BYU track: 2013 BYU women's track and field top recruiting class & veterans prepare for season

By Steven Tew

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 16 2013 7:39 p.m. MST

Bleazard, also a two-time National Champion, won the indoor 800 championship as a freshman in 2009 and as a junior in 2011. Bleazard ranks fourth on the BYU all-time indoor record board in the 800, third in the 1000 and first in the DMR. She also holds spots in the outdoor 800, the 1500, the 4x400 relay and the 4x800 relay.

BYU also said good-bye to All-American high jumpers Ada Robinson and Diana Blauer, and pole vaulter Christen Guenther.

Similarly to last year’s indoor season, BYU will face off against powerhouse programs like Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championships on Feb. 22-23 in Seattle, Wash., prior to the NCAA Indoor Championships. BYU finished seventh in the MPSF last indoor season.

Shane enters his third full year as the head coach of the women’s track and field team, after leading the team to No. 11 and No. 17 finishes at the 2012 indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships, respectively.

Distance

Sarah Darby, Lindsey Sowards Nielson, Candace Eddy Carlisle and transfer Kelsey Brown are set to lead the Cougars in the distance events to fill the gaps created by graduation. Darby, a junior from San Clemente, Calif., who specializes in the 3000 and 5000, ran a career best time in the 5000 at the Mt. SAC Relays in 17.33.93.

Nielson, an Alamosa, Colo., native, will compete in the 1500 and 3000 in 2013 after sitting out much of 2012 due to injury. During the outdoor Utah State meet in 2012, Nielson finished third in the 1500 with a career best time of 4:41.33. Her personal record in the 1600 is 4:58.00. Carlisle, who also competes in the 1500 and 3000, is one of the Cougars’ strongest middle distance runners. During the Rafer Johnson Outdoor Invitational last year, Carlisle finished third in the 1500 at 4:27.20.

Brown, a transfer from the University of Oklahoma and a Utah native, competed for the Sooners in the 800, 1500 and 1600 with personal bests of 2:07.01, 4:24.00 and 4:48.00, respectively.

Included in the 2013 recruiting class are Utah natives Ashleigh Warner, Erica Birk and Natalie Shields. During the high school BYU Invitational in 2012, all three girls broke the 1600 state record with times of 4:50.13, 4:51.02 and 4:51.03, respectively. Birk’s mother, Nicole Birk, ran for BYU in the early 90’s and currently holds the BYU all-time outdoor record in the 3000 in 9:09.07.

Also included in the 2013 recruiting class are Erika Reddish and Danica Wyson. Reddish is known as one of the best distance runners to come out of Murreita, Calif., according to the North County Times. During her four years at Vista Murreita High School, she won the 1600 at the Southwestern League finals four years in a row and set three Valley records in the 800, the 1600 and the 3200.

Wyson, a product of Laguna Niguel, Calif., spent most of her junior year struggling with injuries but returned her senior year as one of the top distance runners in California. She finished fourth at the South Coast League finals, fifth at the CIF-SS finals and 12th at the Division I state finals.

"There's no question this is the best group of distance runners I've ever signed," Shane said. "I believe there isn't a finer group in the country."

Sprints and Hurdles

After sitting out the 2012 season due to injury, Natalie Stewart, the twin sister of recent graduate Nachelle Mackie, returns in 2013 as the top sprinter for the Cougars. Stewart is the BYU all-time record holder in the indoor 400 (53.90) and currently ranks second in the outdoor 400 (53.39). During the Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships in 2011, Stewart finished third in the 400 and first as part of the DMR team.

Joining Stewart in the sprint/hurdles are Aubrey Hale, Arlene Gowar and newcomers Kaylee Packham and Brie Simmons. Hale highlighted 2012 with a second-place finish in the Robison Outdoor Invitational 100 (11.87) and a third-place finish in the Weber State Outdoor Twilight 100 (12.30). In 2011, Hale clocked a personal best in 11.76 in the 100 at the BYU Outdoor Twilight. She also competes in the 60, 200 and 4x100 relay.

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