Last season the men’s and women’s track and field teams were introduced to a new head coach and a new mission statement. After several years of mediocre rankings an overhaul was in order.
Coach Tony Veney introduced his “On the Day” slogan of competition, a strategy that basically encourages the athletes to focus on the task at hand. Members of the team are expected to treat every event as if it were their last chance to prove what they can do. Slowly, the team has gained new ground.
This season, both the men and women seem to be pushing themselves harder, as evidenced by their routine ability to exceed not just personal standards, but school records as well.
“Some of the young people were with me last season, and they’ve definitely shown signs of improvement,” said Veney earlier this season. “When there is a new coach, the transition year can be difficult, but they’ve stepped up.”
This emphasis on youth is also an important feature of Veney and assistant coach Mike Hickey’s plan to rebuild the team. The overall improvement can be traced back to a renewed focus on recruiting, an important factor in team reconstruction.
The Vikings have no doubt benefited this season from the impressive effort given by some of their newer members, including Jim Webster, a freshman and a graduate of Westview High School who has been recording some notable distances in the shot put. Freshman Gayle Imran has proved a formidable competitor in both the 200m and long-jump events.
Veteran runners Jenny Rodgers, Annie Kawasaki, Mike Kebbe and Evan Garich continue to dominate their races. In addition, junior Ryan Brown has returned this season with some exceptional performances recently, including a leap of 24 feet, 4.5 inches in the long jump at the Sacramento State Track Classic on March 22. Brown won the long-jump title and qualified for the NCAA regionals, an achievement that has been duplicated by several of his teammates since then.
Though as a whole the Portland State track and field teams still struggle to climb the rankings against such powerful opponents as Stanford and Southern Cal, these individual performances prove that a breakthrough could be in sight.
Next up, the Vikings will head to Monmouth, Ore., on April 12 for the Western Oregon University scoring meet.