For the third year in a row, Oregon St. women's track coach Kelly Sullivan has a men's team as well, as several members of the Beaver football team take to the track, starting this weekend in Seattle at the UW Invitational.
WRs Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks will compete today in the 60 meters, and Obum Gwacham will go in the high jump. Both Wheaton and Gwacham were on last year's team, while Cooks will be making his first start.
"Obum is one of the best high jumpers in the country, despite doing it so little," Sullivan said.
Preliminary heats will run from 2:45 until 5 PM this afternoon.
"I'm excited," Cooks commented. "I can't wait to get to Seattle and see where I'm at in the 60. Markus and I are always racing, now we are going to see who is the fastest."
The UW Invitational, contested in the Dempsey Indoor Arena, the Huskies' football indoor practice facility located behind Alaska Airlines / Hec Edmundson Pavillion, and adjacent to the currently being renovated Husky Stadium, is one of the premier indoor track and field events on the west coach.
The group will have a third chance to post marks that qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, which will be held in Boise, ID, on March 9 & 10, when they compete in the UW Last Chance qualifying meet on March 3.
Jordan Bishop, who earned All-American honors in 2010, and became the first Oregon St. track athlete to score points at a national meet since the program was shut down, will not be able to compete this season, while re-habbing his second ankle injury in as many years, but will accompany the team, and assist them with preparations.
Past football participants also included James and Jacquizz Rodgers and Rashaad Reynolds, and of course the Beavers have encountered northwest football rivals like LaMichael James and Chris Polk on the track as well.
"They all love track," Sullivan said of the footballers. "They love being fast. It's an adrenaline rush for those guys. It's an amazing thing they have, and it doesn't surprise me at all that at this point of the year, they shift their brains into being fast, instead of just playing football."
After the indoor season, and spring football, the group will also compete in outdoor meets. Wheaton, Cooks, Marable, and Parker plan to form a 4x100 relay team, as well as competing individually.
On a related matter, check out Sullivan's update on progress on Oregon St.'s new track and field facility that Cliff Kirkpatrick ran in the Gazette-Times this week.
The opportunity to compete in track and field has become a helpful recruiting tool for Oregon St. since Kelly and football coach Mike Riley have collaborated on the program, placing the Beavers back into an arena the other 3 northwest schools have had success in, both in terms of a productive program, and a recruiting advantage.