JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 1, 2010) - ETSU's track-and-field and cross-country programs announced their 2010-11 recruiting class this week, adding seven to the men's roster and eight to the women's roster.
Recruiting Coordinator Eli Sunquist said the hard work of Head Coach David Walker's staff has paid off, attracting ten transfers and doubling the size of the women's team. "We have brought in a well-balanced group, covering many of the events that we either graduated last year or haven't really had in the past few years," said Sunquist, adding that the quality of the recruits "speaks volumes of how people want to be a part of what we are trying to accomplish - a team of excellence on and off the track."
On the men's side, the team introduces Jesse Aliaga-Jacob (Nice, France), Tyler Stepp (Dandridge, Tenn.), Stephond Allmond (Memphis) and Chris Winkle (Gray, Tenn.) to jumps, while bringing in Jeremiah Foster (Sevierville, Tenn.) and Desmond Pierce (Morristown, Tenn.) to sprints and Christian Brewer (Knoxville) to distance and cross-country.
Aliaga, a transfer from IUT de Nice Cote d'Azur, won the 2009 French national championship in the heptathlon and decathlon. "I am looking forward to being able to work with Jesse," said Sunquist. "We have very lofty goals for him, and are very excited to have him on board."
Sunquist said Stepp, a transfer from the University of Tennessee, will make an immediate impact in jump and combined events. "I am thrilled that he has decided to continue his career here. With his size and coordination, Tyler will make a fantastic combined-event athlete for us," said Sunquist. "He will not only help us in the high jump, but also to continue the success we have had in the decathlon over the past few years."
Allmond, a prep athlete at Memphis University School, brings an exciting new talent to the team, according to Sunquist. "He reminds me a lot of [ETSU sophomore] Ryan Beaver, with his natural ability and general ‘newness' to the sport," he said. "I am looking for Stephond to do great things for us."
Rounding out the jumpers, Winkle is a local product from Daniel Boone High School. "Chris is a great local find," said Sunquist. "He is a hard worker and just what we are looking for in a decathlete. He reminds me of a young [former Buccaneer] Jordan Briggs, and he will be able to add depth to both our pole vault group as well as in the combined events."
Another in-state product for sprints, Foster took home a state title in the 300-meter hurdles in this spring. Sprints Coach Brandon Morton said the Sevier County High School hurdler was fun to watch. "Watching Jeremiah at the state meet was extremely exciting for us," he said. "When he won the hurdles at the state meet, he looked like a kid possessed. Being able to work with us in hurdles will help take Jeremiah to the next level."
A state champion in 2009 at Morristown High School, Pierce earned all-state honors in the 400-yard dash and 4x800 relay while running the 5,000 meters in 16:22.72, showing his skill in both sprints and distance. "Desmond is a top-ten finisher in the state cross-country championship who can run twenty-two seconds for two-hundred [meters] and forty-nine in the open quarter," said Walker. "That kind of versatility is rare and we're more than excited to have him as a Buc."
Rounding out the men's recruiting class, Brewer took both third place in the AAA state cross-country championship and fifth place in the state 1,600 meters in 2009. Despite being new to distance running, Walker said he had a lot of success in a short time at South Doyle High School. "He's a gritty middle-distance runner who definitely has the tools to make some noise for ETSU on the regional and national levels."
Doubling the size of the women's squad, the Bucs bring in Lexie Burley (Johnson City, Tenn.), Taylor Story (Germantown, Tenn.), Leah Oakhill (Brisbane, Australia), Chelsea Clark (Fairmont, W. Va.), Kayla Kuziola (Johnson City, Tenn.), Emma and Hannah Bowers (Jonesborough, Tenn.) and Emani Harrison (Columbia, S.C.).
Burley, Kuziola and the Bowers twins all attended Science Hill High School, where Burley finished as the state runner-up in the triple jump after breaking her own personal record last season. "We're very fortunate to have one of the best triple jumpers in the state in our back yard," said Sunquist. "Lexie has the potential to be a national qualifier in a few years."
Kuziola, a repeat AAA all-state performer and 2010 state runner-up in the 4x800 relay, brings versatility in both track and cross-country. "We are fortunate to have signed such a high-caliber athlete with multiple Tennessee state championships to her name in both track and field, and cross-country," said Walker.
Transferring from Western Carolina University along with her twin sister Hannah, Emma Bowers earned High School All-American honors in sprints at Science Hill. Morton said of Emma, "She will be a threat in every event she contends. Her experience at the collegiate level will be very valuable to us." Likewise, Morton said Hannah brings a range beyond her main events, the 200- and 400-meters. "Her range goes from one hundred to eight hundred and that makes for an exciting sprinter," he said. "She will definitely be a threat on the conference level."
Another in-state product, Story promises to be a main fixture in the combined events. "At five-eleven, Taylor will be a great heptathlete for us," said Sunquist. "Taylor has excellent speed and coordination for her size, and most importantly has the attitude and focus to be a great combined eventer."
International recruit Oakhill, a transfer from Griffith University in her native Australia, will also compete in the heptathlon as well as the high jump. "Most of her training has been in the high jump, so I am looking forward to helping her develop in the other events," said Sunquist. "Leah will help out our very new women's team tremendously."
Completing the regional out-of-state recruits on the women's side, Harrison will focus on sprints while Clark competes in distance events.
"Emani is raw talent and a hard worker," said Morton of Harrison. "She will be another valuable asset to us in the sprints and relays. We are very happy to have someone who has had such great success with so little training." Showing a natural gift for the sport, Harrison also won a state title in the long jump in her first competition.
Placing second in the 2009 West Virginia state championship for cross country, Clark also finished fourth in the 2010 1,600- and 3,200-meter championships while coming in eighth in the 800 meters. "She'll be an excellent team leader for us," said Walker. "Chelsea is a talented middle- and long-distance athlete who loves to compete."
In addition to these recruits, Sunquist said the program hopes to bring in more talent in time for the spring. "When all is said and done, this season will be quite exciting not only for our women's program, but also for the conference," he said. "The ship is steered in the right direction, but we will also be able to send off quality athletes to both the regional and national competitions."
Cross Country competes this Friday at the Covered Bridge Open in Boone, N.C., before returning there Sept. 17 for the Mountaineer Open. For more information on Buccaneer Cross Country and Track and Field, visit www.etsubucs.com.