Soma Wins Conference Vault Title

Feb. 25, 2005


SEATTLE - Husky senior Kate Soma won the pole vault Friday, and Grace Vela set a UW record in the pentathlon, leading the University of Washington women's track and field team to second place through one day of competition at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships at Dempsey Indoor in Seattle.

The two-day meet continues with event finals Saturday, including a 60-meter dash final featuring Husky quarterback Isaiah Stanback.

With six events scored, Washington's 34 points trail only Stanford's 37.5 in the team standings. The top-five women's teams are separated by fewer than eight points, with the four-time defending champion Cardinal on top, followed by Washington, Washington State (33), reigning NCAA outdoor champion UCLA (31) and Oregon (30).

California, meanwhile, sits atop the men's standings with 39 points through four events, leading Stanford (24), UCLA (18) and Cal State Northridge (17). The 18th-ranked Washington men sit seventh with 12 points, while Washington State is 10th with four points.

Soma, the defending Pac-10 champion and current NCAA leader, captured her first MPSF title on the strength of a clearance at 13 feet, 8 1/4 inches, and fewer misses than Washington State's Tamara Diles, who cleared the same height. Soma's title was the 21st all-time by a Husky competitor, and the 11th in the past four MPSF meets in which Washington has competed, dating back to the 2000 season. The Huskies did not compete in the MPSF in 2002 or 2003.

The much-celebrated rematch between NCAA runner-up Soma and defending NCAA champion Chelsea Johnson of UCLA fizzled when Johnson, returning from a long injury layoff, failed to clear 13-4 1/4 and placed sixth. Arizona's Connie Jerz took third, while Washington sophomore Stevie Marshalek placed fourth with a clearance at 13-4 1/4, third-best in UW history and among the top-15 marks by a collegian this year. UW junior Ashley Wildhaber was fifth at 12-10 1/4, rounding out a 19-point scoring effort by UW's women's vaulters.

'Kate got us off to a great start today with that win,' third-year head coach Greg Metcalf said. 'With the points we scored today, and as many people as we have qualified for finals tomorrow, we're in position to do some real damage in the team standings.'

Adding another six points to the pot for UW was Vela, whose pentathlon score of 3,915 points moved her into the top-10 of the NCAA rankings, and broke by nearly 200 points the school record of 3,723 she established at January's UW Invitational. Vela built the record on the foundation of personal bests in three of the pentathlon's five events, including a 1.5-inch improvement in the high jump, and a one-tenth reduction in her 60-meter hurdles best. Vela's score was third-highest at the meet, trailing only Washington State siblings Diana and Julie Pickler, who totaled 4,086 and 3,999 to finish first and second, respectively.

Vela was unsure all week if she would able to participate in the event, having suffered a minor injury in training. The final decision to compete was made Friday morning, mere hours before the start of the meet.

'Grace is so tough, I knew there was no way she'd let herself miss this meet,' Metcalf said. 'She takes adversity, and uses it to motivate herself. That's what makes her such a great competitor.'

Junior Shane Charles also broke a Husky indoor record with a time of 1 minutes, 49.59 seconds in the 800 meters, five-hundredths faster than the record set by teammate Ryan Brown two weeks ago. After going untouched for nearly 12 seasons, Washington's 800-meter mark has fallen three times in the past four weeks, including an initial record run by Charles in January, and Brown's record effort earlier this month.

In all, 12 Huskies posted marks among the school's all-time top-10, bringing to 52 the total number of such marks set so far this season. In addition to the seven Huskies who earned top-eight placings Friday, numerous others qualified for Saturday track finals -- including UW quarterback Stanback, whose time of 6.89 seconds in the 60-meter dash was good for one of eight spots in the 60-meter dash final, scheduled for 1:10 p.m. Saturday.

For complete results from Friday's action at the 2005 MPSF Championships, visit

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