Big East Preview

By John Antonik for
May 3, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A small group of West Virginia qualifiers will be at this weekend's Big East outdoor track and field championships taking place at Connecticut's George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex. Competition begins on Friday and continues through Sunday.

Junior Jessica Czaikowski is nationally ranked in both the 100 hurdles and the 100-meter dash.
(Kirby Lee photo)

Mountaineer coach Jeff Huntoon says he is only taking 15 athletes to this year's meet.

"We're light on numbers but we're pretty good on depth," he said. "Almost everyone that is going is ranked in the top eight in the conference."

The 4x100-meter relay consisting of senior Junique Morris, Shani Boone, Jamillah Nock and Jessica Czaikowski ran a season-best time of 45.66 last Saturday at Penn Relays and heads into this weekend with the fastest time in the conference, edging Notre Dame's best time of 45.67.

"We talked about the 4x100 and maybe ruining Pittsburgh's day and trying to be champions in that," Huntoon said.

Czaikowski is ranked second in conference in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.36. The Tottenham, Ontario, resident is also ranked third in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.69 and is fourth in the 200 with a 24.15 clocking. She will compete in all three events this weekend.

"She's had a strong outdoor season," Huntoon said. "Jessica has run personal bests in the 100, 200 and 100 hurdles and she's the anchor on the 4x100 relay."

Czaikowski is ranked 18th in the nation in the 100 hurdles and 65th in the 100-meter dash.

Senior Jen Hall has had an outstanding season in the pole vault and is ranked 50th in the country with a season-best vault of 3.82 meters performed on April 15. She heads into the conference meet as the league's fifth-best competitor in that event.

Senior Lindsey Clark set a personal best in the javelin last weekend at Penn Relays with a throw of 43.09 meters. That also ranks her fifth in the Big East and is the second-best throw in school history.

Huntoon is hoping to get a breakout performance from senior Susan Davis in the steeplechase. The Romney, W.Va., native will be competing in the event for the first time this outdoor season.

"She was going to go to Stanford to run her big steeplechase race and do some other events leading up to the Big East championships, but she got sick and it took her a couple of weeks to get over it," Huntoon said. "With where we were in the season it was just better for her to stay back home and train and get ready for this weekend."

Huntoon is also hopeful of getting a top eight placing out of senior Pam Richardson in the 400. Like Davis, Richardson has been shelved for most of the spring.

"She ran the first meet in North Carolina, strained her hamstring, and has really been out of commission for about three or four weeks," Huntoon said. "She ran at Penn Relays and led off the 4x400 and did really well."

Senior Junique Morris is another candidate to win some points for the Mountaineers in the 100 and 200.

"She has had a solid senior year," Huntoon said. "She led off both of those relays that did great at Penn Relays last weekend. She's seventh or eighth in the 200 in the Big East and I know she's ready to go in both the 100 and the 200."

Unlike years past, West Virginia does not have a large field of competitors in the middle distance and distance events due to the large class of seniors that graduated last year.

"You don't graduate six out of your top seven from cross country and expect to do that well again this year," Huntoon said.

"It's a situation where we've got a couple of transfers coming in and so hopefully we won't end up in this situation where we graduated six at one time like we did last year," Huntoon noted. "There were injuries and other things that happened that we couldn't factor in. We thought we had that staggered pretty well."

Freshman Raeleen Hunter will compete in the 800-meter run and heads into this weekend ranked ninth with a time of 2:11.26.

"She's had a real solid freshman year," Huntoon said. "Expectations on her part and on our part were maybe a little high in that she was going to run a 2:08 every weekend. She's had a great attitude and I don't want to forget that she's run a 2:11, and she's only run the 800 once outdoors."

Huntoon elected to redshirt two certain point-getters in Nancy Regalbuto and Abbie Stechschulte for the outdoor season. Stechschulte won the pentathlon at Big East indoors and qualified for indoor nationals, while Regalbuto placed second at the conference indoor meet in the high jump.

"Knowing who we recruited for next year we thought that if we're going to take a hit let's do it right now," Huntoon explained. "We've got Jessica back for next year and with Abbie and Nancy, we just thought the time was right to do it now."

Despite having a small contingent of qualifiers, Huntoon is confident there is enough quality to once again have an upper-level finish.

"We were ninth indoors which was disappointing but we were six points out of fourth," he said. "We know we're right there.

"We can certainly affect some other teams' performances with the group we've got going."

Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Georgetown are the favorites to win the meet.