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

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 5:23 a.m. MDT

PROVO, Utah — A recruiting class ranked No. 10 in the nation by Track and Field News joins many strong athletes for the women’s track and field team in 2013.

“We lost some great athletes to graduation, National Champions even,” head coach Patrick Shane said of his squad, which lost multiple All-Americans. “But we kept and gained some great athletes as well. To have our recruiting class ranked No. 10 by Track and Field News is quite an accomplishment given the hundreds of teams there are across the country.”

BYU’s 2013 recruiting class received the No. 10 ranking based on multiple factors, including how likely each individual is to make an immediate impact for her team at the collegiate level. The rankings “take into consideration new high school pickups and both JC and 4-year transfers” (Track and Field News, Vol. 66, No.1).

Of BYU’s 12 recruits highlighted by Track and Field News, two are transfers and 10 are recent high school graduates.

Distance

Erica Birk, Freshman, North Summit High School

1600m 4:52.71 (A)

3200m 10:38.36

Kelsey Brown, Junior, University of Oklahoma

800m 2:07.17

Erica Reddish, Freshman, Vista Murrieta High School

800m 2:12.67

1600m 4:60.64

Natalie Shields, Freshman, East High School

1600m 4:52.72 (A)

3200m 10:14.16

Ashleigh Warner, Freshman, Mountain View High School

1600m 4:51.82 (A)

Danica Wyson, Freshman, Aliso Niguel High School

Sprints/Hurdles

Kaylee Packham, Freshman, Loveland High School

300h 42.53

Brie Simmons, Freshman, Del Oro High School

Jumps

Melissa Merrill, Freshman, Hanford High School

High Jump 1.76m (5-8)

Shea Taylor, Freshman, Grace M. Davis High School

Long Jump 5.78m (18-9 3/4)

Triple Jump 11.72 (38-5 3/4)

Pole Vault

Anginae Monteverde, Sophomore, University of Oregon

Pole Vault 4.11m (13-5 3/4)

Throws

Taylor Barrus, Freshman, Skyview High School

Javelin 45.93m (150-7)

Among those athletes lost by graduation are All-Americans Katy Andrews and Sarah Edwards, as well as two-time National Champions Lacey Bleazard and Nachelle Mackie.

Mackie, who won the 2012 indoor and outdoor National Championship in the 800 meters, is just the second BYU women’s track athlete to win two titles in the same event in the same year. She sits atop the BYU all-time indoor record board in the 800, the 4x800-meter relay and the distance medley relay. She also ranks fifth in the outdoor 400, second in the 800 and first in the 4x400 relay.

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.

Gowar, a junior from Pretoria, South Africa, specializes in the 60, 100 and 200. During the 2012 MPSF Indoor Championships, Gowar ran a career-best time of 7.63 in the 60. She also placed 21st in 25.26 in the 200 during the same meet.

Kaylee Packham is predicted by coaches to make a significant difference for the Cougars in the hurdles. She is the Loveland High School record holder in the 100-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles, 200, 4x100, 4x200, 4x400, 60 and the 60 hurdles, and won the Colorado 5A State Championships in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 4x100 and the 4x200.

Brie Simmons, of Loomis, Calif., is the CIF Division 2 and 3 Champion in the 100, 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. She also holds the Del Oro High School records in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, long jump, 4x100 and 4x400. Simmons is also the Cougar's top multi-event recruit.

Allysa Hanson, who sat out the 2012 indoor and outdoor seasons because of an ACL injury, will also provide depth for her team in the 60 and the 400.

Jumps

In the jumps, senior Melissa Keltner and junior Elizabeth Wilson return in 2013 to fill the shoes of All-Americans Diana Blauer and Ada Robinson. Keltner finished 2012 with career best performances in the triple jump at the Utah Valley Invitational of 12.26m and in the long jump during the Weber State Classic of 5.71.

Wilson finished 2012 with an eighth-place finish at the Georgia Tech Invitational triple jump with a career best of 12.26m. Wilson is also set to compete as the top multi-event athlete for the Cougars. She finished 18th with a career-best performance in the heptathlon during the Texas Relays in 2012.

Sophomore high jumper Lexi Eaton, who also plays on the BYU women’s basketball team, will not participate in 2013 due to a recent ACL injury during a Cougar basketball game. Eaton finished in the top three for the majority of her meets and recorded a top-10 jump in the NCAA in 2012 of 1.81m. She also currently ranks eighth on the BYU all-time outdoor record board with the same jump.

Shea Taylor and Melissa Merrill join Keltner and Wilson as BYU’s top jump recruits. Taylor, a freshman out of Modesto, Calif., was a four-time, all-conference and two-time, all-section selection and holds the Grace M. Davis High School records in the triple jump and the 100 hurdles.

Merrill holds the Hanford High School record in the high jump with a mark of 1.77m.

Pole Vault

Just as in other events, returning athletes and recruits in the pole vault have a void to fill due to the loss of All-American Christen Guenther. Four Cougars in line to fill that void are Rachel Fisher, Nicole Naatjes, Kelli Ehardt and University of Oregon transfer Anginae Monteverde.

As a freshman, Fisher broke out with a sixth-place finish at the New Balance Invitational and followed with a record-breaking performance at the MWC Indoor Championships. In 2011, Fisher broke her own indoor pole vault record by clearing 4.26m and won the MWC Indoor Championship in the event. Fisher currently ranks second on the BYU all-time indoor record board (4.26m) and sixth on the outdoor record board (4.11m).

Naatjes enters her sophomore season ranked seventh (3.93m) on the BYU all-time indoor board and eighth (4.10m) on the BYU all-time outdoor record board in the pole vault. Naatjes finished her freshman year with a first-place finish at the Utah Valley Invitational and a 17th-place finish at the NCAA West Regionals.

Similarly to her teammates, Ehardt ranks among the BYU pole vaulting elite on the BYU all-time indoor and outdoor record boards. She ranks fifth on the indoor board and fourth on the outdoor board with vaults of 4.02m and 4.16m, respectively. As a freshman, Ehardt won the MWC indoor pole vault title and placed third in both the MWC indoor and outdoor championships as a junior. She redshirted during the 2012 seasons due to a shoulder injury.

Monteverde placed second in the pole vault during the MPSF indoor championships as a freshman at the University of Oregon with a vault of 4.11m.

Throws

Allyson Anderson Wardell, who enters her senior year as the teams top javelin thrower, is a two-time All-MWC selection in 2010 and 2011, and a second-team All-America honoree in 2012. Wardell threw for 44.28m during the NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors.

Joining Wardell in the throws are sophomore Brianna French and senior Deezbaa Whaley.

French, the Cougar’s top discus thrower, threw a personal best 47.71m in the outdoor discus during the Utah Valley Invitational. French currently ranks eighth on the BYU all-time outdoor record board with her personal best throw.

Whaley, a Kayenta, Ariz., native and a recent returned missionary, is the team’s top performer in the weight throw and the hammer throw. Prior to her mission, Whaley had personal best throws of 52.04m in the hammer throw and 17.68m in the weight throw. Whaley currently sits fourth on the BYU all-time indoor record board in the 20-Lb. weight throw and ninth on the outdoor record board in the discus.

The top recruit in the throws is javelin thrower Taylor Barrus. The Ridgefield, Wash., native won the region and state championships as a senior with throws of 43.19m and 45.93m, respectively.

The women's track team starts off the 2013 indoor season with the BYU Indoor Invitational on Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse.

Steven Tew is an SID at BYU Athletic Communications. He can be contacted at wtrack_sid@byu.edu,

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