The road to a national title leads first through Palo Alto, Calif. The top-ranked Arizona State women’s track team, which is shooting for the NCAA outdoor title, will make a pit stop today and Sunday at Stanford, where the Sun Devils will try to win the Pac-10 championships.
The men’s team, ranked No. 6, also has a shot at the conference crown. To do so, it will need some help from Sun Devil football players.
For the women, “It’s probably a dead heat between us and UCLA,” coach Greg Kraft said.
“Our girls who can win (also) can win at the national level. But you can only win 10 points. So it’s going to be a close race.”
ASU ran into trouble in the heptathlon, which already has been completed.
Jacquelyn Johnson, one of the team’s stars, suffered a slight quad injury and finished third, good for six team points.
She will compete this weekend in the high jump and javelin but not the hurdles (her biggest strength).
The ASU women are the defending champions. Last year’s title was the first by the women in ASU history; the only other Pac-10 title for ASU was won by the men’s team in 1981.
Returning individual champions include Amy Hastings in the women’s 10,000-meter run, Brook Bennett in the women’s 3,000 steeplechase and Aaron Aguayo in the men’s steeplechase.
ASU’s women should dominate the shot put.
Sarah Stevens, with a throw of 60 feet, 4.5 inches, ranks No. 1 in the nation and No. 5 in the world, while Jessica Pressley (59-7) ranks No. 2 in the nation and No. 8 in the world.
On the men’s side, ASU’s chances are hurt by a hamstring injury suffered Wednesday by star sprinter Domenik Peterson, who has the Pac-10’s best time in the 200, second-best time in the 400 and is tied with teammate Kelvin Love Jr. for third in the 100.
Peterson probably won’t compete.
“We were pretty strong favorites,” Kraft said. “Now, this makes it a close race between us and USC.”
Kraft credited football coach Dennis Erickson for releasing Rodney Glass, Justin Tryon and Brandon Smith.
All three will run the 100, while Tryon and Glass will go in the 400 relay.
“If we win, it will be a direct result of those guys,” Kraft said. “They can flat out run.”
The decathlon already has been completed. ASU’s Joshua Kinnman placed fourth to give the men five points.