Soma Earns Olympic Trials Berth With Pac-10 Winning Mark

May 15, 2004

TUCSON, Ariz. - Washington junior Kate Soma won the Pac-10's pole vault title Saturday, setting a school record and earning a U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying berth with a clearance of 14 feet, 2 inches, sixth-best in Pac-10 history and seventh-best outdoors by an American woman this year. Washington's women placed sixth in the final Pac-10 standings with 66 points, while the UW men were eighth with 45.

Top-ranked UCLA captured its eighth-consecutive conference women's crown with 174.50 points, ahead of Stanford (153), USC (111) and Arizona State (97). The Bruins also won the men's title, charging from behind to pass Oregon with 143 points total, ahead of the Ducks' 130, Arizona State's 120, and USC's 95. UCLA's sweep was its sixth all-time, and first since grabbing both team crowns in 1998.

Soma's Pac-10 title was the first-ever by a Husky women's vaulter, and the first by a UW woman in any event since Anna Aoki captured the 10,000-meter crown in 2001. The win also extended the Huskies' streak of consecutive years with an individual Pac-10 champion to five, just two short of the school's all-time record.

After missing just once over the first four heights, Soma was nearly eliminated at 13-10, clearing the height on her third and final attempt into a strong crosswind. After all three remaining vaulters missed on their first attempts at 14-2, Soma nailed the career-best mark on her second effort, becoming just the eighth woman in the Pac-10 history - and the first Husky - ever to clear the 14-foot plateau.

Arizona's Connie Jerz missed both of her final attempts at 14-2, but collegiate record holder Chelsea Johnson cleared the mark on her third effort, leaving just two vaulters remaining as the bar was raised to 14-6. With fewer misses than Johnson through 14-2, Soma was ahead of the favorite in the tiebreaker, and when neither vaulter cleared 14-6, the two-time All-American was finally able to celebrate her first-career Pac-10 title.

'It hasn't really hit me yet, that I won the Pac-10 title and that I'm going to the Olympic Trials,' Soma said afterward. 'I've been waiting for this for so long.'

Soma's win headlined a banner day for UW's vaulters, as sophomore Carly Dockendorf and freshman-record setter Stevie Marshalek each cleared 13-2 1/2 to tie for sixth. The three combined for 15 of Washington's 66 points, which marked the Huskies' highest total at the Pac-10 meet since 1998. The team's sixth-place finish, meanwhile, matched its best since that same 1998 season, when the UW women placed fourth with 94 points.

'Our women came here this weekend determined to prove that they can be among the elite teams in this conference,' said second-year head coach Greg Metcalf. 'What's most exciting is that this team is young and hungry. These ladies are the future of Washington track and field.'

Certain to be a bright spot in that future is freshman Ashley Lodree, who earned points for the Huskies in four events this weekend, including three on Saturday.

Just 40 minutes after opening her day on the anchor leg of Washington's sixth-place 4x100-meter relay - whose time of 45.81 seconds was the fifth-fastest in UW history - Lodree was back on the track for the finals of the 100-meter hurdles, placing sixth in 13.72 seconds.

After an hour's rest, it was back to work for the finals of the 100-meter dash, an event for which Lodree was seeded 11th entering the weekend. Shunning expectations, the freshman blazed to a time of 11.93 seconds in the final, taking eighth to add one more point to her weekend haul. Including an eighth-place finish in Friday's long jump, Lodree had a hand in eight points for the Huskies, second only to Soma's 10.

While the work of a few accounted for much of Washington's women's scoring on Saturday, the Huskies' mens' points were a team effort.

Freshman Martin Bingisser started the scoring off with a third-place finish in the day's first event, the hammer throw. Under a scorching mid-day heat upwards of 100 degrees, the Bellevue, Wash., native heaved the hammer a lifetime-best 199 feet, 10 inches, seventh-best in Washington history and good for six crucial points in the Pac-10 field.

The Huskies continued to roll after the sun set in Tucson, with senior Todd Arnold roaring from behind to place fourth in the 800 meters. After setting a half-second personal best in Friday's preliminary, Arnold went straight to lead in Saturday's final, but was trapped against the rail and shuffled to the back as the pack went past the 400-meter mark. In last place with 200 meters to go, Arnold finally saw daylight to the outside and put on a finishing burst to surge past four runners in the final 150 meters for a 1 minute, 49.92-second finish.

'Todd's race was pure guts, coming back the way he did,' Metcalf said. 'They're aren't a lot of guys who, after having gone from the front to the back in 200 meters, could come back and fight their way forward again at the end. Todd knew we needed those points, though, and there wasn't anything that was going to stop him from getting them.'

Even as Arnold was racing towards the finish, junior Will Conwell was earning a fourth-place finish in the discus, his toss of 171-9 on his fifth effort of the evening just two feet shy of his lifetime best.

While Conwell neared a lifetime best, junior Andy Fader left his in the dust in the 1,500 meters, leading three Huskies into the top-eight with a fifth-place time of 3:46.34. Senior Eric Garner, battling an illness throughout the weekend, led the field through 800 meters before a pack of runners including freshman Carl Moe surged past down the back straightaway. As the bell sounded for the final lap, Moe charged to third, but was run down by Fader and senior John Russell on the backstretch, ultimating finishing eighth in 3:47.25, just behind the seventh-place Russell (3:46.89).

Despite the Huskies' impressive results in the throws and distance events, eighth place was still in doubt entering the final event on the track. Leading ninth-place Washington State by just three points, at 41-38, entering the 4x400-meter relay, the Huskies' quartet of Cristian Adams, Phil McCary, Sean Williams and Bruce Jackson tore off an impressive 3:06.46, third-fastest in Washington history and fifth in the Pac-10 field. The relay's four points, combined with the Cougars' eighth-place finish, effectively locked up eighth place overall for Washington, a one-spot improvement over its finish at last year's Pac-10 meet.

Other Husky individual scorers included Lindsey Egerdahl in the 1,500 meters (7th, 4:32.50), Cambrielle Jensen in the 400-meter hurdles (8th, 1:01.95), Sidney Brown in the triple jump (6th, 40-4 3/4), Sean Williams in the 400-meter hurdles (7th, 52.06) and Warren Eickhoff in the high jump (T6th, 6-6 3/4).

For complete results of the 2004 Pac-10 Track and Field Championships, visit

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