Feb. 20, 2003
In 2002, late season injuries to two of UCLA's NCAA Outdoor qualifiers hindered the Bruins' team performance at both the Pac-10 and NCAA Outdoor meets. Before the 2002 Pac-10 meet on May 18-19 at Pullman, WA, the Bruin men had an unbeaten dual record of 5-0, had just defeated USC 121-81 in the annual dual meet and were the No. 10 ranked team on the Trackwire National Top 25.
Entering his fourth year as the UCLA men's track & field head coach, Art Venegas welcomes back a healthy Erickson and Armon, along with one of the nation's top throwing events corps, several top redshirts and an elite-level recruiting class to help the Bruins once again rise to national prominence in 2003.
RETURNING NCAA QUALIFIERS
Wiegand (Arcadia HS), the biggest Bruin (6-8, 323 pounds) who started his UCLA career as an offensive lineman on the football team, in 2002 earned NCAA Outdoor All-American status (12th, 61-5.75, top eight Americans) and won the Pac-10 shot put title (64-1.75, personal-best outdoor mark/he was also third in the discus, 181-5, season collegiate best). Since 1990, the Bruin men have won seven conference shot put crowns. At the 2002 NCAA Indoor, Wiegand was 15th (60-3.75) and indoors he had a personal-best mark of 64-7.75 (No. 9 in school history).
Ames (Lakeside/El Capitan HS) was a three-time All-American last season, twice at the NCAA Outdoor (shot put, 7th, 62-11.50 and discus, 8th, 193-1) and once at the NCAA Indoor (shot put, 10th, 61-9.50, top eight Americans). At the 2002 Pac-10, Ames scored in three events - shot put (5th, 59-4.75), discus (5th, 180-2) and hammer throw (4th, 195-3, personal-best).
Erickson (Elmhurst, IL/York HS) was one of the nation's top collegiate 400m hurdlers before his left hamstring injury last season. His time of 49.62 was No. 5 on the 2002 collegiate chart before the NCAA Outdoor, No. 1 in the Pac-10 entering the conference meet and No. 4 in school history. Erickson did not compete in last spring's Pac-10 meet and in NCAA Outdoor 400m hurdle qualifying, he immediately pulled up (out of the blocks) because of the hamstring injury.
Armon (San Jose/Archbishop Mitty) injured his right knee at the 2002 Pac-10 meet. At the NCAA Outdoor, he was only able to place 18th in the long jump (24-3.75) and at the conference meet, he was ninth in the long jump (23-2.50) and could not compete in the triple jump. On May 4 in UCLA's dual win over USC at Drake Stadium, Armon long jumped 26-3 (No. 6 collegiate mark last Spring, UCLA sophomore record and No. 5 in school history).
UCLA's fifth returning NCAA Outdoor qualifier, sophomore thrower Jason Rider (Murietta HS), who last season placed sixth in the discus (186-6) at the U. S. Junior meet and qualified for the NCAA Outdoor, is on a Mormon mission and will not compete this season.
"With a healthy Kyle and Juaune last spring, we would have contended for the Pac-10 title and finished significantly higher at the NCAA Outdoor," said Venegas, who was the 2002 MPSF Indoor and Cal/NV Outdoor Coach of the Year. "These four talented athletes give us a strong scoring core for the big meets in 2003."
RETURNING PAC-10 SCORERS
The Bruins also return four athletes who scored at the 2002 Pac-10 meet. They are sophomore Ben Aragon (distances), sophomore Jonathan Williams (hurdles), senior John Barbieri (hurdles) and senior Jack Clamon (shot put).
Aragon (Santee/West Hills HS) at last summer's U. S. Junior meet finished sixth in the 1500m (3:54.17) and, at the 2002 Pac-10, he was seventh (3:48.98, personal-best). For the last two cross country seasons, Aragon has been one of UCLA's leading runners.
Williams (Los Angeles/Notre Dame HS) had an outstanding true freshman season in 2002. At the U. S. Junior meet, he was fifth in the 110m hurdles (14.47). At the Pac-10 meet, Williams tied for seventh in the 110m hurdles (14.76) and placed third in the 400m hurdles, with a personal-best 51.46 (entering the Pac-10 meet, his best mark was 53.62).
Barbieri (Carpinteria HS) has scored at the Pac-10 meet in the 400m hurdles for the last two seasons. Last spring, he placed fifth (52.24) and, as a sophomore in 2001, Barbieri was seventh (52.43, ran a personal-best 51.53 in qualifying).
Clamon (Atlanta, GA/Westminster School) has been a conference scorer in the shot put two of the last three years. In 2002, he was seventh (56-11.25) and, as a redshirt freshman in 2000, Clamon placed fourth (58-6.50).
"Through hard work and dedication, these four athletes have continued to improve during their Bruin careers," said Venegas, considered one of the World's top throwing events coaches. "They have helped us at the conference level and have the potential to help us at the national level, too."
UCLA returns seven talented athletes who will immediately contribute to the Bruin cause. They are - sophomore 400m runners, Rodney Diggs and Denye Versher; sophomore distance runner Jon Rankin; pole vaulter, sophomore Yoo Kim and throwers, freshmen Jeremy Silverman and Jake Knight.
Diggs (Los Angeles/Loyola HS) and Versher (Oakland/ St. Mary's HS) were slowed with hamstring ailments in 2002. As a true freshman in 2001, Diggs scored in two events at the Pac-10, placing seventh in the 400m (47.59) and running the opening leg on UCLA's 4 X 400m relay (4th, 3:09.47). Versher, in 2001, finished seventh in the 400m (47.11, personal-best and team leader in 2001) at the U. S. Junior meet and scored in three events at the Pac-10 (400m, 6th, 47.54; opening leg on 4 X 100m relay, 7th, 31:14 and third leg on 4 X 400m relay).
