Watkins Makes History Again; Kantola Earns All-American Honors at NCAA Championships

June 8, 2007

For the second consecutive day, Rhonda Watkins made UCLA history as she became the first woman to earn All-American honors in both the long and high jump at the NCAA Championships. Watkins placed fifth in the high jump on Friday to add to her plethora of season accolades, while Ingrid Kantola earned her second All-American honor of her career with an eighth-place finish in the pole vault.

Watkins' day hit a little bit of a snag as the sophomore rolled her ankle warming up for the high jump. However, she was determined to jump and after a trainer ok'd her to compete, Watkins went out and made more Bruin history. She finished fifth with a clearance of 6-0, just ½ inch shy of her lifetime-best mark (6-0.50).

On rolling her ankle before the competition
'At first, it hurt a lot, but then I realized it didn't hurt as much as I thought it did and I was able to focus on jumping.'

On finishing fifth in the high jump
'I'm pleased to get fifth because that was my goal coming into the meet. I wanted to finish in fifth and clear 1.86m (6-1.25). I've been battling to jump 1.86m since high school, and although I didn't clear it today, I'm still happy about how I competed. I'll eventually clear 1.86m.'

On making so much history this season
'I came to UCLA because it was full of history and I wanted to be a part of it. I wasn't aware of all the things I had done this season until it was pointed out to me, but it's why I came here. It's great to be a part of UCLA's history.'

On the difference from last year's nationals to this year's
'The day I left the meet last year I told myself that was never going to happen again. I wanted to make up for it this year and I'm pleased with how it went.'

Jumps Coach Mike Powell on Watkins' competition
On the overall competition
'Our overall goal coming in here was for Rhonda to finish in the top-five and she did that. Rhonda's a stud. It's all about getting clearances on your first attempts in championship meets. You have to attack the bar, get off the ground and then you're good.

'Rhonda's been competing for three straight days and rolled her ankle warming up today. I didn't want her to jump, but she wanted to. She's earned the right to jump, so once the trainer said she would be alright, I let her go after it. Placing fifth on a bum wheel isn't half bad.'

Ingrid Kantola came into the meet ranked in the top-10 in the country, and leaves the meet with her second consecutive All-American honor. Kantola cleared 13-3-50 to finish in eighth-place. During the indoor season, Kantola finished fourth in the pole vault.

On the competition
'Overall, I felt pretty good. I had a little trouble on the third bar and changed poles a few times, but I just couldn't get the right fit. I learned a lot this year and I'm happy to place. I don't feel like I lived up to the potential I believe I have, but I'm still happy with earning All-American honors and scoring for the team.'

Anthony Curran on Kantola's performance
'Ingrid was tough as nails today on the first two bars. We changed poles for the third and she wasn't able to penetrate. Despite not clearing that third bar, she performed great. She's an All-American. What more can you ask for? She's got one more year here, and next season she'll come back and do even better.'

Also on Friday, Nicole Leach showed why she's the one to beat in the 400m hurdles as she ran the fastest time of the competition for the second consecutive day. Leach won heat one in a time of 55.69, nearly a full second faster than the nearest competitor. Leach shut it down during the final stretch of the race, and still ran close to her season-best time. She will run for her first NCAA title on Saturday, and will also anchor the 4x400m relay team tomorrow.

Leach on today's performance
'It felt really good today. I hit my steps and that's what is most important. If I compete like I did today, then good things will happen in the final.'

The Bruins stand in ninth-place with 15 points, while Arizona State leads with 38. USC (27), LSU (26), Texas Tech (23) and Michigan (22) round out the top-five teams.

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