The Weber State track and field team will begin its 2014 outdoor season at the UNLV Invitational on Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the preseason Big Sky Conference poll, the women’s team was picked to tie for third in the conference while the men’s team was picked to finish third.
Both teams are coming off of great indoor seasons. The women’s team finished second behind NAU at the Big Sky Championship Meet while the very young men’s team finished fifth.
The women’s team is expected to compete for a Big Sky Championship in the outdoor season again, while the men’s team is looking to rebuild with a very young team.
Women’s head coach Jim Blaisdell is retiring at the end of the season, but he is very excited to be going out with this team.
“We are very excited about getting outside and we think we have a very good team,” Blaisdell said. “It’s bittersweet that this will be the last season I will coach, but I really like this team and we should compete very well this outdoor season.”
The Wildcats will be without legendary distance runner Amber Henry for the first time in half of a decade as she has graduated.
“Losing Amber is really tough,” Blaisdell said. “She’s such an incredible athlete, that she will create a hole for any team, but we expect to be a solid distance program like we always expect to be.”
Blaisdell is also very excited about the throwers with Britlie Silvester, Natasha Powell and Jazmin Porter coming back from exceptional indoor seasons. The fact that there are two more throwing events in the outdoor season should benefit the Cats.
“Britlie Silvester had an outstanding indoor season,” Blaisdell said. “Jazmin Porter had a great indoor season and she had never done indoor events, so we are excited to see her back outdoors where she has experience.”
Blaisdell also mentioned Tiffany Hellstrom in the Javelin, Paige Cooper and Desriae Cruse in the jumps and Elisa Isakson in the Pole Vault as strengths for the team.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side, head coach Dan Walker knows he has a very young team, but he expects the youth of the team to compete very well.
“The expectations are similar to the indoor season,” Walker said. “We are very young and we know we are in rebuild mode right now, but we like our team a lot.”
The Cats will redshirt some veterans to prepare for the road ahead, but Walker says he expects the freshmen on the squad to do very well, just as they did in the indoor season.
“Seth Fortin and Anthony Gregory should be very good for us like they were indoors,” Walker said. “We are excited to see what they can do outside.”
Fortin was the team’s best runner in the 200-meter dash in the indoor season while Gregory set a Weber State freshman record in the high jump during the indoor season.
“Joe Maloney is another freshman that should contribute for us as well in middle distances,” Walker added. “We are really riding on the hopes of the freshman class. The freshman really have to not be like freshman anymore.”
Walker also mentioned hurdler Jonathan McUne, runner Darion Zimmerman, distance runner Jason Nance and middle-distance runners Zach Schweinsberg and Stetson Smith as other leaders for the men’s team.
“The weather in Vegas is supposed to be 75 degrees and sunny so we are excited that it will not be too warm or too cold for us,” Walker said. “It’ll be a great way to start the outdoor season and get us pecking away at our conference qualifiers.”
Results for Saturday’s meet will be available Saturday night on WeberStateSports.com.