Husky Track Stands Strong In Stormy Weather
June 10, 2009
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Several members of the Washington track squad will be ignoring their alarm clocks Thursday morning, after the first day of the NCAA Track & Field Championships stretched past midnight due to a three-hour severe weather delay. Still, in the face of the storms the Husky track squad had enjoyed a stellar start to the national meet, with seven athletes moving on to event finals at John McDonnell Field.
Washington notched its first All-American in its very first event at the four-day meet, as junior hammer thrower Zack Midles placed 13th in the qualifying rounds, and was eighth-best among Americans. Unfortunately, Midles' best throw of an even 210-feet was three inches shy of the last spot in Friday's final.
Midles will be UW's first All-American in the hammer, and first in any men's throws event, since Martin Bingisser in 2007. The Olympia, Wash. native was seeded just 21st coming into the event, so even coming so close to the final was a bit of an upset. Midles joins his older brother Adam as All-American hammer specialists. Adam earned the honor three times at USC, with a best finish of fifth.
Sophomore Elisa Bryant was the next Husky in action, also throwing the hammer on the women's side. A first-time NCAA Outdoor participant, the Inglemoor High grad was eighth indoors in the weight throw. Bryant fouled her first attempt, then threw 179-5 on her second throw. She did not improve on her last attempt and was in eighth-place after the first flight. After all flights were done, Bryant wound up 21st out of the 27 entrants.
At around 4 p.m. Central, light rain started to fall and the clouds to the west held a lot more in store. Soon the rain picked up and lightning flashes could be seen in the distance, leading to a suspension of the meet at 5 p.m. Athletes, coaches, and fans retreated to shelter but were still treated to a spectacular combination of rainbows and a surprise glowing orange sunset that temporarily lit up the sky.
Washington's All-American pole vault duo, Scott Roth and Jared O'Connor, both survived the qualifying cut today before the rains came. O'Connor, last year's NCAA runner-up, moved a step closer to repeating that performance as he was the only vaulter in a field of 27 elite athletes who did not miss a bar. The final bar needed to qualify was 17-6 ½, and O'Connor and Roth were two of just five vaulters who made it over. The remaining nine of the 14 finalists advanced based on fewer misses at a lower height. Roth and O'Connor will go for the title on Friday at 3:45 Central.
In the women's javelin, sophomore Brooke Pighin finds herself in her first career NCAA final, when just over a week ago her season had seemingly ended in disappointing fashion. Pighin struggled at West Regionals, posting just one legal throw that left her 13th and one place short of the placing needed to earn an at-large bid. However, a scratch ahead of her allowed Pighin entry into nationals, and she bounced back today with a best throw of 160-10 on her final attempt. That was the ninth-best throw of the day and moves the Port Alberni, Canada native into Friday's final.
Once the meet resumed, senior Jordan Boase made it through the first round of the 400-meter dash with little difficulty, a solid start to the five-time All-Americans final NCAA appearance. The top three finishers in each of the five prelims automatically advanced, and Boase took second in his heat in a time of 46.27 seconds. His semifinal will be on Friday. Junior Jeff Gudaitis returned from his earlier relay duty to run in the final heat, but the earlier sprint coupled with the long delay took its toll on the Tacoma native, and Gudaitis pulled up in pain before the final turn and jogged to the finish.
Two Husky women had to work the late shift to close out the exhaustive day. In the women's steeplechase, redshirt freshman Mel Lawrence led the chase pack behind U.S. Olympian Jenny Barringer of Colorado, and placed third in her heat in 10:05.73, good for one of the five automatic finals berths.
Katie Follett's semifinal heat in the 5,000-meters stretched into Thursday morning. The gun went off just before midnight, and Follett sat with the lead group throughout, eventually settling into fourth and certain of making the final with several laps to go. Follett wound up fourth in 16:22.69. The versatile junior was Pac-10 1,500-meter champion just last month, and will be looking to add an All-American honor in the 5k to the ones she owns in the mile, the 3,000-meters, the DMR, and cross country.
Senior Andrea Peterson, who made it to nationals for the first time in her career with a massive PR at Regionals, came up just shy in her bid to reach the women's pole vault final. Peterson cleared 13-feet, 1.5-inches, but needed three attempts to do so, and that proved to be the decider. Five women who cleared no more than the same height as Peterson reached the final due to taking less attempts at the height. Still, Peterson shot her career-best up by more than a foot over her senior season and her 13-9 ¾ clearance at Regionals goes down at the second-best in UW history.
One of the day's most impressive showings came from sophomore Kyle Nielsen in the men's javelin. A wet runway made stopping difficult for the throwers, but Nielsen started out strong with a throw of 222-5, and then surpassed that on his next effort, going 225-1. That mark stood up as the fourth-best of the day, and puts the national meet rookie Nielsen into Friday's final.
The first Huskies on the track were the men's 4x100m relay. Running on the outside lane in the final preliminary heat, the quartet of Gudaitis, and seniors Kenjamine Jackson, Randy Bacon, and Joe Turner couldn't get on the same roll that led to their upset Regional finish, and wound up sixth in 40.49 seconds, short of their Regional PR of 40.18.
'This was a long but exciting day, and if you want to compete on the highest level you have to accept some curveballs like we had with the weather today, and I thought our athletes responded well,' said head coach Greg Metcalf.
'We had some great showings today from our men's vaulters and Kyle and Brooke in the javelin throws. Zack Midles got his first All-American honor even though he would have loved to crack the final but he should still be extremely proud,' Metcalf said. 'Then we had some seniors today with Andrea in the women's vault, and Joe, Randy, and Kenjamine on the relay that you know things didn't have a storybook ending today but I'm extremely proud of everything they've done to represent Washington track. They kept working to improve down to the final day and that's what this sport is about.'
Washington will have a late start tomorrow. Their first competitors will be Christine Babcock and Kailey Campbell in the semis of the 1,500m run at 7:55 p.m., followed by Austin Abbott in the men's 1,500m. Anita Campbell and Jake Schmitt will then compete in the women's and men's 10,000-meter runs in the first finals on the track.
Live video and results are available at www.ncaa.com.
Washington Track & Field
2009 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
June 10, 2009 - Fayetteville, Ark.
John McDonnell Field
Men's Results: 400m Dash (Prelim 2 of 5): 2. Jordan Boase, 46.27 (advances); (Prelim 5 of 5): 6. Jeff Gudaitis, 1:19.71 (does not advance); 4x100m Relay (Semifinal 3 of 3): 6. Washington (Gudaitis/Jackson/Bacon/Turner), 40.49 (does not advance); Pole Vault (Qualifying): 1 (tie). Jared O'Connor, 17-6 ½; Scott Roth, 17-6 ½ (both advance); Hammer (Qualifying): 13. Zack Midles, 210-00 (does not advance); Javelin (Qualifying): 4. Kyle Nielsen, 225-1 (advances).
Women's Results: 3,000m Steeplechase (Semifinal 1 of 2): 3. Mel Lawrence, 10:05.73 (advances); 5,000m Run (Semifinal 1 of 2): 4. Katie Follett, 16:22.69 (advances); Pole Vault (Qualifying): 17. Andrea Peterson, 13-1 ½ (does not advance); Hammer (Qualifying): 21. Elisa Bryant, 179-5 (does not advance); Javelin (Qualifying): 9. Brooke Pighin, 160-10 (advances).