way. Stewart won the Mountain West title in the mile and 1500 meters last season. Freshmen Carlene Mayfield and Danielle Selner will also be integral pieces for TCU and will be expected to make immediate contributions. Senior McKale Davis, juniors Halie Bullin and Cassie Hostick and sophomore Ashley Young will add depth for TCU.
Hurdles will be one of TCU's strongest events with the return of sophomore Kishelle Paul, who won the MWC Indoor title in the 60-meter hurdles and MWC Outdoor title in the 100-meter hurdles. TCU will also have contributions from senior Mary Minor, junior Gina Messamer and junior Meaghan Peoples, who transferred from Iowa State.
2007 could be a special year for the Horned Frogs and the eight seniors who will look to set their legacy as a class.
"The growth that they've had from the day that I've walked in has been phenomenal, and we aren't close yet." Anderson said. "And as a coach I'm not going to let them off the hook and let them think that we are there and the legacy is set. The legacy is not set and will not be until after we finish up at the NCAA meet this summer. The expectation is that we go in here and we take care of business at a high level.
"It is an exciting time for those women, but it is also a time where they are growing and all of our efforts are for them to leave TCU with a great taste in their mouth and a great feeling about TCU for life. That comes about by not only your academic and social experience, but also your athletic experience and tying those three up together and closing the deal."