MacDonald Fifth in U.S. Steeplechase Final

July 15, 2004

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Washington assistant coach Kelly MacDonald became the latest Husky to shine on the national stage Thursday at the 2004 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials, placing fifth in the finals of the women's steeplechase. A 2002 graduate of Arizona State, MacDonald is entering her third year on staff at Washington, where she works with the Huskies' distance runners.

The lack of Olympic promise -- the women's steeplechase will not be contested at the 2004 Games -- seemed to have little effect on the competitors, six of whom clocked times among the 10 fastest in U.S. history.

None covered the 3,000 meters faster than Nebraska's Ann Gaffigan, who shaved a stunning 20 seconds off of her fifth-place time at last month's NCAA Championships to claim the 2004 U.S. steeplechase crown. Gaffigan's winning time of 9 minutes, 39.35 seconds was the fastest in U.S. history, breaking by two seconds the American record of 9:41.94 set by BYU's Elizabeth Jackson in 2001. Just four weeks ago, Gaffigan placed behind four other runners at the NCAA Championships, clocking a then-career best 9:59.75.

BYU's Kassi Anderson -- who beat Gaffigan by one second to take fourth at the NCAA meet -- was six seconds behind the Cornhuskers' senior on Thursday, placing second in 9:45.52, faster than all but three women in U.S. history. MacDonald's Asics teammate Carrie Messner was third in 9:50.70 -- seventh-fastest ever by an American -- while unseated American record-holder Jackson was fourth in 9:52.11. MacDonald's fifth-place time of 9:56.60 has been bettered by only seven women on America's all-time list, on which the Tulatin, Ore., native ranks ninth with a career-best of 9:55.49.

MacDonald established herself, during an outstanding collegiate career at Arizona State, as one of America's top young steeplers, capturing five All-America honors and three Pac-10 titles. She has proven equally successful in her first two years as a coach at Washington, helping sign a women's recruiting class in 2004 that was ranked sixth in the nation by Track and Field, and guiding a UW women's cross-country squad featuring four freshmen in its top-seven to a 19th-place finish at last fall's NCAA Championships.

MacDonald was joined in competition Thursday by javelin throwers Rob Minnitti and Justin St. Clair. Both competed multiple years at Washington before finishing their careers at Boise State, with St. Clair earning All-America honors for the Huskies in 1999.

America's fifth-ranked javelin competitor entering the competition, St. Clair could muster only a 219-foot, 1-inch effort Thursday, 11 feet shy of the 230-foot, 4-inch toss that earned the 12th and final spot in Saturday's final. Minnitti, however, exceeded his No. 12 seed with a 10th-place finish Thursday, his second-attempt throw of 232-7 good enough to earn at least three more throws Saturday.

Minnitti enters Saturday's javelin final seeking to become the second former Husky to earn an berth on the U.S. Olympic Team at this year's Trials. Renton native and 1998 UW grad Aretha Hill won her second-straight U.S. discus title Monday, earning her second-career Olympics berth in the process. Washington has qualified at least one athlete for all but four of the Summer Olympic Games held since 1924, including a record four participants in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Of the 36 Huskies who have competed in Olympic Games, four have earned medals, and 18 placed among the top-five in their events.

UW senior-to-be Kate Soma, a graduate of Portland's Grant High School, will compete Friday in the qualifying rounds of the women's pole vault. Soma won the Pac-10 title with a UW-record 14-foot, 2-inch vault in May, and was the runner-up at the 2004 NCAA Championships. For complete schedules and results from the 2004 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials, visit www.usatf.org.

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