By Steve Bitter
The men”s track team will kick off the its indoor season this week at the Oval Open Invitational Track Meet. Returning after a successful season last year, the Cougars hope to enjoy a Top 10 team ranking this season.
The Cougars mark the beginning of their season Thursday in Provo and will compete at the Oval Open Saturday, Jan. 17. The heptathlon, pentathlon, throwing events and high jump will be held in Provo at the Cougar”s home track. All other jumping and running events will be held in Kearns at the Olympic Oval.
“We need to find out where we are,” said head coach Mark Robison.
Robison anticipates a variety of performances by a number of athletes who are returning after prolonged absences of competition. Many athletes will be making their comeback following missions and injuries.
The Oval Open is unique since events 200 meters and longer cannot be accepted toward qualification for the NCAA championship meet. Competitions this weekend will be a good indicator of position and potential in relation to other programs around the country.
“It”s really to find out where we”re at,” Robison said.
Despite uncertainty, the men”s team will provide tough competition in virtually all areas of the track. A slue of returning lettermen is just the tip of the sword for the Cougars. Among the veterans is All-American Chad Simkins, who ran 1:48.74 in the 800 meter at the NCAA meet last season. Joining Simkins on the distance squad are fellow All-Americans Nathan Robison and Bryan Lindsay.
The Arrhenius brothers, Dan and Nic, will form a potent tag-team attack leading the way for the throwing squad. Dan looks to improve his marks from last year, as he enters his senior year. Nic, having returned from a mission, joins the team in competition for the first time, having been recognized as the best high school discus thrower to ever come out of the United States. His senior year he placed second in the World Junior Championships.
Nate Soelberg, defending Mountain West Conference Champion in the 100 meter dash, will help lead the pack of experienced and talented sprinters. Also returning are the Mountain West Conference”s top three finishers in the 400 meters. David Chesser and Matt Rowe will accompany Matt Nielson, reigning champion.
The talent of the jumping squad will also add depth to the program. Robbie Pratt, 2000 Sydney Olympian and two-time All-American in pole vault, returns to the team. Pratt also holds the school record in the vault at 18 feet 3 inches. Fellow vaulters Trent Powell, Mark Barry and Erik Rasmussen all finished in the top three of the MWC Championships last season and return with higher hopes.
Mountain West Conference decathlon champion Curtis Pugsley is returning to the team in pursuit of another title. Pugsley will look to make up for lost time in previous years. A hamstring injury prevented him from competing in the 2001 and 2002 indoor seasons.