Jan. 19, 2011
With four NCAA Championship scorers on the roster, the Husky throws group has a stalwart group of returners to build around in 2011. Kyle Nielsen and Joe Zimmerman both bring national championship aspirations to the group. The return of Elisa Bryant should provide a big lift for the women's group, while several returners should help flesh out the all-around depth of the group.
Nielsen (Langley, B.C.) and Zimmerman (Spokane, Wash.) accounted for a whopping 11 points by themselves at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last year, making the two javelin stars accountable for over half of UW's points and 15th-place team finish. The two stood side-by-side on the podium, with Nielsen third and Zimmerman a surprise fourth. Zimmerman's season continued from there with even greater success, as he won the U.S. Junior Championship and went on to place fifth in the World Junior Championships for Team USA in Canada, setting a new PR of 244-10.
Nielsen and Zimmerman are side-by-side in the recordbooks as well, ranking second and third in the UW Top-10 list behind Daryl Roberson's 249-6 school record from 1989. And they're side-by-side in their sky-high expectations for the 2011 season.
Sixth-year throws coach Reedus Thurmond says the two are hoping to top last year's NCAA finish, and that means only a couple places they can go.
"Kyle and Joe are the two heavy hitters for this team. Kyle being the senior and Joe doing what he did as a freshman, it's pretty cool that they put themselves out there," Thurmond says. Each of them had ankle injuries in recent months, with Zimmerman nearly recovered now but Nielsen still working through his setback. Neither is expected to cause significant issues. As Thurmond says, if they're healthy and training at full strength, they can do great things.
"This is very early to say this but hopefully they can go 1-2 at the national meet. Obviously there is a lot of stuff they have to do to get there, the biggest I think is staying healthy, but the expectation is high for those two," Thurmond says. "They put it on themselves to do big things."
Certainly not to be overlooked is another javelin standout on the men's side, sophomore Jimmy Brookman. Seeing the success of his two teammates has only raised the expectation level for the Redmond native. Brookman scored at Pac-10s as a freshman, placing eighth, and was 16th at the West Regional meet, coming just a few spots short of his own trip to NCAAs.
"In the Regional meet there are three flights, typically nothing happens in the first flight," Thurmond explains. "It's usually the guys that come out of the third flight that are going to make it to Nationals. Jimmy was the one guy from the first flight that almost stuck in and did it. So this year the expectation is high for him too; he looks really good in training and he's throwing well right now. We expect him to get to the show too."
Washington's javelin success could manifest itself on the women's side as well, even with the potential absence of All-American Brooke Pighin, who is coming off elbow surgery. The only true newcomer to the throws unit is Amanda Peterson (Gig Harbor, Wash.), a transfer from Eastern Washington who has had a lot of success already and is looking to take it to a national meet level.
"Amanda is going to throw really far for us. She came along at the right time, with Brooke out for the time being. She's kind of short and stocky but she's got a lot of power," says Thurmond. "She had pretty bad technique when she first got here. (Volunteer Assistant Dave Nyland) has done a really good job putting her in the position she needs to be in to throw the thing far. Once she starts competing, people will know who she is. She's going to be really good."
Pighin (Port Alberni, B.C.), who took seventh at the NCAA Championships in 2009, is expected to redshirt the season, though her recovery is ahead of schedule early on, says Thurmond. "Brooke is doing really well, she's a little bit ahead, but we don't want her to rush it so I'm trying to get her to pull back the reins a bit. She's been throwing a lot of baseballs and softballs and that kind of stuff. She doesn't have any pain; it's a little tight but that comes along with it. This time next year she'll be ready to go."
One of the biggest impacts to the track team as a whole could one Husky coming back from a redshirt year: junior Elisa Bryant. The Seattle native and Inglemoor High grad earned All-America honors indoors in the weight throw in 2009, placing eighth, and is UW's school record-holder in the weight and the hammer throws. One hopes that a redshirt year is able to cure all ailments, but in reality that's not always the case. Thurmond acknowledges that Bryant could still be coping with some back issues here and there, especially indoors with the heavier implement. He expects she'll be more free outdoors and able to make a big impact in the hammer as well as the discus.
"If I compare Elisa right now to where she was two years ago, she's ahead of the game, but she had that year where she struggled with her back and had to figure that out. She's throwing well at this point in the year," Thurmond says, "I just don't know how much she can do yet; she still can't train normally, so I don't know if she has reached her limit as far as distance goes. She's throwing well now for this time of the year and we just need to get her competing and confident. She needs to trust her back to hold up, and she probably won't open up for another few weeks here and then we'll start to see what she is capable of."
