Vaquera track & field preview
COOLIDGE, Ariz. – Central Arizona College head women’s track and field coach Tony Dougherty is trying for the double-trifecta in 2008.
His Vaqueras will begin their quest for a third straight National Junior College Division I National Championship on Feb. 22 when the season commences on Central’s Signal Peak Campus.
But Dougherty’s runners, jumpers and throwers also have an opportunity to become the third Central Arizona College athletic program to win three straight national championships.
Softball accomplished that feat first, claiming five in a row from 1988-92, followed by the men’s track and field program which won its third straight crown last year.
With 31 NJCAA National Championships in just over three decades of competition, Central Arizona College Athletic Director Jeff Thies may have to apply to Pinal County about changing Signal Peak’s name to Title Mountain.
In the shadow of Signal Peak is where Dougherty will try for the fifth overall NJCAA title for his women’s program. The Vaqueras won their first two championships in 1998 and 1999, giving Central Arizona College four large pieces of hardware in a decade.
And he certainly has the talent to repeat.
Sophomore Naomy Cherop Kea (Kenya) will run the distance races for the Vaqueras again this season. The two-time NJCAA All-American will compete in the 800, 1500 and 5000 meters this year after a stellar season in 2007.
“Naomy has improved greatly since she arrived and we expect her to have another great year this season,” Dougherty said of the African native.
Fellow countrywoman Rose Tanui (Kenya) joins Kea at Central Arizona College this semester as a distance specialist. A tremendously talented athlete, Yanui will run the 5K and 10K races for the Vaqueras.
Sophomore Aybuke Kizilarslan (Turkey) returns to the Central Arizona College lineup after earning four All-American honors and being named the NJCAA Division I Athlete of the Meet at the 2007 National Championships.
“Aybuke will lead our incredible distance group with her hard work and dedication to our sport,” Dougherty said. “She trains very hard and it shows on the track.”
Sophomore sprinter Liann Kellman (Bridgetown, Barbados/Lester Vaughn) also is back for the Vaqueras after winning the NJCAA Division I 100m National Championship in 2007. She is a four-time All-American and team leader who will be instrumental in the Vaqueras’ run toward another title.
“We expect big things from her this year,” Dougherty said, pulling no proverbial punches about the talented second-year runner.
Central Arizona College also will get a boost from red-shirt freshman Quaneshia Cleckley (Altanta, GA/Therrell) and freshman Latroya Darrell (Bermuda/Cedar Bridge Academy).
Cleckley is a high school state champion hurdler from Georgia and an indoor track All-American who transferred to Central Arizona College from Bevill State Community College in Alabama this year.
“Quaneshia will hurdle and jump for us,” Dougherty said. “She also will be called upon to run relays. She is just a great addition to our women’s team.”
Darrell is a rookie leaper for Central Arizona who won the high jump event at the 2006 Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) Games. The Caribbean native is making a leap for a spot on the Bermuda Olympic team for the 2008 games in China.
“Latroya is one of the finest jumpers in the NJCAA,” Dougherty stated. “We expect her to set a new NJCAA high jump record before she leaves Central Arizona.”
Also joining the Vaqueras this year from the Caribbean is rookie sprinter Bianca Dougan (British Virgin Islands/British Virgin Islands High School). She was part of the BVI Under-17 1600-meter relay team that set a British Virgin Islands youth record.
“She is the youngest member of our squad, but she runs with a great deal of international experience and confidence,” Dougherty said, excited at the opportunity to land such an outstanding athlete. “She will run both the 400m and 400m hurdles, as well as compete on the 1600m and 3200m relay teams.”
Dougan’s high school teammate, freshman Karene King (British Virgin Islands/British Virgin Islands High School) is a relay sprinter who is steadily improving her 100m and 200m times.
Freshman Karla Hope (Port of Spain, Trinidad) is also a sprinter who is expected to have an immediate impact on the Vaqueras.
“She is one of the best sprinters we have ever recruited,” Dougherty stated. “She will help our sprinting crew in the 200 meters, 400 meters, and in both the short and long relays.”
From the Atlantic across the Pacific to the shores of Australia is where Dougherty went to recruit freshman Sarah Grahame (Australia), a rookie with distance experience.
“She came to us in the spring semester with a great resume,” he said. “She is one of Australia's finest junior runners and one of the best young steeplechase competitors around.”
