Thurmond Wins Third U.S. Discus Title
June 24, 2006
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - University of Washington graduate Aretha Thurmond won the discus Saturday at the AT&T USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., reclaiming the national title she last won in 2004. Five Huskies earned top-10 finishes at the U.S. meet Saturday, including a tie for third for world-No. 1 and defending pole vault champion Brad Walker.
Thurmond's fourth-attempt throw -- a 205-foot, 2-inch monster that was nearly 13 feet beyond her nearest competitor's best -- reclaimed for her the national discus title she has won three times since 2003, and last held in 2004. Asics' Suzy Powell was second at 192-6; former UW All-American Cecelia Barnes placed fifth at 182-4.
America's pre-eminent women's discus competitor in the event for the past decade, the 29-year-old Thurmond -- known as Aretha Hill during her prep career at Renton (Wash.) High School and later at Washington -- has placed among the top-five at the USA Outdoor Championship in each of the past 11 years, and has competed at both the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games. Her lifetime best of 216-1 in the discus is the third-best ever by an American woman, while her collegiate best of 215-3 is a Pac-10 record, and the second-best ever by U.S. collegian.
Having placed third at the U.S. meet last year -- after back-to-back wins in 2003 and 2004 -- Thurmond was determined to win back the title of America's No. 1 women's discus competitor.
'I am excited about being first,' she said afterward. 'I just wanted to reclaim the national title. First place is great, I'll take it.'
Thurmond, who returned to UW in 2005 to assist her husband -- Husky throwing coach Reedus Thurmond -- is the second Husky ever to win three U.S. outdoor titles, joining fellow UW volunteer assistant Duncan Atwood (Javelin - 1979, `80, `87).
Walker, too, boasts three U.S. crowns, having swept USA indoor titles in 2005 and 2006, and won the USA outdoor title last June. The 25-year-old Walker, who competes professionally for Nike, had to settle for a tie for third on Saturday, however, after missing all three of his attempts at 18-10 ¼. Russ Buller won the U.S. title at 19-0 ¼, winning in a tiebreaker over 2004 Olympic silver medalist Toby Stevenson.
The 'loss' was the first for Walker in USA Championships competition since a sixth-place finish at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. In the two years since, the Spokane native has become the world's No. 1 male vaulter, winning three U.S. titles, a world outdoor silver medal in 2005 and a world indoor gold in 2006.
He has been ranked No. 1 in the world in the pole vault by Track and Field News and the IAAF since October 2005, and boasts a best of 19-6 ½ in the event that is the sixth-best ever by an American male.
Junior Amy Lia, meanwhile, legitimized her surprising win at this month's NCAA Championships with a ninth-place finish in the U.S. 1,500-meter final Saturday, best-ever by a Husky woman in the event. The junior's time of 4 minutes, 15.26 seconds was just a second off her winning pace at NCAAs, and the second-fastest of her UW career. Nike's Treniere Clement won the event in 4:10.44; Duke's Shannon Rowbury was the only collegiate athlete to place higher than Lia, taking sixth in 4:12.86.
'Amy surprised a lot of people at NCAAs, and I think that there were some who might have thought that she just caught lightning in a bottle that day, and that she wouldn`t be able to do something like that again,' said fifth-year Washington head coach Greg Metcalf. 'I think that by running 4:15 today, though, and beating a couple of the top pros in the nation, she proved that she belongs at this level. She won't be surprising anyone next year, that's for sure.'
Lia was cheered around the track by assistant coach Kelly Strong, who capped her own successful weekend with a fifth-place finish in the women's steeplechase just an hour earlier. The Tualitin, Ore., native and ASU alum, who coaches UW's women's distance runners, finished 10 seconds off the lead in 10:07.64, as Nike's Lisa Galaviz won the U.S. title in 9:57.58.
Strong clocked a 9:48.90 in May at Husky Stadium to climb to seventh in U.S. history in the event, and was the third-ranked competitor entering this week's competition.
Washington will hope for a repeat of its Saturday success on Sunday, when six more Huskies take to the track. Assistant coach Reedus Thurmond will attempt to match his wife's exploits in the men's discus, while volunteer assistant Rob Minnitti will be among the top competitors in the men's javelin. Three recent UW alums -- 2005 NCAA champion Kate Soma, 2006 Pac-10 champion Juan Romero and 2006 Husky grad Will Conwell -- will compete in the vault, javelin and discus, respectively, while former Husky All-American Justin St. Clair will try his hand in the javelin as well.
For complete results from the 2006 AT&T USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, visit www.GoHuskies.com.