The Bradsher Beat
Thursday, February 13, 2014

By Bethany Bradsher

Ever faster, ever higher, ever stronger

Curt Kraft is in his ninth season as the director of the ECU men's and women's track and field and cross country squads. His teams have rewritten many ECU records during his tenure. (Photo: ECU Media Relations)


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By Bethany Bradsher
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By its very nature, collegiate track and field involves dozens of events, with every athlete tracking his or her time to the farthest decimal point.

East Carolina head coach Curt Kraft has witnessed plenty of personal bests and broken records, but this indoor season, with 10 new school records so far in just four meets, the riches have been more abundant than usual.

“Any time you’re setting school records, you’re going to have a lot of excitement within the team,” said Kraft, who is in his ninth season at the helm of the combined track and field squads. “We’re really, really excited about what we’ve accomplished. If we could break records at the Conference USA championships that would be the ultimate goal.”

Among the highlights for ECU runners and field-event competitors since December 7:

• Junior Kayla Padgett, who competes in the shot put and the 20-pound weight throw, has toppled her own school record in the weight throw three different times this season, and her latest top mark of 21.95 meters – set at the Penn State Nationals – is the second best in the nation.

• Freshman Aminah Ghaffar claimed one of the oldest Pirate records when she tallied 3,248 points in the pentathlon at the Penn State Nationals. The previous pentathlon record had been standing for 17 years.

• Sophomore Avion Jones, a newcomer to ECU after transferring from Virginia Military Institute, set a new record in the high jump at Penn State with a jump of 2.17 meters. In the following meet, the Virginia Tech Elite, Jones’s senior teammate Drew Kanz matched that mark to claim co-ownership of the record. That depth, at events like the high jump and the pole vault, has been one of the most encouraging signs to Kraft as he has watched his team collect personal and school milestones. “They are doing a fantastic job of pushing each other,” Kraft said of the jumpers.

• In the pole vault, senior Henry Johnson has set two school records already, reaching his current mark of 5.08 meters at the Virginia Tech Elite. Teammates Stephen Hodapp, who owns the third-best ECU jump of all time, and Aaron Zakula have been right at Johnson’s heels this season. In the women’s pole vault, freshman Taylor Drummonds won the event at the Penn State Nationals with a personal best of 3.56 meters.

• In distance running, redshirt senior Brooke Kott just keeps getting better, setting a new school record in the 1,000 meters at Penn State with a time of 2:52.03 and besting her own personal record in the mile at Virginia Tech with a 4:56.75. Her mile time is ECU’s third best of all time.

Kraft is working to keep his team focused on the ultimate goal – titles at the Conference USA Championships in late February and a strong shot of adrenaline heading into the outdoor season that immediately follows. One highlight of the outdoor season, a milestone arranged by new athletic director Jeff Compher, is the first home track and field meet at the Pirates' new facility.

The meet, the Bill Carson Invitational, will feature South Carolina, UNC-Wilmington and UNC-Charlotte and will be contested on April 11 and 12. It’s an event marked in red on the calendars of ECU athletes, and Kraft hopes that the Pirate Nation will plan to come out to show their support – and see ECU’s record breakers in action.

“It’s the first time we’ve hosted an outdoor meet in many, many, many years,” Kraft said.

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02/12/2014 07:20 PM