Sophomore sprinter Adwoa Abadie (Aurora, CO/Eaglecrest) returns this season for the Vaqueras. She will run the 100 meters and serve as an alternate on the 400-meter relay team.
The Vaqueras welcome three rookies from Arizona to the squad. Freshman Kaili Hewlit (Topock, AZ/River Valley) is a distance runner who adds depth to Central’s steeplechase team and brings versatility to a range of track events.
One of the best middle distance runners in the state, freshman Danielle Higgins (Benson AZ/Benson) bolsters strong 3200-meter relay lineup, while first-year Vaquera Jasmine Williams (Phoenix, AZ/South Mountain) will be an explosive hurdler.
Williams brings an outstanding pedigree to the Signal Peak Campus after she captured the 2007 Arizona 5A State High School Championship in both the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdle events.
“At Central Arizona, we always want the best Arizona can offer,” Dougherty said. “We feel we have that with Jasmine. She brings experience and high level of talent to our program.”
The Vaqueras have a host of regional athletes both returning and new to the program.
Freshman Juwanna Ingram (Oklahoma City, OK/Jenks) is a sprinter who will run relays and compete in jumping events, for Central Arizona College, while sophomore thrower Ashton McGuire (Casper, WY/Kelly Walsh) returns in 2008 after taking fifth in the nation last year in the javelin.
“Ashton will help us in many areas this season, including javelin, the jumps and the heptathlon,” Dougherty said.
Sophomore sprinter Saravia Richardson (Riverside, CA/John W. North) is back after earning All-American accolades last year with Central’s 400-meter relay squad.
“Saravia is one of our leaders,” Dougherty said emphatically. “She was a large part of our success last year and she is leading our group to what we hope is another successful year.”
Versatile rookie hurdler Milia McPherson (Brooklyn, NY/Paul Robeson) will slip into multiple events while at Central Arizona College. She can compete in the 1600m and 3200m relays, run the intermediate hurdles, and sprint in the 400m and 800m events.
Freshman Errika Vanderputten (Colorado Springs, CO/Manitou Springs) is a rookie thrower who is presently competing with the unbeaten Vaqueras basketball team. She has the possibility of competing on two national champions in one semester.
Sophomore Jamia Robinson (Wylie, TX/Wylie) joins the Vaqueras this year after finishing second in the 2006 Texas State High School 4A 400m Championships.
“Jamia will solidify our long sprinters,” Dougherty explained. “She is a hard worker and we are very glad to have her with us.” Robinson transferred from Division I North Texas to Central Arizona College.
After opening the year at home, Central Arizona College will head to Los Angeles on March 1 for the USC Trojan Relays – the first time the Vaqueras have been tendered an invitation to the prestigious meet.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our athletes to run against quality competition,” Dougherty said.
Central Arizona College then returns to the Signal Peak Campus for the three-day Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Relays March 13-15.
March 21-22 will see the Vaqueras compete in the University of Arizona Willie Williams Invitational, while from April 3-5 Central Arizona College will travel to Austin, Texas, to partake in the Texas Relays.
Local events include March 28 at Mesa Community College for a quad meet with Scottsdale, Phoenix and host Mesa; the Paradise Valley Community College Invitational on April 3; the Mesa Community College Invitational on April 11; and the Sun Angel Classic at Arizona State University on April 12.
The Vaqueras return home on April 18 for a quad meet with Glendale, Phoenix and Gateway before heading off to San Diego for the Triton Invitational at UC San Diego on April 24-25.
The NJCAA Region I Multi-Event will be hosted by Glendale Community College on April 28-29. The Region I Championships will run May 6-8 at Glendale, while the Nationals will be held May 15-17 in South Plains, Texas
The 2008 season will be the eighth for Dougherty at Central Arizona College and his 20th coaching in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference.
During the first seven years at Central Arizona College, Dougherty has coached 25 national champion throwers and two national champion decathletes. Dougherty’s throwers hold the NJCAA records in the men’s hammer (227-0), women’s hammer (198-0) and women’s discus (183-4) events.
Before arriving at Central Arizona College in 2001, Dougherty spent 12 years coaching at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz. From 1988-2000, he coached 25 All-American throwers and multi-event athletes, including four national champions.
Dougherty is a full-time mathematics instructor at Central Arizona College. He received his master's degree in math education from Northern Arizona University in 2003 and his undergraduate degree in physical education from the University of Arizona in 1991.