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Iris Campbell looks to end her career on a strong note this season.
Courtesy: Zolton Cohen

Balance Key to WMU Track & Field's Success

Courtesy: WMU
Release: 01/03/2013
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KALAMAZOO -- The quest for a Mid-American Conference Championship begins on Saturday as the Western Michigan track and field team begins the 2013 indoor season hosting Toledo for its annual Ice Breaker Dual meet at 11:30 a.m. at Read Fieldhouse.

The Broncos are hoping a balanced roster and a strong senior class can push them to a Indoor MAC Championship at Eastern Michigan in February. The senior class is particularly spread through the sprints, hurdles, jumps and middle-distance events.

"I hope those seniors are planning on going out in a blaze of glory," said head coach Kelly Lycan, who begins his 13th year at the helm for the Broncos. "I was very proud of how Victoria Chatman handled her senior year last season and I can already see it in the seniors in the sprint/jump/hurdle group."

Chatman finished her senior season last year by being named an All-American after winning a MAC title as a member of the 4x400 meter relay team. She is now a volunteer coach at Eastern Michigan.

"I think this group has had their best fall ever and I think they want to do what Victoria did and go out in a blaze of glory," added Lycan.

One senior who got off to a strong fall was Ariel Arnold. The senior long-sprinter has made steady progress through her career at WMU and is primed for a big final season.

"Ariel is going to have a place at the MAC Championship," said Lycan. "She has made that happen. She has really worked hard this season and I think she is going to be a factor in the 400 meter dash, 800 meter run or both. Ariel was strong in the time trials this fall and in our Black & Gold meet. She probably has a shot at the relay team as well and she has done this all through her hard work."

The top senior on the squad is Iris Campbell. The Emmett, Mich., native has four individual MAC titles to her name and three relay MAC titles in her career. She was also named an All-American as a part of the 4x400 team last season. Campbell has been a leader on the track and off the track, also a four-time Academic All-MAC honoree.

"Iris is more fit than she ever has been and that's a scary though," said Lycan. "I think she is poised to have a really great year this year. She is cursed with talent and we want o put her in everything because we know she can score in everything but it is up to us to put her in her best events."

While the Broncos have no seniors on their throwing squad, coached by nine-season veteran assistant coach Bill Griffey, the core group of juniors in Andrea Hiler, Chelsea Gerbers and Stephanie Negrete have made strides every year. Hiler has scored at the MAC Championships and also made it to the NCAA East Preliminary Championships during last year's outdoor season. Gerbers and Negrete have also improved in the weight throw and the shot put.

"Those three juniors got a taste of the big time last year," added Lycan. "Andrea just missed the cut at the NCAAs and Stephanie has been the leader of that group so far this fall."

While it had just been the trio last year, they will be pushed by a group of freshman throwers in Lindsay Crum, Alex Ferguson, and Maria Tomlinson.

Another junior poised for a strong season is Aisha Hodge. The Bangor, Mich., native just missed out on a MAC title in the 800 meter run last season and was the Broncos top runner during cross country season this fall. Hodge, along with seniors Cara Cremeans and Rachel Whitley create a formidable trio in the middle-distance events.

"I think last year Aisha was ready physically but I think it hadn't donned on her mentally on just who good she really can be," Lycan said. "I think she has realized that now she is capable of beating those people she lost against at the NCAA first round last year."

All three, along with freshmen Raychel Figurski and Tiffany Rauch help head up a distance crew coached by assistant coach Dani Prince. Becca Peacock and Teresa Marin all had success during the cross country season and will be factors in a creating a strong distance squad.

The sophomore class had two breakout performers last season in Lindsey Hufnagel and Kathryn Pickett. Both scored at the MAC Championships last season and Hufnagel broke the school record in the pentathlon. Hufnagel also saw time on the 4x400 meter relay team. Joining them is sprinter Rebecca Hall, who gained valuable experience last season.

"Rebecca walks to the beat of a different drum," Lycan described." Her brother is a big-time runner at Nebraska and she comes from a very competitive atmosphere at home. She has really improved this year and I think we will see great things from her in the 60 meter dash, 200 meter dash and the 400."

Sophomore Alexis Hull is also off to a strong fall as is Jordan Anderson, who missed her freshman season with a stress fracture.

The incoming freshmen will also add depth to the squad. Artia Gunn has already impressed in the sprints and hurdles. Emily McAnsh adds depth to the long sprints, while Diajah Ruffin will be red-shirted for the indoor season.

The Ice Breaker Dual meet is the lone home meet for the Broncos this season. The Broncos also compete at the BGSU Challenge, the Jack Johnson Invitational at Minnesota, the Indiana Relays, the prestigious Meyo Invitational, the Tyson Invitational, and the Ball State Quad meet.