Rankin (Spring Valley/Monte Vista HS) missed last season with leg stress fractures. As a freshman in 2001, Rankin won the 1500m (3:51.8) at the U. S. Junior meet, won the event at the USC dual meet (3:49.08) and ran a team-leading and personal-best 3:47.47.
Kim (Rangoon, Burma/Deerfield Academy, MA) missed 2002 because of a hamstring injury. In 2001, Kim qualified for the NCAA Outdoor, where he finished 11th (17-4.25, tying his personal-best).
Silverman (Annville, PA/Cleona HS) last summer competed in the shot put at the World (12th, 60-3.75) and U. S. Junior (3rd, 63-5/also 7th in the discus, 178-6) meets.
Knight (Riverside/Rubidoux HS) placed fourth in the shot put (61-9.50) at the 2002 U. S. Junior meet.
"These are all proven athletes who have already competed at the international and national levels," said Venegas, who during his 21 years on the Bruin staff has coached 33 UCLA men and women's NCAA champions in the throwing events. "These seven athletes will help take our team to another level this season."
2003 RECRUITING CLASS
Leading the Bruins' recruiting class are two athletes who earned 2002 prep All-American honors from Track & Field News - sprinter Matt Bruno and pole vaulter Michael Landers.
Bruno (Mission Viejo/ Trabuco Hills HS) last spring won both the 100m (10.55) and 200m (20.93, personal-best) at the CA State meet. At the U. S. Junior meet, he placed third in the 100m (10.45, personal-best) and fourth in the 200m (21.80) to earn a berth on the USA 4 X 100m relay team at the World Juniors. His 10.45 was No. 10 on the 2002 U. S. prep list and his 20.82 was No. 4.
Landers (Merced/Golden Valley HS) last season was second (16-1) at the CA State meet, second (16-0) at the Golden West Invitational and fourth (15-9) at the U. S. Junior meet. His personal-best 17-0 was No. 3 on the U. S. high school list.
Other top incoming recruits for the Bruins this season are - sophomore distance runner Erik Emilsson and eight incoming freshmen - sprinter Craig Everhart, jumper Ryan Hollins, pole vaulter David Murphy, high jumper Justin Nelson, thrower Brian Ruziecki, thrower David Shortenhaus, sprinter Chauncee Smith, and hurdler Matthew Willis.
Emilsson (Bjarred, Sweden) is a transfer from Tulane. Last fall he was one of the top runners on the Bruin cross country team and last summer he qualified for the 1500m final at Sweden's National Championships. At Tulane, he was an All-District and All-Conference USA cross country runner.
Everhart (Tacoma, WA/Davis HS) was slowed last spring with a hamstring injury. But as a junior in 2001 at Yakima, WA Davis HS, he became the first athlete in WA State history to win all three sprints. That season, his 47.09 400m mark ranked as the No. 5 11th grade time in the U. S.
Hollins (Pasadena/Muir HS) is also a member of the Bruin basketball team. Last spring, the 6-11 Hollins placed third in the triple jump (48-2.75, personal-best) at the CA State meet.
Murphy (Arroyo Grande HS) last summer qualified for the U. S. Junior meet in the vault. He placed third (15-6) at the CA State meet and his personal-best 16-0 tied for No. 16 on the national prep chart.
Nelson (Murietta/Murietta Valley HS) for the second straight season placed second in the high jump at the CA State meet (in 2002, he jumped 6-9).
Ruziecki (Huntington Beach HS) at the CA State meet was fifth in the shot put (58-11) and eighth in the discus (171-10, 174-2 qualifying). His best marks last season of 61-0 and 191-6 ranked him No. 26 and No. 11 nationally, respectively.
Shortenhaus (Walnut Creek/Las Lomas HS), like freshman teammate Hollins, is a Bruin two-sport standout (UCLA water polo team). As a junior in 2001, Shortenhaus had a seasonal-discus best of 183-1 (No. 7 ranking in the State).
Smith (San Diego/University HS) was slowed last season with a hamstring injury. Before the injury, he ran a seasonal-best 10.80 in the 100m and as a junior had top performances of 10.83 and 21.70 (200m).
Willis (La Palma/Servite HS) was an All-Orange County soccer first-team performer who improved dramatically as a hurdler in his senior year. At the 2002 U. S. Junior meet, he placed seventh in the 400m hurdles (54.93, 54.15 qualifying), at the adidas Outdoor Championships he was sixth (53.63, personal-best) and at the CA State meet in the 300m hurdles, Willis finished second (37.86). Nationally, he was No. 33 in the 300m hurdles (37.79) and No. 15 in the 400m hurdles.
"Overall this might be the best overall recruiting class since I've been head coach," Venegas said. "We helped our team in all areas. These athletes are going to make an impact on our program for the next four years."
After the 2003 Pac-10 meet (May 17-18 at USC) and for the first time ever, there will be a West Regional Qualifying Meet (May 30-31 at Palo Alto) to determine individual entries to the 2003 NCAA Outdoor (June 11-14 at Sacramento). Qualifying standards (please see page 53 in the 2003 UCLA Men's T & F Guide) must be met to advance to the four Regional Qualifying meets around the country (conference champions will automatically qualify).
At the Regional Qualifying meets, the top five finishers in each event will advance to the 2003 NCAA Outdoor, with an additional six to eight at-large student-athletes selected in each event, based upon a season-long performance list.
Regional qualifying increases the NCAA Outdoor finals cap from 388 student-athletes per gender to 544 student-athletes per gender, allowing 156 additional student-athletes per gender access to the finals.