Bearcats Eye Big Prize As Outdoor Season Kicks Off
Senior pole vaulter Mackenzie Fields

March 15, 2012

This is part two in a two-part series previewing the 2012 UC Track and Field Teams. To read part one, click here.

By Shawn Sell

Looking to build upon the momentum gained from a program-best runner-up finish at the BIG EAST Indoor Championships, the UC Women's Track and Field squad opens its outdoor campaign this weekend with an eye on an even bigger prize--a BIG EAST Championship. And with a team built around two reigning All-Americans and multiple postseason qualifiers from a year ago, head coach Susan Seatonis confident entering the 2012 campaign.

Seaton's reasons for optimism start with seniors Jasmine Cotten and Kathy Klump, both recently named All-Americans at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Cotten is UC's top performer in the heptathlon and is also a force in the open long and high jumps. Klump meanwhile, is a two-time All-American in the 800 meters. Despite enjoying outstanding senior seasons during indoor, both have their eye on loftier accomplishments according to Seaton.

"They both did amazing at the BIG EAST Championship and at the national indoor championship," Seaton says. "When we were out in Boise (at NCAA's), we talked about what they want for the outdoor season. They both want to get back to the national championships and better their place outdoor versus what they were able to achieve indoors. Jasmine would like to be higher up on the podium and so would Kathy; that is a big goal for them.

"We also talked about the Olympic Trials; that is a big challenge since this is an Olympic year and they are pretty close to getting Trials qualifying marks," she continues. "That is one thing they want to focus on during the outdoor season, competing in a way that allows them to achieve those marks so they can represent UC at the Olympic Trials at the end of the season."

While Cotten and Klump are sure to contribute their share of points throughout the year and at the BIG EAST Championships, it obviously will take a team effort to capture the conference's top spot. One of the other strengths of the Bearcat roster is the pole vault, where three athletes qualified for the NCAA First Round meet last season. Senior (and UC outdoor record holder) Mackenzie Fields leads a contingent that also includes classmate Michelle Eby and sophomore Sarah Rasnick. Seaton is counting on big things from that group throughout the spring.

The Bearcats also boast solid depth amongst its group of throwers and the addition of an international student-athlete should make that group even stronger. Leading the charge amongst the returnees are sophomores Mary Bridges, Jessica Molyet and Frida Akerstrom, all NCAA First Round qualifiers from a year ago. Bridges is the school record holder in the discus and was joined at the NCAA prelims by Molyet. Akerstrom are both poised for more improvement after qualifying for postseason in the shot put last year. A native of Sweden, Akerstrom will be joined by fellow Swede Emelie Larssonon the UC roster this year. If Larsson's past performance in the javelin throw is any indication, the Bearcats may have a star on their hands. Junior Jessica Cobb, an NCAA First Round qualifier a year ago, will miss the season due to surgery.

"Emelie's mark from last year was 169'-2" and that would have placed in the top-three of the conference and also been an All-American," Seaton says. "We are looking to see if Emelie can adjust to competing in the United States and go out and be a big factor for us."

Rounding out the list of returning postseason qualifiers Seaton will lean on is senior Paris Campbell in the hurdles and classmate Aricka Rhodes in the 400 meters. Two other performers that could be potential point scorers include junior sprinter Shanay Portis, senior middle distance runner Jenna Heaton and UC's top performer during cross country season last fall, senior Alison Zukowski.

As the 2012 outdoor season gets ready to start for the UC Women's Track and Field team, the defining storyline looks to be can the team keep the momentum of the program's best-ever BIG EAST Championship finish going. One thing is for sure, the Bearcats certainly have the motivation to carry it on.

"One thing that is really interesting about our team is when we finished second at the BIG EAST Championship by half a point over Villanova, immediately the team started talking about outdoor and wanting a different trophy--the one with number one on it," Seaton says. "That is a big focus and what everyone is talking about in practices. They are working hard so that we can hopefully challenge for a team championship at the outdoor BIG EAST meet."

The Bearcats' quest for BIG EAST glory begins on Saturday with the Early Bird Relays, inside Gettler Stadium on UC's campus. Other highlights on the docket include the Oliver Nikoloff Invitational at Gettler Stadium (March 30-31), the All-Ohio Championships at Miami (April 20-21) and the Drake Relays (April 27-28). The 2012 BIG EAST Championship will take place May 4-7 in Tampa, Fla.