1998 Season Outlook|
LAS VEGAS -
The Rebels track and field team looks to build on their inaugural Western Athletic Conference season of 1997. With the return of a number of athletes and a solid corps of newcomers, UNLV looks to have a more balanced attack than in recent years. Says Head Coach Karen Dennis, "Our strengths this year are balance and diversity. To succeed in the Western Athletic Conference you must have talent across the board. I think we have a talented staff that will develop each event and give us an all-around attack when it comes time for the WAC Championships." Coach Dennis has brought in two new coaches to assist with team duties this season. Mary Shea, who works primarily with distance runners and the cross country team, is a welcome addition to the UNLV staff. A former All-American under Dennis at Michigan State, she is aware of what it takes to succeed at this level. Also joining the team this season is Dr. Qingyi Zheng. Zheng's duties will be with field events, including the heptathlon, jumps and the throws. UNLV has brought in athletes to specialize in these particular disciplines, and is also looking to debut UNLV's first pole vaulter this season. Leading the way for the Rebels in 1998 are four All-Americans who were member's of UNLV's 4x100 relay team last season. Doniele Twitty, Alicia Tyson, Dahhia Smith and Hydianne Harper all have the potential and talent to make a return trip to the NCAAs again this season. Twitty is quickly developing into one of the finest sprinters in the country, entering her junior season with the Rebels. Tyson and Harper, both of Trinidad, have already arrived on the international scene, appearing in championships for their native country. Tyson should also vie for her second NCAA meet, as she continues to be the most improved sprinter on the squad.
UNLV has proven talent and tradition when it comes to the sprints. In addition to the foursome that finished fifth in the 4x100, the team has depth in a variety of sprint events. Besides her duties on the relay team, Harper was a NCAA qualifier last season in the 200 meters. A qualifier for the World Championships for Trinidad, she was a two-time All-American in just her first season with the Rebels. The rest of the All-American tandem is also loaded with talent. Twitty was a higAschool All-American out of Dunbar High School, and was one of the highest rated recruits out of Ohio when she came to UNLV two seasons ago. She has continued her success with the Rebels, and will be one of the top sprinters in the conference and possibly the nation before her stint is done. Tyson, another top sprinter from Trinidad, participated in last year's Caribbean Championships. She specializes in the 200 and 400 meters, along with her duties on the relays, but has the capability to score in a number of events. The final All-American from last season is Dahhia Smith. Smith's hard work and dedication has coaches believing she can make a return trip to the NCAAs this season. Ivy Turner and Beth Williams return for their second season running sprints for the Rebels. Turner, a sophomore, is a versatile sprinter who could run any number of events for UNLV. She is expected to challenge for a spot on one of the relay teams. Williams, in her third year of eligibility, will likely compete in both the 100 and 200 meter events. A wealth of newcomers join the sprinting corps this season. Teresa Glassman, Taunya Ford and Kimberly Evans will add depth and experience to the team.
The top returning middle distance runner for UNLV is Nadine Nembhard. She provides the Rebels with a solid base in which to successfully compete in the WAC. After finishing 6th at the WAC Championships in the 800 meters last season, Nembhard looks to move up the conference rankings and qualify for the NCAA meet in this, her final season. Says Coach Dennis, "Nadine works hard both on the track and in the classroom. She had a major impact at the WAC Championships lasts season, and we expect her to be successful again this year, especially in her best event, the 800 meters." Nembhard is joined by three fellow athletes that ran alongside of her on the cross country team. Sandra Acosta, Kathryn Goetz and Eulista Clemons all have the potential to succeed in the middle distance events for UNLV. Acosta and Goetz are both in their first seasons with the Rebels, and are expected to make an immediate impact. Coaches say they see Acosta "coming into her own" in her events, and feel she has the talent to develop into a scorer at WAC Championships. Goetz comes to UNLV after transferring from Nevada, Reno. She comes from an experienced middle distance background, and was a high school All-American. She also has the potential to score in the WAC Championships.
