The Valparaiso University men's track and field team will look to mesh youth with experience as they enter the 2006 campaign.
Twenty athletes return for head coach Tyler Wingard, while 23 newcomers look to aid the Crusaders in their bid to improve upon fifth-place finishes both indoors and out last season.
The Crusaders return a strong contingent in the throws, led by sophomore Steve Bartholomew. Bartholomew came just one inch shy of matching the school record for the discus throw during last year's outdoor campaign, and also entered the top-five all-time in the hammer throw during his first season.
Eric Smith and Jeff Swihart also will be expected to produce points in the throws. Both athletes moved into Valpo's top-five in the weight throw indoors last year. Smith posted the fourth-best discus throw in Valpo history during the outdoor season, while Swihart registered the fifth-best hammer throw.
Kristopher Schmautz re-enters the Crusader lineup after two years away from the program. Schmautz was the 2003 outdoor Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year after winning the javelin throw with an effort that ranks fourth-best in Crusader history. Schmautz will also see action in the multi-events this season. Brett Maynard posted the second-best javelin throw by a Valpo athlete last year, while Matt Stohs will provide depth in the throwing events as well.
Senior Josh Stamper enters his final season as one of the top pole vaulters in school history. He moved into third place on both the indoors and outdoors all-time charts with his efforts last season. Stamper will also be asked to provide depth in the sprints and the jumps for the Crusaders.
Mark Reddel returns for his junior year after entering the all-time top-five for the 200 meter hurdles during the indoor season last year. Reddel also is among the top-five in the outdoor 400 meter hurdles and was part of the second-fastest indoor 4x400 meter relay team.
The Crusaders' top returnee in the sprints is senior Wesley Kosko. Kosko was a member of the second-fastest 4x200 relay team during the indoor season last year, and was among the fastest in the sprints, during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Kosko will also be called upon to participate in the jumps.
Valpo boasts an extremely deep distance contingent, as 11 returnees focus on the distance events. Jason Douthett enters his second season after leading the Crusaders in the middle-distance events last year, and Michael Brouch was among the fastest in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs. Adriano Schultz posted the fastest time in the indoor mile for a Valpo runner last season.
Valpo's schedule has been set up to have the Crusaders peaking for the Mid-Con championships. The indoor season kicks off December 10, as the Brown and Gold compete at the Illinois State Earlybird Invitational. The Crusaders then take several weeks off over the holidays before returning to action January 21 at the Chicago Invitational. Valpo will compete each of the next four weekends, leading up to the Mid-Con Indoor Championships, held in Bloomington, Ill. February 26-27.
The outdoor season begins April 1, as the Crusaders travel to DePauw to take part in a quadrangular meet. The Brown and Gold will compete each of the following four weekends, before taking a weekend off in preparation for the Mid-Con Outdoor Championships May 11-13 in Chicago, Ill.
The success of this year's Crusaders will rely on the returnees continuing their development and the newcomers contributing right away. If the team puts everything together, they could challenge for a spot in the top half of the conference.