Women's Track and Field Features Youth and Experience

Jan. 3, 2007

A quick glance at the 2007 UCF women's track and field roster uncovers the overwhelming presence of youth on this year's team. Not so apparent is the experience and potential that the newcomers and underclassmen bring to the table.

"We did lose two very significant contributors with the graduation of Diana Chin and Tiffany Roebuck," said head coach Marcia Mansur-Wentworth, who is in her 13th year at the helm of the Golden Knights program. "Combined, they hold six school records and were both all-conference athletes. It isn't that we are looking to replace them, but we're celebrating what I think is our best recruiting class to date. We have two throwers that have better marks than Tiffany did in high school. There is a lot of potential like that on this team."

Among the more experienced athletes on the team are senior Katie Fowke and junior Victoria Chin. Fowke is a three-time NCAA Regional qualifier in the pole vault and has improved upon her own school record in the event since her freshman year. Last season, she posted a personal best of 12'5.50" inches.

Chin, meanwhile, has twice qualified for the NCAA Regional and was an all-conference honoree in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay. She holds the school record in the 60m hurdles and recorded the program's second best time in the 400mH and the 400m.

The Golden Knights return three of the four runners on the 4x400m relay that finished third at the C-USA Outdoor Championship. The addition of LSU transfer Sadé Nero, a one-time Southeastern Conference indoor finalist in the 400m, gives the team the chance to contend for the title in that event again. Nero also will improve the team's depth in the sprints. Freshman Fey Adaramola also has good credentials in the short sprints, ranking in the DyeStat's Elite in both the 55m and 200m during her senior season at Trevor Day High School inBronx, N.Y.

Also on the track, freshman Jenny Clausen should be a contender in the distance events after earning all-conference recognition in cross country during the fall. She is aiming to follow in the steps of former NCAA Championship qualifier Sonja Shedden.

"Jenny is able to attack the longer distances with the type of strategy that Sonja used," added Mansur-Wentworth. "She really has the utmost respect for Sonja and all she accomplished here."

Joining Clausen in the distance races are junior Elizabeth Miller and sophomore Jamie Rzepecki, who both have experience running the steeplechase.

The Golden Knights also will be strong in the middle distance with the return of senior Karen Kozub and sophomore Shantile Blackburn, as well as the talent of freshman Carley Dart. Blackburn and Kozub had the top two times in the 800m a year ago and Blackburn also ran the anchor leg of the 4x400m relay. Dart will be making her debut for the Black & Gold after sitting out the cross country season due to injury.

UCF also has two athletes challenging each other and opponents in the multi-events. As a freshman, Sheree Carter recorded 4,500 points in the heptathlon and will continue to improve in all of her events alongside junior transfer Tia Harewood, formerly of Norfolk State.

"Sheree had a solid first season and has continued to make remarkable progress," said Mansur-Wentworth. "Tia is a good hurdler and having her join us gives Sheree someone to train with on a daily basis. They will continue to push each other and only become better."

The Golden Knights are also deep in the field events. Headlining the list in the jumps is sophomore Dione Thomas, who finished sixth in the triple jump at the USA Track and Field Junior Nationals over the summer with a mark of 40'4".

"Dione is going to be an impact athlete," said Mansur-Wentworth. "She has been working on her fitness level and made incredible strides in the off-season. She has a regional qualifying standard on her mind and is just a fraction from hitting the mark."

Two newcomers also want to make their presence known in the jumps. Freshman Katorie Stinney looks to build upon the success that she established in high school, where she earned the regional title and placed second at the Florida state meet in the high jump. Sophomore Ricki Sullivan joins the Golden Knights after becoming an NCAA Division II provisional qualifier in the triple jump at California's Chico State.

UCF also has a second talented athlete, junior Kelsey Bealert, returning in the pole vault. With a personal best of 10'11.75", she and Fowke provide a one-two punch in the event.

Despite the loss of Roebuck, the throwing lineup is certain to continue its tradition of excellence. Junior captain Virginia Traynor finished the 2006 outdoor season with a personal best of 43'9.25" to finish eighth in the shot put at the C-USA Outdoor Championship. Freshman LaKendra Thames comes to UCF as the top-ranked high school thrower in Florida, while classmate Jessica Francis was ranked third in the state in both the shot put and discus last year.

"[Assistant coach] Jenn [Vander Logt] has rewritten the throwing workouts several times this fall because LaKendra, Jessica and Virginia continue to improve on a day-to-day basis," said Mansur-Wentworth. "They are pushing each other to get better."

With a year of competition in Conference USA behind them, Mansur-Wentworth and her team are looking to improve upon their seventh place indoor finish and ninth place outdoor showing from 2006.

"We had a very respectable indoor meet and I was looking to move up at the outdoor championship. With the event happening a month later than in the past, I don't think we were emotionally and mentally ready to compete," said Mansure Wentworth. "We have a younger team this year that should be able to make the transition to a longer season and compete at their peak in mid-May."

The coaching staff loaded the schedule with the goal of improving its previous finish in mind. The indoor schedule, which kicks off on Jan. 13 at the UF Collegiate Invitational, features familiar trips to Gainesville, Fla., and Clemson, S.C., mixed with new meets in Indiana and New York. The outdoor season has the Golden Knights traveling around the state, hosting two meets and making a trip to Knoxville, Tenn.

"With such an amazing wealth of new talent, we threw some more competitive meets into the schedule," said Mansur-Wenworth. "Going to those meets means facing tougher competition and hopefully, earning better marks. It's the springboard to competing on a higher level when it counts - at the conference championships."