Jan. 13, 2012
The emergence of the men’s distance program has been one of the key factors in the success of the Oklahoma track and field program over the last several seasons. Head coach Martin Smith has taken the team to new heights and continues to seek improvement from the group. One of the newest additions to the coaching staff, Michael Spence, will also spend time coaching the team.
Local product Kevin Schwab leads a group of five runners who have accomplished a sub 14-minute outdoor 5,000-meter run. The Mustang, Okla., native won the 2011 Big 12 indoor 5,000-meter title, capping off an academic year which saw him also earn All-America honors in the 5K at the NCAA Indoor Championship and garner All-America honors in cross country.
Schwab added three more All-Big 12 honors to his resume in 2011, earning the distinction in the outdoor 10,000-meter run and indoor 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs to up his career total to seven. The team’s top returner holds the Oklahoma program record in the indoor 5,000-meter run after running 13:36.14 at last season’s national meet. Schwab also set the program standard in the 10,000-meter run at 28:59.67 after finishing second at the 2011 Outdoor Big 12 Championship. He set his outdoor 5,000-meter personal mark of 13:40.81 at the 2011 Payton Jordan Invitational.
Oklahoma’s Paradise Valley Community College connection includes four Sooners who have made an impact on the success of the men’s distance program. Eric Harasyn, Aaron Sherf, Jeremy Sudbury and George Alex all came to Norman after spending two years each at the Phoenix-area two-year school. Harasyn is a mile specialist, while Sherf, Sudbury and Alex will concentrate on the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs.
Harasyn sat out last season after earning All-America honors in the mile in 2010. The Sierra Vista, Ariz., native is a three-time All-Big 12 honoree. Sherf also sat out last season and will see his first collegiate action as a Sooner this spring.
Sudbury returns to the track after sitting out last season. The Las Vegas, Nev., native earned All-Big 12 honors in the indoor 5,000-meter run and 3,000-meter steeplechase in his first season of competition at Oklahoma. His outdoor personal best in the 5,000-meter run was 13:58.64 at the 2010 Payton Jordan Invitational.
Alex is the program’s record holder in the outdoor 5,000-meter run (13:40.73), a mark he set at the 2011 Payton Jordan Invitational. The Phoenix native earned second team All-America honors in the 5,000-meter run at the 2011 NCAA Division I Indoor Championship. Alex is a four-time All-Big 12 performer, earning the honor in the outdoor 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs and indoor 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs last season.
Bill Kogel looks to build off his impressive junior season in cross country this past fall. The 5,000-meter specialist earned All-America honors at the 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship and was Oklahoma’s top finisher at the Big 12 Cross Country Championship. The Sioux Falls, S.D., native has been a big contributor to the success of the program.
Kogel earned All-Big 12 honors in the indoor and outdoor 5,000-meter runs a year ago as well as the outdoor 10,000-meter run and indoor 3,000-meter run. He set his personal record in the 5,000-meter (13:51.24) at the 2011 Payton Jordan Invitational.
Another underclassman who contributed to the recent success of the program is junior Kevin Williams. The Denver, Colo., native worked last season to lower the program record he already held in the indoor 3,000-meter run by running 7:56.58 at the Husky Classic. In the past two seasons, Williams has earned six All-Big 12 honors, including four last year. The two-time All-Midwest Regional and All-Big 12 Cross Country performer also set his personal best in the outdoor 5,000-meter run (13:44.58) at the 2011 Payton Jordan Invitational.
Oklahoma added another distance standout in December with the addition of University of Maine transfer Riley Masters. The Bangor, Maine, native, earned All-America honors in the mile after finishing fifth in the event at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championship. He repeated as an All-American at the 2011 indoor meet. Masters broke the four-minute mile barrier when he ran 3:58.17 at the Boston University Valentine Invitational on Feb. 13, 2010. He also ran 3:59.07 at Columbia’s Last Chance meet on March 6, 2010.
He won the 3,000-meter run at the 2010 America East Indoor Championships, running 8:14.66, and placed third at the NCAA Outdoor East Regionals in the 1,500 with a time of 3:43.27. Masters advanced to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., that year and finished 11th in the event. Masters is a two-time America East cross country individual champion.
A quartet of redshirt freshmen in Ryan Poland (Denver, Colo.), Malcolm Wankel (Bloomer, Wis.), Taylor Wardall (Appleton, Wis.) and Daniel Nicolls (Regis, Colo.) could also make an impact this year.
Poland was a member of the United States’ team for the 2011 World Cross Country Championships. He ran 8:26.74 to set a personal best in the indoor 3,000-meter run at the Gladstein Invitational. Wankel scored at the 2011 Big 12 Indoor Championship, finishing seventh in the 1,000-meter run with a personal best time of 2:27.19. He also ran a personal record 1:51.74 in the indoor 800-meter run at the GaReat Invitational.
Wardall also scored at the 2011 Big 12 Indoor Championship. He ran a personal-best 1:51.45 in the 800-meter run to finish seventh. He also ran 4:08.96 in the mile at the GaReat Invitational. Nicholls finished eighth in the junior 10,000-meter run at the 2011 USA Track and Field Championships and ran a personal-best 8:27.90 in the indoor 3,000-meter run at the Husky Classic.
Four juniors, including one junior college transfer, provide the group with depth. Oklahoma City native Frezer Legesse begins his second season competing for OU after transferring from Oklahoma Christian University. Legesse earned All-Big 12 honors at the indoor conference meet in the 1,000-meter run and distance medley relay. He set his personal record of 4:06.08 in the mile run at the GaReat Invitational last season. Pat Gomez (Auburn, Ala.) is a steeplechase specialist and Ross Larimer (Ballwin, Mo.) will run the 800-meter run, mile and distance medley relay for the Sooners.
A new addition to the group is Josh Gracia, who transferred from Cowley County Community College. The Boynton Beach, Fla., native was the top American at the 2011 National Junior College Athletic Association Cross Country Championship.
Others who could contribute this season include a group of freshmen in Daniel Mazar (Fenton, Mo.), a nationally ranked middle distance runner out of high school; Dan Schubert (Appleton, Wis.), a state champion in the mile and Brandon Doughty (Charles Town, W.V.), a state-runner up in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.