TERRE HAUTE —
With three sophomores among Indiana State’s record number of entrants heading to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, the Sycamores are in position to have athletes competing for a national title for at least a couple more seasons.
Katie Wise, in particular, has the potential to rack up multiple All-American accolades between now and the time she graduates in 2016.
The native of tiny Morgantown, Ind., will head to Track Town USA to compete in the women’s 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and the 400-meter relay this week at Hayward Field.
Wise’s top event is the 100, where she’s second in school history to seven-time NCAA champion Holli Hyche — whose best was 11.03 — with her time of 11.18 seconds.
The sophomore is seeded third in the nation with that season-best time.
“It’s going to be anybody’s race. I just need to PR [personal record] and see what I can do with that,” said Wise, who credits some breakthrough work with ISU’s top-notch strength and conditioning coaches for her improvement.
“I started working harder in the weightroom, I got a lot stronger there. Every year, I want to just keep improving with little things,” said Wise, who ranks 12th among all Americans in the 100 in 2014, earning her a berth to the USATF Championships later this month.
ISU assistant coach Michael Roberts has seen Wise’s development up close. She’s a poised competitor, he said.
“She doesn’t really show nervousness. She doesn’t really talk about the race. When the race comes, the monster comes out. She’s always relaxed and always positive,” Roberts said.
As a result of the work, her confidence is at an all-time high. Wise also leads the Sycamores’ 400 relay team into the NCAAs, giving her a race to run on each of the next four days.
“I want to make finals in the 100 and 200,” Wise said. “I want to PR both races, try to get top eight in both events.”
All three sophomores — Wise, John Mascari and Adarius Washington — are as confident as they’ve been in their track careers.
And all three can appreciate this final NCAA meet for seniors Mary Theisen, Greggmar Swift and Max Tuttle (400 hurdles qualifier).
The underclassmen hope to be the same type of role models for ISU’s young athletes for the next couple years.
“For regionals, we sent 19 individuals. That was a really good impact on our team and it’s going to help us in the future for next year,” Terre Haute’s Mascari said. “Sending four guys to nationals, it gives the younger guys a chance to see what they are capable of accomplishing.”
Swift and Theisen are All-American contenders — if not title contenders — in their respective events. Theisen’s top throw of 55 feet, 9 inches is sixth best in the NCAA going into the final competition and her discus heave of 178-3 is good for 13th in the nation.
Swift’s top time of the outdoor season in the 110 hurdles is 13.49, so he would likely need to cut nearly half a second to upset favorites Aleec Harris of USC and Wayne Davis II of Texas A&M.
“I’m very relaxed and confident,” Swift said Tuesday. “I know there’s a couple guys ahead of me, but I’m not too worried about that. I know what kind of shape I’m in. I’m in 13.1 or 13.2 shape and that’s what it takes to win the competition.”
The 2012 Barbados Olympian and Tuttle have helped set a good example for Washington, an Indianapolis native who has emerged of late.
“All of our hurdlers are stronger [with Swift keeping the bar high on a daily basis],” McNichols said. “We drill a lot. Greggmar’s very efficient with the drills and with repetition, sooner or later you’re going to start to come around.”
Washington ran a career-best time of 13.77 at the NCAA East Preliminary, which puts him fourth on ISU’s all-time list behind former NCAA champion Aubrey Herring, four-time All-American Swift and former NCAA champion Chris Lancaster.
Swift has been impressed by ISU’s next potential All-American hurdler.
“Ever since the Drake relays, Adarius has been running a personal best,” Swift said. “That’s absolutely amazing. I can take some credit, he’s training with a world-class athlete, he’s worked hard and has determination.”
Herring’s school-record time of 13.36 has been within reach for Swift the last couple years. He’ll have a couple more chances if he gets through today’s semifinals.
McNichols would love to see Swift have company in the finals. Washington is seeded 20th, so it would be an upset.
“He has an outside shot of making it to the finals. If he runs a good race like he did in the preliminary at the regional, he has a chance,” McNichols said.
Mascari is seeded 13th in the 10,000 meters, but he is capable of more. His health is back after a nagging hip injury limited his upside during the indoor season.
Mascari won the NCAA East Preliminary — just the third Sycamore to win a region meet —to follow up Missouri Valley Conference championships in the 5,000 and 10,000.
“The confidence really kicked in at the conference meet,” Mascari said. “I was able to win the 10K and 5K and that really got me going.”
The thrill of running at the University of Oregon is a feeling Mascari will have to handle as he tries to make waves among the nation’s elite.
“Hayward Field just has a lot of history. Galen Rupp just broke the American record on the track I’m about to run on, so there’s a lot of hype going into it,” Mascari said. “It’s exciting to know my fitness is there. Now I really have nothing to lose. I’m finally on the final stage. I’ve just got to have fun with it, enjoy it. I don’t want to just say I’m happy to be there. I know I can make a pretty good impact if I’m feeling it and the race goes out as I want.”
“After watching his distance ace overcome humid conditions to execute a strategical victory at the East preliminary meet, McNichols sees Mascari capable of running in the top five of the NCAA,” McNichols said. “He’s learning race savviness. He can run position and then start working. He made some real good moves in Jacksonville [Fla.] to beat an outstanding runner from Duquesne. I think he’s a top five or six possibility. I think he’ll have the chance to be in the thick of it.”
At Hayward Field,
All times EDT
Watch live online at espn3.com
7:15 p.m. — Women’s 400 relay
8:45 — Women’s 100 dash semifinals
9:15 — Men’s 400 hurdles semifinals
10:15 — Men’s 10,000
5 p.m. — Women’s discus
7:15 — Women’s 200 semifinal
8:05 — Men’s 110 hurdles semifinals
8:07 p.m. — Women’s 100 finals
4 p.m. — Women’s shot put
5:49 — Women’s 200 dash finals
6:12 — Men’s 110 hurdles finals