Devils & Ducks go head-to-head for local track talent

Arizona State picked a local state champion to add to its initial 2010 signing class in track & field.  But the Oregon Ducks got the cream of AZ’s distance runners.

Shaylah Simpson, the defending state champion in the pole vault, is one of four women added to the ASU program that was just announced.  Brian Shrader, who was undefeated in cross country the past two seasons, signed his letter of intent with Pac-10 rival, the University of Oregon.

The Sun Devils had a total of seven sign in the initial class, which Director of Track & Field Greg Kraft said focused on the women’s team.  “(The track program) has been hit by graduation,” he explained, “and to replace those athletes has taken two recruiting cycles.”

Simpson, a senior at Desert Vista HS, won the state title with a vault of 12-09.75, which ranked as the 11th-best mark in the nation last year.  She is a two-time 5A-I Central Region champion and a fourth-place finisher at the 2009 U.S. World Youth Trials.

ASU’s pole vault coach, Ron Barela, called the impact she will have on the program “huge.”  Simpson will enroll at ASU this fall, in time to join the team for the 2011 season.

“Coach Barela’s experience and knowledge in coaching the pole vault will make everything a lot more comfortable,” said Simpson in explaining her decision to commit to ASU.  “Coach (Greg) Kraft, along with the rest of the coaching staff, have built an amazing team not only on the track, but off the track as well.  I love that the whole team has a certain ‘family’ bond, which is really important to me.”

Shrader, a well-publicized athlete the past few years,  is a two-time cross-country Gatorade Runner of the Year for Arizona.  During the 2009 season, he won the Queen Creek Twilight Meet, the 4A-II Grand Canyon Regionals, and the Arizona state meet, competing for Sinagua High School. On the track, he was a three-time Arizona champion in 2009, winning the 800m, 1,600m and 3,200m.