The Star-News


Road to the Olympics: Burrell has Aztecs poised for future success

Fri, Jun 29 2012 02:05 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents

Shelia Burrell spent three-and-a-half years as a resident-athlete at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center. She competed in two Olympic Games in the women’s heptathlon, finishing fourth at the 2004 Athens Games.

She also won U. S. national championships in the heptathlon in 1999, 2001-04 and was a runner-up in 1998 and 2000. 

Burrell is now serving as head coach of the San Diego State University women’s track and field team; perhaps not surprisingly, the Aztecs are competing at a new level.

Senior Whitney Ashley won the NCAA women’s discus throw June 6 in Des Moines, Iowa. Ashley became SDSU’s first national track champion since 1985.

Sophomore Allison Reaser finished sixth in the women’s heptathlon at the NCAA finals after winning the Mountain West Conference championship meet in May. She set a school record with 5,753 points at the NCAA championships.

Ashley and Reaser both qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in track and field, which concludes this weekend in Eugene, Ore.

The two SDSU standouts joined former Aztec standout Melinda Smedley (100-meter dash) in Eugene for a shot at making the London Games.

Also scoring further prestige points for the SDSU program were Shanieka Thomas (triple jump) and Dorian Scott (shot put), both of whom represented the Aztecs at the Jamaican Olympic Trials. Thomas finished second at the NCAA finals with a school record jump of 45-9.75.

SDSU finished tied with Tennessee for ninth place at the NCAA finals — the program’s best showing since 1985.

“There is a great tradition and history with this program, and I look forward to building on its success,” Burrell said in a prepared statement released by the school. “I consider San Diego home and I believe there is a ton of potential for great things to happen. Since I’ve been here, we’ve been trying to take this program to the next level and build an Aztec legacy.”

This year has been has been a big step in the right direction, according to Burrell.

Reaser will compete Friday and Saturday in Eugene. She enters the competition ranked 13th out of 19 competitors and will have to finish among the top three place-finishers — and meet the Olympic “A” standard of 6,150 points — to represent the United States in England later this summer.

The women’s heptathlon features seven events: 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin throw and 800-meter run.

“I’m not really nervous,” Reaser said after a recent workout at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center under Burrell’s watchful eye. “I want to be in the top 10, I want to make the Thorpe Cup (U.S. team versus Germany). Hopefully, I’ll make the U.S. Olympic team in 2016.”

“She’s a perennial multi-eventer who will do well in any event,” the SDSU head coach said. “She has as good a chance as any of making this year’s team but we’re really making preparations for the next two years (of her college career). The real goal is 2016.”

Olympics bound
Jessica Cosby secured the CV-OTC’s first Olympic track and field berth for the London Games by finishing third in the women’s hammer throw during the opening day of competition at the Eugene trials on June 21. She recorded a throw of 232-2 to finish behind Indianapolis’s Amber Campbell and Las Vegas’s Amanda Bingson, both with 235-6 marks.

Will Claye (men’s long jump), Becky Holliday (women’s pole vault) and Amy Hastings (women’s 10,000 meters) joined Cosby in subsequent qualifying during the first weekend of competition to fill out what could be a sizable contingent from the Chula Vista complex bound for England.

Hastings (Leavenworth, Kan.) won the women’s 10,000 race in 31:58.36 while Claye, a two-time Arizona state champion in the triple jump, finished second in the the men’s long jump competition with a mark of 26-2.25.

Holliday, a former Oregon Duck, finished second in the women’s pole vault with a clearance of 14-11.

Elation was understandable.

“I’m kind of beside myself right now, I can’t really believe I’m an Olympian,” Hastings told The Kansas City Star.

Holliday, a 2003 Oregon grad, has been competing in her event for 15 years. “I want to tell USA Track & Field, please don’t forget about some of the older athletes,” Holliday told the OregonLive Web site. “We’re still here. I’m still here.”


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