Walker Sixth, Spriestersbach 10th at U.S. Olympic Trials
July 11, 2004
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Former Huskies Brad Walker and Megan Spriestersbach saw their Olympic bids come up just short Sunday at the 2004 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif., as each placed outside the top-three in their respective events. Spokane native Walker, the sixth-ranked vaulter in NCAA history, earned sixth in the pole vault, while Spriestersbach, of Lakewood, was 10th in the javelin.
Ranked third in the world outdoors in 2004 entering the competition, Walker was one of seven vaulters over the bar at 18-feet, 10 1/4 inch, but missed on his first attempt at 19-0 1/4. When three vaulters cleared the latter height on their first attempts to move past Walker in the standings, the 2004 UW graduate chose to pass his remaining two attempts to the subsequent height of 19-2 1/4, which would have been a lifetime best. A pair of misses at 19-2 1/4, however, ended the meet for Walker, who was competing in his first-ever Olympic Trials.
Two-time USA Track and Field Championships runner-up Tim Mack vaulted his way to the top of the competition in the loaded field, which included six of the world's top-10 ranked vaulters. Mack's first-attempt clearance at 19-4 1/4 gave the Knoxville, Tenn., native the win over world leader Toby Stevenson, who finished at 19-2 1/4. Former U.S. indoor champion Derek Miles, who tied for third at the 2000 Olympic Trials but was defeated in a jump-off for the final Olympics berth, will round out the U.S. squad after placing third Sunday, with a best of 19-0 1/4. All three will be competing in their first Olympic Games when they travel to Athens, Greece, next month.
The sixth-place finish marks the end of a brilliant season for Walker, who captured his second-straight NCAA indoor title in March before turning professional in the spring. After earning sponsorship from Nike, Walker soared as high as No. 2 in the world with a lifetime-best clearance of 19-1 at May's Sky Athletics Invitational, and was the fourth overall seed entering the Olympic Trials.
Even as Walker competed on the track's north end, fellow 2004 UW alum Spriestersbach was in action on the south side of the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex, attempting to better her 10th-place finish in Friday's javelin preliminaries. After hurling the javelin 166 feet, 10 inches in Friday's prelim, the Lakewood, Wash., native managed a 151-foot, 2-inch effort in a tricky breeze Sunday, good for 10th in the 12-woman final.
Marks were down across the board in the javelin, as only one thrower topped 180 feet, a mark five had bettered during the 2004 season. Nike's Kim Kreiner earned her first Olympics berth with a winning toss of 182-7, edging Sarah Malone of Oregon (177-11) and third-place finisher Denise O'Connell (177-4). Kriener, however, is the only American woman to have met the Olympic 'A' standard, and is therefore the only one guaranteed a trip to Athens.
Spriestersbach's efforts in 2004 are all the more remarkable when considering that the senior took the entire year off in 2003, the result of a nagging back injury. She returned with a roar in the spring, setting the Huskies' school record in her first competition before crushing that mark with a 173-foot, 7-inch toss at last month's NCAA Championships, where she earned All-America honors with a fourth-place finish.
The Huskies will have one more shot Monday to send a representative to Athens, before the Trials break for two days on Tuesday and Wednesday. Four-time UW All-American Aretha Hill, a 1998 UW graduate, enters Monday's discus final seeking to defend her 2003 U.S. crown, and return to the Olympics for the first time since 1996. Four more Huskies, including UW senior-to-be Kate Soma and assistant coach Kelly MacDonald, will compete when the meet resumes next weekend.
For complete schedules and results from the 2004 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials, visit www.usatf.org.