Walker Perfect in Pole Vault Qualifying at U.S. Olympic Trials
July 9, 2004
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Former Husky pole vaulter Brad Walker began the final stages of his quest for a 2004 Olympics berth in impressive fashion at Friday's U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif., clearing both qualifying heights on his first attempt at each to earn one of 12 spots in Sunday's final. Fellow 2004 UW graduate Megan Spriestersbach also advanced to a Sunday final, placing 10th in qualifying-round competition in the women's javelin.
Of the 21 vaulters who entered the competition, nine -- including American record holder Jeff Hartwig -- failed to clear either of the two preliminary heights, and were eliminated from the competition. Spokane native Walker, the fourth overall seed in the competition behind Hartwig, world leader Toby Stevenson and 2000 Olympian Timothy Mack, was one of just five to clear the final height of 18-0 1/2 without any misses.
The 12 vaulters remaining in the competition will return to the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex Sunday for a straight final, with the top three finishers earning automatic berths to next month's Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
'Brad looked good today,' said Washington vault coach Pat Licari, who tutored Walker to four All-America honors from 2000-2004. 'It's good to get those first jumps out of the way, and be able to focus on Sunday.'
In the four months since concluding his collegiate career with a second-straight NCAA indoor pole vault title in March, Walker has soared to third in the 2004 IAAF World Outdoor Rankings, earning a personal-best clearance of 19-1 at May's Sky Athletics Invitational. The 23-year-old is seeking to become Washington's 37th Olympian all-time, and the first-ever to qualify in the pole vault.
By contrast, one of Washington's most prolific events in Olympic qualifying has been the javelin, in which Lakewood, Wash., native Megan Spreistersbach moved one step closer to an Olympic berth with a 10th-place finish in qualifying Friday. In 14th entering her final throw, and needing a toss of at least 151-9 to earn one of 12 spots in Sunday's final, Spriestersbach launched the javelin 166 feet, 10 inches, a 15-foot improvement over her previous best effort.
Spriestersbach earned her spot at the Trials with a similar performance at last month's NCAA Championships, crushing the UW school record with a 173-foot, 7-inch effort on the final attempt of her collegiate career. The Husky senior placed fourth in the event at the NCAA meet, the highest NCAA finish by a UW woman in the javelin since 1987.
Spriestersbach will have three more attempts Sunday to match her lifetime best, which was bettered by just two throwers on Friday.
Washington has qualified at least one athlete for all but four of the Olympic Games held since 1924, including a record four participants in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Of the 36 Huskies who have competed in Olympic Games, four have earned medals, and 18 placed among the top-five in their events.
Former U.S. Olympian and 1998 Washington graduate Aretha Hill will take center stage in Saturday's women's discus qualifying. The former NCAA record holder, Hill leads all American women in the event in 2004, and is the reigning U.S. discus champion.
Friday's competition will be televised on a tape-delay basis in the Seattle area from 11 p.m.-1 a.m, on the USA network. Check local listings to confirm the time and channel in your area. For complete schedules and results from the 2004 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials, visit www.usatf.org.