ASU Women, Arizona Men Lead Pack After Day One Of Track And Field Championships

May 13, 2006

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By Bob Burns
EUGENE, Ore. - Arizona State made the biggest splash on the first day of the Pac-10 track and field championships, continuing its dominance of the 3,000-meter steeplechase to take a commanding lead in the women's team competition.

Brooke Bennett led the Sun Devils to a 1-2-5 finish over seven and half laps of track, hurdles and water jumps, winning comfortably in 10 minutes, 20.08 seconds. Anna Masinelli and Corey Randall placed second and fifth, boosting the Sun Devils' quest for the first Pac-10 women's title in school history.

With their female steeplechasers accounting for 22 points, the Sun Devils have 82½ points entering Sunday's final day of competition at Hayward Field. Oregon is in second place with 50 points in the women's team competition.

Defending Pac-10 women's champion Stanford is third with 40 points, followed by UCLA in fourth at 38 points.

Arizona leads the men's team race with 56 points. UCLA (47) and defending men's champion Oregon (42) are second and third.

Sunday's schedule features 13 men's finals and 14 women's finals.

In keeping with Saturday's theme, the men's steeplechase was also an Arizona State affair. Aaron Aguayo (8:35.04) and Ryan Warrenburg (8:39.01) finished first and second. It was Aguayo's third straight Pac-10 title in the event.

'Over the last couple of years, we've gained some dominance in the steeplechase at Arizona State,' said Aguayo, who joined Washington State's Julius Korir as the only the three-time steeplechase champion in conference history.

In the six years that the women's steeplechase has been a part of the Pac-10 conference meet, Arizona State runners have won every time.

'Everyone plays up our success in the steeplechase, but I think it's more a case of our having a lot of really good distance runners,' Bennett said. 'It's a big event for us, but we're good in the other distance races, too.'

To prove Bennett's point, Arizona State put an exclamation mark on Saturday's proceedings by faring even better in the women's 10,000-meter run. Amy Hastings (first), Victoria Jackson (second) and Cassie Rios (fourth) combined for 23 points for the Sun Devils.

But the Sun Devils have more than just distance runners. Sarah Stevens and Jessica Pressley placed first and third in the women's shot put. Stevens won with a solid throw of 57 feet, 2 inches.

'Winning the team title has been our goal since August, so I'm pleased that Jessica and I were able to contribute,' Stevens said.

Saturday's sun-splashed crowd of 5,791 took particularly enjoyment from a pair of Oregon victories. Tommy Skipper won the men's pole vault with a soaring clearance of 18-0½, and javelin thrower Rachel Yurkovich captured her event with a best of 166-3.

For Skipper, a three-time NCAA champion, the victory provided redemption. At last year's Pac-10 championships, he failed to clear a height and couldn't fully enjoy the fruits of the Ducks' team title.

On Saturday, Skipper, the Pac-10 record-holder at 19 feet, cleared his first three heights with ease before narrowly missing his first of three attempts at 19-0¼.

'The crowd here is great,' Skipper said. 'It's great to be a part of the Oregon tradition.'

In Saturday's only men's final on the track, Robert Cheseret of Arizona won his third Pac-10 title in the 10,000 meters, clocking 30:32.92. Galen Rupp of Oregon was second in 30:42.10.

Cheseret is attempting an audacious 1,500/5,000/10,000 triple this weekend. He pulled the same triple off at the 2004 Pac-10 meet, but his 2006 quest nearly ended early when he fell to the track in his qualifying heat of the 1,500. Cheseret scrambled to his feet and managed to qualify for Sunday's final.

He then returned to the track four hours later for the 10,000 final, no worse for the wear.

'I had some bruises (from the fall), but it didn't bother me in the 10,000,' Cheseret said. 'I think the 1,500 will be the toughest race for me. The important thing for me will be to stay with the pace and have a chance at the end.'

Saturday's most surprising winner was Juan Romero, a senior javelin thrower from Washington. Romero entered the competition with the conference's sixth-longest mark, but he threw 233-11 on his opening throw, a personal best by nearly 14 feet. Romero won by a dozen feet over Paul Teinert of Cal.

'It feels like a dream right now,' Romero said. 'No one would have picked me to win this. It was up to me to do it.'

Noah Bryant of USC scored a big upset in the men's shot put. Pre-meet favorite Sean Shields of Arizona led at 63-11¾ when Bryant stepped into the ring for the next-to-last throw of the competition. Bryant unloaded a final throw of 64-7¼, nearly a foot beyond his previous best.

Shields fouled his final throw, giving Bryant the biggest win of his career.

'I've been throwing against Shields since I was a freshman in high school, and this might be the first time I've ever beaten him,' said Bryant, who also finished fifth in Saturday's hammer throw.

In other finals Saturday:

  • Stanford's Erica McLain won the women's long jump at 21-5¼, the best mark by a collegian this season.
  • In the men's long jump, Norris Frederick of Washington sailed 25-10 on his final jump.
  • UCLA freshman Boldizsar Kocsar won the men's hammer with a career-best throw of 219-1.
  • UCLA's Rhonda Watkins won the women's high jump at 5-11¼, defeating Arizona State's Jacquelyn Johnson in a jump-off. Johnson won the Pac-10 heptathlon title last weekend.
  • Arizona State's women will be tough to overtake Sunday, but the men's race figures to be very competitive. Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State and USC figure to battle it out on the men's side.

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