Track Season Begins Saturday at Westmont
Feb. 17, 2012
MALIBU, Calif. -- Pepperdine track season begins Saturday, and head coach Robert Radnoti is looking forward to seeing what his mix of veterans and youngsters can accomplish.
He expects some school records to be broken over the course of the year, and he thinks senior Lauren Lodge (Hopkinton, Mass./Hopkinton HS) could become the program's first NCAA qualifier.
Pepperdine's season opens Saturday (Feb. 18) at Westmont in a three-team meet that also includes UC Santa Barbara.
"It's a very low-key first meet," Radnoti said. "Westmont's got a nice track. We went there last year but there was thunder and lightning and the meet got called after a few events. The weather forecast looks good and everyone is excited. They've been training hard the past few weeks and everyone wants to see where they're at."
The women's squad consists of 12 returners and 10 newcomers.
"We graduated a really good group of sprinters last year," said Radnoti, who in his sixth season as head coach. "But we have a nice nucleus of newcomers, and we'll see what they can do for us. They'll grow and mature through the season, and hopefully they'll all have good four-year careers."
Lodge has been a standout in both track (she holds the school records in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters) and cross country (she was an All-WCC selection in 2010). She's bouncing back from a leg injury that limited her in the fall, but Radnoti has high hopes for her final semester of competition at Pepperdine.
"Last year, we had Lauren try the steeplechase believing that was her best opportunity to qualify for the NCAAs, but by the end of the season she was injured," he said. "She won't do that this year. She's going to alternate the 1,500 and 5,000, and toward the end of the regular season we'll make a decision on which one looks best, and hopefully get her to qualify for the NCAAs. I'm pretty bullish on that if we keep her healthy."
Radnoti thinks that new volunteer assistant Lindsay Flacks, a former Stanford All-American, will aid Lodge in reaching her peak form.
Among the other distance runners, Radnoti is looking forward to seeing what senior Aneasha Lawrence (Simi Valley, Calif./Village Christian HS), senior Ana Prim (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif./Torrey Pines HS) and sophomore Adrianna Davies (Coronado, Calif./Coronado HS) will do this season.
"Aneasha had a breakthrough season in cross country," he said. "She's been focused on the 800 meters and she's been training better than anyone on the team. She's been crushing the workouts. Her target is to break our 800-meter record, and that's well within her reach.
"Adie is just a sophomore, but we're bringing her along and she's going to be a real leader on this team. Ana has had on-and-off injuries or illnesses throughout her career, but she looks in very good shape and is running well right now."
Pepperdine's sprinters are being led by assistant coach Samantha Clayton, a former Olympian for Great Britain. Radnoti has seen her grow as a coach the past couple of seasons and she replaces Melvin Jones (who left to pursue ministry) as head sprint coach.
"Samantha is doing a wonderful job," Radnoti said. "She learned from Melvin about how to coach, and when she combines that with her own experience, she's such a tremendous asset for our girls."
Sophomore Summer Enalen (Temecula, Calif./Chaparral HS) owns the school record in the 100-meter hurdles and is a team captain along with Lawrence, Lodge and junior Juliet Casillas (Los Angeles, Calif./Folson HS). Another one of the top returners is junior Kasey Ullery (Simi Valley, Calif./Simi Valley HS/Moorpark College), and among the newcomers that Radnoti is high on are junior Sara Decker (Phoenix, Ariz./Horizon Honors HS/Chandler-Gilbert CC) and freshmen Triston Brown (Colorado Springs, Colo./Briarcrest Christian HS) and Niala Charles (Temecula, Calif./Great Oak HS).
"I think this group can break some school records, possibly the 4x400 this year," Radnoti said. "I'm excited to have a young group that we can build with."
Pepperdine has a limited men's program that consists of five long-distance runners. Three that stand out are senior Kenny Smith (Willits, Calif./Willits HS) and juniors Wesley Blundell (Brush Prairie, Wash./Prairie HS) and Jonathan Rahaeuser (Irvine, Calif./Calvary Chapel HS).
"It's a very good group," Radnoti said. "I'm thinking one of those three will break the school record in the 5,000. Wesley set the school record in the 10,000 as a freshman. He didn't run last year but rejoined the team last week and he's already running right there with Jonathan."