Angie Fortner transfers to UNLV after a successful 1996-97 campaign at Nevada, Reno. She was an NCAA provisional qualifier in the 3000 meters, and finished second in the Big West Championships in both the 3000 and the 1500 meters. She is joined by Denise Danielson, a former Big West Champion in the 5000 and 10,0000 meters. She just missed qualifying for the NCAA's in both events last year and has a great chance of qualifying this season, while scoring points at the WAC Championships. Amy Carling and Sarah Feliz return for their fourth year with the track and field and cross country teams. Both have great leadership presence on and off the track, and coaches say they are expecting their final seasons to be their best yet. Running alongside Carling and Feliz are a corps of newcomers who are expected to lift the distance and cross country disciplines to a new level. Leading the way is freshman Katie Barto. Barto, a standout at local Green Valley HS in Henderson, Nev., has already established herself as a disciplined and exceptional cross country athlete. Barto has tremendous range from 800 to 3000 meters, so it remains to be seen what area of track and field she will shine. Freshmen Nicole Burns, Megan Gibson, and Rachea McCauley round out the cast of distance runners for UNLV. Says Coach Dennis, "I feel we have a lot of talent in the distance events, a lot of young talent. We are very dedicated to developing this aspect of our program. We feel in order to succeed in the WAC you must bring an all-around attack."
Highlighting a successful season for the Rebel relay teams was the fifth place finish of the 4x100 team at the NCAA Championships. All four members of the team return. Harper, Smith, and Tyson are all in their final years with the Rebels, while Twitty is in her third year of eligibility. While the tandem has remained in tact, there are a number of athletes who have the capability to step up and occupy a spot in the 4x100 or any of the relay teams. With skill in both the sprints and the middle distance events for UNLV, the relays should prove to be a strong area once again. The 4x100 and 4x400 events could see any number of combinations, mixing the numerous incoming recruits with the experienced staff of returning letterwinners. The indoor distance medley relays also have tremendous potential, as the combined speed of the sprinters and middle distance runners have been successful for the Rebels in years past.
Two hurdlers lead the way for the UNLV squad this season. Laren Parker, who is in her sophomore season with the Rebels, returns as a hurdler and jumper. Parker has raw talent and determination, a combination that should bode well for her as her career at UNLV continues. She is joined by a local talent, Kimberly Evans. Evans is a junior in class standing, but this will be her first season competing on the team. Taunya Ford, a transfer student from Western State College of Colorado, brings both leadership and experience to the team after spending two seasons at a four-year college. She will take a redshirt this season, but coaches are anxiously awaiting her addition to the team.
The Rebels will get a boost in their field events, including additions in two events that are fairly new to women's track and field, the hammer and the pole vault. Emily Patenaude will be the first Rebel to specialize in the hammer throw. A top three finisher in the hammer in her home state of Rhode Island, Patenaude is expected to make a significant contribution to the UNLV field events. Also adding power to the field events is a junior college transfer. Teresa Glassman, who specializes in the jumps. Requilda Quintana returns for her second year with the Rebels, and will take part in the pole vault event. Extremely talented, Quintana has the ability to participate in a number of UNLV's field events and move up the rankings in the WAC. Newcomer Heather Robison rounds out the cast of athletes in the horizontal, triple and long jumps. Contributing in the jumps is a number of talented athletes. Glassman and Robison join a solid group of talented returning jumpers for UNLV. Parker, Quintana and Williams all return for their second season. Coaches say they consider Parker one of the best jumpers to ever come through UNLV, and she is still young and developing. Her and Quintana will offer a powerful one-two punch for the Rebels.
UNLV has a competitive schedule in both their indoor and outdoor seasons. In February, the Rebels travel to the University of Nebraska's Husker Relays, where the Rebels expect to find a very competitive field of participants. Other indoor meets include matchups with WAC foe Air Force and rival Nevada, Reno. Two outdoor meets which should prove challenging for the Rebels are the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Mt. Sac Relays in Walnut, California. Scheduled for middle to late April, the meets should provide a warmup for the Rebels for May's California/Nevada Championships and the WAC Outdoor Championships. Says Coach Dennis, "I feel the competition that we have this season is commensurate with our abilities. We expect to do well and improve, readying us for the next level at the WAC and National Championships."