The offseason is here, with all of Arizona’s sports done for 2021-22 and the 2022-23 campaigns still a little ways away.
Which makes this a great time to step back and see how all of the Wildcats’ programs are doing.
Over the past few weeks, we have taken a look at each of the UA’s 19 men’s and women’s programs to see what shape they’re in and what prospects they have for the near future. We break down each team and evaluate how it is performing under its current coaching staff, looking at the state of the program before he/she arrived and comparing it to now while also looking at this season and beyond.
Last up: Fred Harvey’s track and field program.
How it looked before
Arizona track and field in the 21st century is synonymous with Harvey, who took over the program in 2002. Under Harvey, Arizona has produced 10 track and field Pac-12 athletes of the year, and the Wildcats are usually among the upper half of the conference.
However, Arizona has struggled to break through at the national level under Harvey. In a sport as a stratified as track and field, the UA faces an uphill climb to compete with the likes of Oregon, Texas, LSU etc.
Where things stand now
On a team level, Arizona hasn’t put up the kind of results the program is used to seeing. At this spring’s Pac-12 Outdoor Championships, the men finished last out of 10 schools, while the women finished 7th out of 12. It’s evident that the current roster doesn’t have anywhere near the talent on either side to compete with the league’s top programs.
That doesn’t mean take away from individual accomplishments, though. Women's hurdlers Talie Bonds and Shannon Meisberger each won the Pac-12 title in their events. On the men’s side, long jumper Reinaldo Rodrigues and javelin thrower Jared O’Riley both qualified for the NCAA Championships. Bonds, Meisberger, Rodrigues and O’Riley all return next season, giving Arizona a core of elite competitors.
One big question
Does Harvey have it in him to turn the program around into a conference or national threat? Harvey is one of the mainstays of the Arizona athletic department, having served as an assistant for 15 years and a head coach the last two decades. Despite, or perhaps because of his seniority, he’s regarded as an athlete’s coach — someone who can relate to present 18-22 year olds. Few Arizona coaches can match his enthusiasm or passion for the sport he coaches.
With that said, it’s fair to wonder whether track and field has passed him by some. Arizona’s decreasing standing in the Pac-12 suggests the program isn’t able to land the types of athletes it has in the past. For the men particularly to finish dead last at the conference championship is inexcusable.
The next season or two will go a long ways in determining how many more years are left to Harvey’s career.