SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Led by 10 returning All-Big West Conference honorees, the Cal Poly track & field program will start the outdoor season on Saturday, March 12 at UC Riverside, where the Highlanders will host the Mustangs and UC Santa Barbara for a double dual beginning at 11 a.m.
The season-opening meet will be followed by trips to Montecito for the Jim Klein Multi-Event Invitational from March 17-18 and the Westmont Classic on March 19, before the CenCal Twilight hosted by Fresno State on March 22. The 34th annual Cal Poly/ShareSLO Invitational is set for March 25-26 (with the first day featuring the hammer throw at 3 p.m.; all other events are scheduled for Day 2 starting at 11 a.m.).
Five 2015 NCAA West Regional qualifiers are back: juniors Arnie Sambel (whose career-best discus mark of 175 feet is tied for No. 4 in school history) and Ricky Strehlow (49 feet, 9.75 inches in the triple jump) plus senior Nick Woolf (whose 3,000-meter steeplechase PR of 8:48.91 ranks No. 8 all-time at Cal Poly) for the men, and seniors Kendal Nielsen (a team captain with a mark of 40-10.5 in the triple jump, also No. 4 in program history) and Ashley Windsor (4:15.90 in the 1,500m, the third-fastest time in school history) on the women's side.
Windsor went on to earn Second-Team All-American honors at the NCAA Championships, finishing in 16th place. Her 800 PR of 2:08.85 also ranks No. 10 all-time for Cal Poly.
Woolf won the Big West title in the 5,000 meters last spring (the third conference championship of his career, coming after steeplechase wins in 2013 and 2014), while Molly Haar also won the women's 5K Big West title as a sophomore (16:56.02) and added a third-place 10K finish (37:41.13).
Fellow distance standout Sydney Szabo was the Big West runner-up in the 10K (at 37:36.02 as a freshman), as was Ted Scranton in the decathlon (totaling 6,768 points as a sophomore). Scranton's top javelin performance, 198 feet, 6 inches, also ranks ninth in Cal Poly history.
More reigning all-conference Mustangs include juniors Ivy Adair (6,497 points in the decathlon) and Ben Hartinger (14.43 seconds in the 110m hurdles, sixth all-time at Cal Poly) and senior Mishe' Scott (19-1.5 in the long jump).
In addition to Scranton and Adair (who also has the men's squad's top long jump over the past two seasons: 23-6.75), the Mustang multi-event crew also brings back senior Devin Bennett from a redshirt season.
Bennett was the second-place decathlete at the conference championships in 2014 (after a fourth-place showing in 2013, one spot back of another All-Big West accolade), and his career-best score of 7,069 points ranks No. 5 in school history.
The Mustang women's roster also features a duo in the all-time Cal Poly top 10 for the 100-meter dash: junior Daijah Joe-Smith (fourth at the Big West Championships last year) at 11.72 and senior A'Jah Love at 11.85. Love's 200 PR of 24.03 was also a regionals-qualifying time in 2014.
Other women's team leaders back are sophomores Kiely Osby (47 feet, 8.5 inches in the shot put, fifth-best in program history), Anna Carskaden (58.62 seconds in the 400m), Ciara Levy (14.33 in the 100m hurdles), Danielle Taylor (5-7 to win the UW Indoor Invitational high jump in January) and Claire Pirio (118-9 in the javelin).
They join junior leaders Mallory Patino (1:01.50 in the 400m hurdles), Jessica Davis (4,376 points in the heptathlon) and Jessica Rasmussen (4,346).
The women's distance runners, looking to follow-up on their Big West cross country championship from this past fall, have welcomed in Peyton Bilo (the 2015 Cross Country Freshman of the Year and an NCAA Championships qualifier) and senior Erika Veidis (a transfer from Harvard, where she was a three-time Ivy League champion and 2014 Second Team All-American in the 800, at 2:04.68).
The newcomers will complement an experienced group that includes senior Sara Van Dyke (fifth at last season's conference final for the 1,500m, at 4:27.07), juniors Michelle Read (fifth at the 2015 Big West 10K championship, at 37:58.29) and Kylie Nishisaka (seventh in the 5K; 17:13.04), and sophomore Maddie McDonald (fifth in the steeplechase; 11:19.86).
Meanwhile, in addition to Sambel, the Cal Poly men's throwers also feature senior Nick Bultman (who owns the program's No. 5 all-time hammer throw: 184 feet, 8 inches) and junior Nate Vickers (52-10 in the shot put and 164-3 in the discus).
Two senior teammates, Nick Ahrold (206-8) and Alex Ziebart (194-9), have been top javelin competitors the past three years.
Redshirt senior Walter Finney (10.51 in the 100-meter dash and 21.60 in the 200) and junior Joey Sanfilippo (10.70; 21.97) headline the sprints, while junior Amir Bradley (47.87) has been the Mustangs' top 400 runner the past two years.
Luis Morales, part of this past fall's second-place Big West Championships cross country team, posted the Mustangs' best 5,000 (14:10.62) and 10,000 (31:14.70) meter times last spring as a junior.
More scorers from the men's distance races at last season's conference championships include juniors Dimitri Voytilla (fourth in the 5K, with a PR of 14:25.55), Swarnjit Boyal (who in September was named the Big West Cross Country Athlete of the Week after an eighth-place finish at the Stanford Invite), Clayton Hutchins (fifth in the 5K; 14:38.71) and David Galvez (fifth in the steeplechase; 9:11.23), along with sophomores Devon Grove (sixth in the steeplechase; 9:14.46), Peter Cotsirilos (eighth in the 1,500; 3:50.30) and Mikey Giguere (seventh in the 10K; 31:24.81).
Cal Poly also has back its leaders in the pole vault (junior Brad Beekman, at 16-0.75, and sophomore Tomi Nord, at 15-3) and high jump (junior Danny Shellworth, at 6-7.5 — fourth at the conference championships), as well as another Big West scorer in the 110m hurdles (junior Kevin Staniszewski, with a time of 14.77).
Staniszewski will captain the men's team.
The weekend of April 1-2 will see the Mustangs split up into three travel groups: for the Stanford Invitational, San Francisco State Distance Carnival and Bruin Legends Invitational at UCLA.
Cal Poly — which also will rely on a talented freshman class — will then head south from April 14-16, visiting the Bryan Clay Invitational at Azusa Pacific, the Mt. SAC Relays in Norwalk and the Long Beach State Invite.
After returning to Clovis on April 23 for the Bulldog Invitational, the Mustangs will host a second home meet, the Blue-Green Rivalry dual vs. UCSB, on April 30.
The Big West Championships will commence with the decathlon and heptathlon on May 6-7 in Long Beach, before finishing at Jack Rose Stadium on May 13-14.
West Regionals will be held at Kansas from May 26-28, followed by the NCAA Championships at Oregon from June 8-11.