Bryant also ranks in UW's Top-10 in the discus, and was a Regional qualifier in that event as well in 2009. Thurmond thinks that could be the event where Bryant is in line for a big breakthrough, scoring at the Pac-10 meet and contending for a spot at nationals.
"The nice thing about the discus is that it's not really heavy. It's not pulling on her a lot, and I expect her to make some big strides there," says Thurmond. "There's no reason why she shouldn't make it to the national meet in the discus as well as the hammer. The weight is a wait-and-see thing. She's doing all the things she needs to do to get back in shape, and technically she looks really good, so we'll see."
The biggest loss to the throws crew was All-American Zack Midles, an NCAA qualifier the past two years in the hammer and a spirited team leader. But junior Angus Taylor (Richmond, B.C.) could be poised to fill the void in the hammer. Midles made his first NCAA meet as a junior, and Taylor will hope to follow the same script this year. Taylor just barely missed the cut last spring, placing 13th out of 48 competitors at the NCAA Prelims in Austin, when 12 advanced to the finals in Eugene. He set a PR of 201-0 at that meet as well, creating some positive momentum for the offseason.
"Angus had a monster breakthrough right at the end of last season," says Thurmond. "He fouled out at the Pac-10 meet, so we went back to the drawing board and figured some stuff out. We got to the Regional meet and just missing NCAAs by one spot got him very motivated. It helped him believe he could hang with these people."
Taylor has also been solid for the Dawgs in the weight throw, but Thurmond expects him to redshirt indoors, as Taylor had his appendix removed a few months back and missed a month and a half of training.
"He missed 6-7 weeks of training so we're trying to rush him and get him back into shape and try to get him healthy for outdoors."
Bringing much-needed experience to the discus and shot put on the men's side is a pair of strongmen fresh off the gridiron. Senior Cameron Elisara wrapped up his Husky football career, and for the first time in his college career his focus is strictly on the throws, something that has remained a passion for him throughout, although football took precedent. Elisara (Spokane, Wash.) has tasted success in college, qualifying for Regionals back in 2007. The strength is certainly there, so regaining his technique will be the challenge. Also back for his senior season is Peter Follmer, who walked on to the football team last spring and made the roster, even earning honorary captain status for Washington's last home game against UCLA, and suiting up for UW's Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska. Follmer (Kent, Wash.) is a two-time Pac-10 competitor in the discus.
"The football thing was probably a good mental break for Pete, he's back and he looks pretty good right now. He's energized and focused," says Thurmond. "Cameron, this is his first year that he's been able to train because of football. Now he can focus on throwing which is something he really loves to do. He wished he could have trained more the last four years--with football obviously it is what it is--but he's been training with me since the end of the season on a regular basis and it's starting to pay off. He could be a surprise for us in both the shot and the discus."
Adding to the mix in the discus is sophomore Conner Larned, who transferred from Washington State after his freshman year and redshirted the 2010 season because of it. An Enumclaw native, Larned was a two-time Washington State 3A Champion in high school, who Thurmond thinks "if he commits himself and focuses he could be another one that could shock some people. He had a really good winter training session and he looks ready to go."
Another name on Thurmond's list of potential surprises is Richard Anderson, now entering into his junior season but fourth year with the program. Anderson (Tacoma, Wash.) went 55-feet with the shot indoors last year, but fouled at the MPSF meet. Thurmond laments that just when Anderson seems poised for a breakthrough, something unlucky breaks his momentum, including an injury this past fall at a team function that had him out several weeks of training. Still, Thurmond remains positive on Anderson being a contributor, though it may not be until the outdoor season.
The presence of Elisara at practice on a daily basis should also help, as Anderson has lacked for training partners in the past couple years. "With Cameron pushing him, that should help him get fired up, training hard, and doing what he needs to do. He seems a little bit more focused and motivated in what he's doing. We could have something special from those two if everything happens the way I think it will.
Thurmond has three more youngsters on the women's side that should continue to progress and target PRs during the outdoor season. Erica Huse (Puyallup, Wash.) should be competitive in the discus, Thurmond says, and sophomores Ally Mueller (Redmond, Wash.) and Jordin Seekins (Washougal, Wash.) could potentially factor into the conference meet mix in the javelin. Mueller and Seekins posted identical PRs last year of 136-3 to rank in UW's Top-10.