Men, women prepare for outdoor season in different directions
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
The outdoor season not only marks the second half of the track and field season, but it symbolizes the end to a number of athlete’s careers as head coach Mika Laaksonen hopes to have both of his squads competing for the Conference USA outdoor title. The Miners will commence the outdoor schedule of the 2012 season with the UTEP Springtime meet March 24 at Kidd Field.
Laaksonen said he believes his men can compete for their first C-USA title since 2008. He said the women also have the talent to be a top-three team in C-USA but are short in numbers. Of the 18 scholarships they have to offer, Laaksonen said they decided not to offer “15-20 percent” of them because of “visas and other issues.”
“I think (the women) had a decent indoor season and I think we’ll have a better outdoor because we have a lot of athletes that are better outdoors so we’ll be better on that side for sure,” Laaksonen said. “On the men’s side, I think we have guys that can win the conference if we stay healthy.”
Finding a successor in two-time All-American Dymitrios Fylladitakis may be one of the biggest challenges for Laaksonen. Fylladitakis, who was the most-consistent thrower of the past four years, made the NCAA Championships during his four-year tenure at UTEP. His best throw of 68.82 meters his junior year was one of the 10 best throws in program history.
“I don’t think we’ll do too bad. I think (senior shot put thrower) Matt Dudley, the local guy, will do fine in the conference. I don’t know how far he’ll go beyond that this year,” Laaksonen said. “(Sophomore javelin thrower) Richard Olsson went to nationals as a freshman last year and he has experience so he’ll be better off this year.”
Laaksonen said he’s also looking for freshman hammer thrower Demetris Ella to improve once he fully recovers from some injuries he sustained earlier this year.
One of the main events the Miners will use to measure their program’s success will come at the Conference USA Outdoor Championships May 11-14 in New Orleans. The men have not won the conference championship since 2008 and the women have never won a conference championship, neither in C-USA nor the Western Athletic Conference.
Last year, Fylladitakis and the men took second and the women came in fourth at the C-USA Outdoor Championships. No women qualified for the NCAA Championships last season as two individual throwers and two relay teams led the men.
No athlete qualified for the finals in the respective events they took part in, with both relay teams finishing near the end of the pack. Fylladitakis came in ninth, which was one place shy of his third All-American honor. Also taking the field for the men was Olsson in the javelin throw. He came in last place as the lone freshman in last year’s competition.
The outdoor season will also mark a fresh start for the Miners who only sent one athlete to the Indoor NCAA Championships March 9.
Senior Endurance Abinuwa, was the lone qualifier and was named an All-American for the first time in her career following her 15th-place finish in the 400-meter competition. She was named to the second-team.
That fresh start for UTEP will begin with the UTEP Springtime meet, an event the Miners have seen success in. Last year, at the same event that began the outdoor season, four Miners took first place in five events, including Fylladitakis and Olsson.
“The first meet is just to get the ball rolling, so to speak, keep everybody healthy and move on,” Laaksonen said.
As the final portion of the 2012 campaign, the outdoor season will mark the final events for 12 seniors, seven of which are on the women’s team.
Abinuwa will be leaving, along with cross country champion and distance-runner Risper Kimaiyo. Kimaiyo holds the 5,000-meter school record, which she broke during the 2010 indoor season.
“I always want them to go out and give them a good experience, have them go out in style so hopefully they can get to outdoor nationals and then they can get All-Americans. That’d be great,” Laaksonen said.
William Vega may be reached at email@example.com.