Soma, Schwinn Earn Top-20 Finishes at Olympic Trials
July 16, 2004
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Husky pole vaulter Kate Soma and discus thrower Mat Schwinn both earned top-20 finishes Friday in qualifying-round competition at the 2004 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif. Both were making their first-ever appearances at the Trials, with Schwinn having just been added as an alternate Tuesday.
The 2004 NCAA runner-up, Soma entered Friday's qualifying seeded 15th in a loaded field that included nine of the top-10 vaulters in U.S. history, and six of the top-11 in the 2004 IAAF World Rankings.
Competing in the first of two flights, alongside former world record holder Stacy Dragila, Soma was forced to open the competition at 13 feet, 5 1/4 inches, a height she had cleared just three times in her collegiate career. Undaunted, the UW senior-to-be soared over the bar on her first attempt to advance to 13-9 1/4 with a share of the lead. Needing to clear the height to ensure a spot in Sunday's final, Soma made three good attempts, but missed on each to finish the competition in a tie for 15th.
'This was Kate's first Trials, so for her to come in and rank among the top-15 women in America -- especially in this field -- is truly impressive,' said Huskies' head coach Greg Metcalf.
Soma won her first Pac-10 title in May, clearing 14 feet, 2 inches to soar to fifth on the NCAA's all-time outdoor list, and was the second-place finisher -- to collegiate record holder Chelsea Johnson of UCLA -- at the NCAA meet in June. The three-time All-American boasts Washington's school records indoors and out, and will return next spring with a chance to move past Aretha Hill and Meg Jones into first-place on the list of UW's most prolific All-Americans.
'She's still only three years out of high school, so she still has plenty of room to develop as a vaulter,' Metcalf said. 'I can't wait to see what she does for us next year, and in the professional career she'll likely have waiting for her when she's done.'
While Soma has known since her winning vault at the Pac-10 Championships that she would competing at the Trials, 2003 UW graduate Mat Schwinn found out only Tuesday that there was a spot for him in the men's discus preliminaries. As the first alternate to the 24-man field, Schwinn earned the call when three-time U.S. shot put champion John Godina chose not to compete in the discus, having already qualified for Olympics competition in the shot put.
Having twice been the first alternate for an NCAA Championships berth during his senior year in 2003, only to be left out of the meet in both instances, Schwinn was determined to make the most of his opportunity Friday. The Castle Rock, Wash., native nervously fouled his first two throws of the night, but unleashed a 175-foot, 9-inch effort with his final toss, leapfrogging four other throwers to place 20th. Only the top-12 competitors advanced to Sunday's final, but the competition in itself was a victory for Schwinn.
'It's great for him to have the chance to come down here and throw with the best in the country,' said Schwinn's coach, third-year UW assistant Bud Rasmussen. 'This is where he belongs, and this experience will only make him better in the future.'
On Saturday, former Husky Rob Minnitti conclude the UW's 2004 Trials competition, in the finals of the men's javelin. Washington has already qualified one athlete for the Athens Olympics, with 1998 UW grad Aretha Hill winning her second-straight U.S. discus title Monday. Of the 36 Huskies who have competed in Olympic Games, four have earned medals, and 18 placed among the top-five in their events.
For complete schedules and results from the 2004 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials, including quotes from selected athletes, visit www.usatf.org.