Stakiw Wins 800-Meter Race

by Staff

The renowned American philosopher Yogi Berra is reported to havesaid that 90 percent of baseball is physical; the other half ismental.

While the San Diego State women’s track team might take issue withBerra’s mathematics, they would probably appreciate the sentiment.Throughout the course of the short indoor season, concentrating onthe mental aspect of the sport has been a mantra for each of theathletes, and has been a catalyst for the team’s nascent successes,which include the impressive outing this past Saturday at the NAUMountain T Invitational in Flagstaff.

“All in all, I think everybody stepped it up mentally,” assistantcoach Jennifer Nanista said after practice Monday. “It was muchimproved from our last meet.

“Not that we had a bad attitude last week,” Nanista said. “It’sjust that our aggressiveness wasn’t there. And this week we were veryaggressive, motivated and hyped.”

The Aztecs’ head games manifested themselves in strongperformances at the meet held at Northern Arizona’s J.L. WalkupSkydome. Pacing the team was junior Jennifer Stakiw with herdefinitive first place result in the 800 meters in a time of 2:17.54,more than three seconds ahead of the field.

“She ran an excellent 800. She didn’t stray away from the racepattern that we had set up, and wound up winning running away,”Nanista said.

Also contributing was junior Melinda Smedley, who placed second,clocking a 24.34 in the 200 meters. She was followed immediately byher teammate, sophomore Tonette Dyer at 24.34. Nanista wasparticularly encouraged by their results, in that it was the firsttime that either of them had competed in the event.

Speaking after a workout at the sun-drenched Sports Deck, Smedleysaid that the second-place finish was a “big up for her.” Tellingly,she made an overture to the squad as a whole.

“My teammates were there to back me up,” Smedley said.

It is a typical statement on the team, which according to Nanistahas “terrific chemistry.”

She cites as an example the 4×400 meter relay this past weekend.

“Because of the way the schedule was set up, our best peoplecouldn’t run,” Nanista said. “We ran the 4×400 with a high jumper,Alisha Laswell, and a pole vaulter, Shayla Balentine. Theyvoluntarily did it and they each ran a great leg. It was nice to seepeople stepping up for the team even though it wasn’t their event.”

Head coach Rahn Sheffield said: “What’s great about this team isthat they are not concerned with winning or losing; they are workingon what they should be working on.”

The Aztecs’ vaunted pole vaulters, senior Tricia Gutierrez andfreshman Balentine, placed No. 8 and No. 9 respectively. Gutierrez,who set her third NCAA provisional mark of the year, cleared the barat 3.85 meters, with Balentine close behind at 3.75 meters. In thepole vault open, Jesika Englebretson tied for first at 3.40 meters.

Other SDSU top finishers included Laswell’s 1.63- meter clearancein the high jump, good enough for a tie for third. In the 400-meterinvitational, Hollann Givens came in fourth at 58.13, followed byteammate Jini Hogg, fifth at 58.57. The 400- meter open saw LeslieMiller place fourth, at 58.56.

Looking ahead

SDSU has an off date this weekend, which precedes the MountainWest Conference Indoor Championships, which will be held at the AirForce Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo, Feb. 21-23.

Sheffield is not worried that the layoff will result in aninterruption of momentum.

“I think it’s going to help their performance,” Sheffield said.”With this recovery time, the athletes will compete better.”

The high altitude, due to the AFA’s precipitous setting, issomething with which the team must contend.

“It’s always an issue, it seems, for the distance runners, and itis one of the reason we don’t take them to indoor meets,” Sheffieldsaid. “But we should fare pretty well.

“This is a rebuilding year, but in no way should that translate toa losing year. We may not win the war, but we should win somebattles.”