Cyclone Sprinters, Hurdlers Optimistic
It starts in the hurdles with senior Ese Okoro. With her twin sister Ejoro, Ese made an impact as a conference scorer in her first collegiate season. Ese placed fourth in the Big 12 400-meter hurdle final with a 57.65 clocking. Her runner-up performance to Elahi in last year's Drake Relays was in a personal best 57.61. Ese was an NCAA Regional qualifier in 2012.
"Ese is ready to perform at a high level and the biggest difference this season is confidence," Iowa State sprints and hurdles coach Nate Wiens said. "She is a very talented and now with a year of experience understands the whole process."
Okoro was sixth indoors in the 600-yard run indoors.
Okoro's training partner Donise Powell is ready for action and the challenge of her senior season. Powell's 400-meter hurdle best of 59.52 was clocked at the Drake Relays her sophomore season. Powell is a two-time NCAA regional qualifier and Wiens says she has matured as a runner.
"Donise will demonstrate a real consistency as a performer this season," Wiens said. "She was a little in Kiana's shadow but she will be a leader this season."
Newcomer Kendra White went to LSU last season after a prep career that saw her place second as a senior in the Missouri high school state track meet 400-meter final. She has come to Iowa State with great potential.
"Kendra has stepped right into our training system and has fit in well," Wiens said. "She has found a home here at Iowa State and she will make an impact this season."
Sophomore Krista Shoeman demonstrated that she could compete at the Division I level in her first collegiate season. The Johnston native was a Drake Relays finalist, won the Jim Duncan Invitational in the 400-meter hurdles and clocked a personal best 59.88 at the Big 12 Championships.
"Krista is better prepared for the long track season as a sophomore," Wiens said. "I expect her to build on a solid freshman season and score for us in the Big 12."
Another Iowan, junior Dana Christensen has relay experience in the biggest meets and will be counted on in the longer sprint races.
"We've been mixing it up with Dana," Wiens said. "She has been nipping at the heels of her teammates and we will be counting on her in various relay events this season."
Sophomore Jess Nichols of Perry will focus on the 400-meter dash this fall.
"Jess just needs good competition and her work ethic will promote her career," Wiens said.
Iowa State's top men's sprinter is returning Canadian Olympian Ian Warner. Warner was the runner-up in the 100-meters of the 2012 Canadian Olympic Trials, a performance that earned him a trip with the national team to the London Games last summer. His 10.20 clocking performance in the Canadian final was impressive. Warner had earlier clocked a windy 10.13 to place fourth in the 2012 Big 12 Conference 100-meter final. Warner also had a 10.24 clocking in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship. Indoors, he was third in the 60-meter final of the 2012 Big 12 meet in 6.73. He had a season best of 6.70 at the Bergan Invitational.
"Ian can be even better this season," Wiens said. "His improvement has been steady and is the result of hard work. I expect him to be one of the top sprinters in the country."
Wiens has high hopes for sophomore Nick Efkamp. The Madrid, Iowa native focused on 400-meter hurdle development last year but will major in sprinting this season.
"Nick was a 52-second high school 400-meter hurdler and we started in that direction last season," Wiens said. "But in workouts he has demonstrated a propensity for significant improvement in the sprints I haven't been surprised by his surge in January."
Efkamp underscored that potential at the Iowa State Open on Jan. 19 in Ames. He won the 400-meters with a 46.75 clocking.
Hurdler Ryan Sander is expected to make some noise this season. The early returns are in and they are positive in 2013. Sander, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, clocked a 7.97 runner-up effort in the 60-meter hurdles to place second at the this month's ISU Open. He bettered that with a 7.94 performance in the Bergan Invitational.
"Ryan is coming into his own," Wiens said. "He has matured and refined his technique. He is getting better and better and with him in the hurdles and Ian and Nick in the sprints I see us getting some points from them at the Big 12 Championships."
There are individuals who are in the early stage of their collegiate track campaigns but just as Warner, Efkamp and Sander have improved steadily. The outlook for those newcomers is good. The bulk of the indoor season awaits.