Big Week For Track At Penn And Oregon Relays

April 22, 2009

ON THE TRACK: This week finds the Washington track team dividing ranks, with a select group of eight athletes journeying to Philadelphia to compete in the legendary Penn Relays this Friday, Apr. 24, while the majority of the team will be in Eugene, Ore. for the Oregon Relays on Friday and Saturday. At the 115th running of the Penn Relays, one of the most storied meets in track and field, Washington will be entering a women's 4x1500-meter relay and a men's sprint medley relay.

THE PENN RELAYS: This historic meet was first contested in 1895, and is now in its 115th year of existence. Washington has never won a Penn Relay title and was last at the meet in 1993 during head coach Greg Metcalf's senior season. The meet is held at University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field, deemed by the NCAA as the oldest stadium still operating for football games. The meet features competition from all age groups with elementary school children all the way up to elite superstars of track and field. Several 2008 Olympians will be competing this weekend including Allyson Felix, LaShawn Merritt, Asafa Powell, and Lauryn Williams.Many individual events are on tap, but the meet headlined by the Relay Carnival, which runs from the 23rd to the 25th. More than 400 races will be run, and the Relays attract more than 22,000 entrants annually, more competitors than the Olympic Games.

Both Washington relays will be in action on Friday. The Huskies have formidable lineups entered in both the 4x1500 and the sprint medley relay and will be hoping to make history with their first relay win. In the 4x1500, Washington has four women already qualified for Regionals in the event an all will win, starting with junior Kailey Campbell, who has run a personal-best 4:22.38 this year that currently ranks 27th on the NCAA list. Junior Katie Follett, the 2008 Pac-10 1,500m Champion, will be up next; she has a lifetime best of 4:15.78. Redshirt freshman Mel Lawrence runs third with a top time of 4:24.10 in her only attempt at the length. Anchoring the relay will be true freshman Christine Babcock, a former national high school record holder at the distance who has already run 4:16.50 this season, currently sixth-fastest in the NCAA. Washington will be battling with extremely talented teams from Tennessee, Georgetown, Villanova, Penn State, Florida, and Duke.

The men's sprints medley goes in order of 200-meters, 200-meters, 400-meters, and 800-meters. Running the 200-legs for the Dawgs will be seniors Kenjamine Jackson and Joe Turner. Jackson, a Seattle native and transfer from Cal State Northridge has a personal-best of 21.10. Turner was part of UW's Pac-10 title winning 4x100 relay last year, and his top 200 time of 21.06 ranks eighth in school history. The Huskies should really shine in the final two legs, as seniors Jordan Boase and Austin Abbott close out. Boase, a three-time 400-meter All-American owns one of the fastest PR's of any collegian at 44.82. Abbott has two top-eight finishes in the 800-meters at NCAA's, and has a top time of 1:48.14 at 800-meters. Abbott also ranks second in the NCAA at 1,500-meters this year. Washington will try to dethrone defending champion LSU, as will foursomes from Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and TCU to name just a few.

Fans can view a live stream of both UW relays on then clicking Live Events under the Multimedia tab. The College Women's 4x1500 Championship of America is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Pacific time on Friday, and the College Men's Sprint Medley Championship of America will be at 3:45 p.m. Pacific.

THE OREGON RELAYS: Those Huskies not traveling east will be making their first trip this year to Oregon's Hayward Field for the Oregon Relays. Both the Pac-10 Championships and the NCAA West Regional Championships will be held at Hayward Field this year, so this weekend provides a chance for the Huskies to reacquaint themselves with the facilities, or experience them for the first time for the newcomers on the roster. Washington will be traveling a full squad and competing against a full Oregon contingent as well as squads from Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Wyoming, Portland, Idaho, Wichita State, Central Michigan, and Seattle Pacific to name a few.

A few Huskies to watch out for in Eugene include junior Falesha Ankton, who is slated to run the 400-meter hurdles for the first time this season, an event she made Regionals in last year. The women's sprinters will be well represented with freshmen Amber Finely, Bianca Greene, Joi Glass, and Jordan Carlson all making their first trip to Eugene along with sophomore Dominique Lauderdale. The women are entered in both the 4x1 and 4x4 relays as well.

Sophomores Kyle Nielsen and Brooke Pighin will both throw the javelin against highly-ranked Ducks. Nielsen currently ranks fifth nationally while Pighin is 16th. Junior Zack Midles, coming off PR's in both the hammer and discus last week, will focus solely on the hammer this week, and sophomore Elisa Bryant will look to add a Regional mark in the hammer to her discus qualifier.

Washington's five Regional pole vault qualifiers will all be in action, led by sophomore Scott Roth who currently sits third with a best clearance of 18-1. Lara Jones and Andrea Peterson lead a learge women's vault group, and Regional qualifying freshman Kelly McNamee will be competing in the high jump.

In the distance events, while UW's top four mid-distance runners will be in Philadelphia, the women will still have a strong distance group chasing Regional marks and PR's this weekend. Bailey Schutte will run the 1,500 and Brooke Anderson will tackle the 5k, while Mo Huber, Amanda Stopa, and Allison Linnell all have legitimate chances of securing a Regional bid in the women's steeplechase.

Men's runners to watch include junior Jeff Gudaitis in the 400-meter dash, and junior Brian Govier and freshman Ryan Soberanis in the 800-meters. Junior Jake Schmitt leads a number of Dawgs entered in the 1,500-meters, including Chris Ahl, Joey Bywater, Colton Tully-Doyle, and Faisal Abdullahi. At 5,000-meters, junior Kelly Spady and freshman Max O'Donoghue-McDonald will be looking to make a Pac-10 push.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Both the men's and women's squads did not move in this week's USTFCCCA Rankings, with the men coming in at No. 14 and the women at No. 27. The rankings compile Regional qualifiers in every event and assign points to the athletes that estimate their likelihood of scoring points at the NCAA Championships. In individual events, Washington's Austin Abbott remains the highest-ranked Husky, sitting second in the 1,500-meters, with his time of 3:41.62 set in a win at the Stanford Invite. Several other Huskies are currently ranked in the top-10 in their events. Scott Roth has the nation's third-best pole vault at 18-1, while senior Jordan Boase is fifth in the 400m in 45.67. Sophomore Kyle Nielsen sits fifth in the javelin throw (239-2) while senior Jared O'Connor is tied for tenth in the pole vault with a best clearance of 17-4 1/2. On the women's side, Anita Campbell (15:45.85), Katie Follett (15:48.72) and Mel Lawrence (15:50.36) rank fourth, sixth, and seventh, respectively, in the 5,000-meter run, evidence as to why UW won the cross country title in such dominating fashion in the fall. Campbell's 10,000m time from Stanford (33:40.22) also ranks seventh overall, and freshman Christine Babcock is sixth in the 1,500m with a time of 4:16.50.

LAST TIME OUT: Junior Anita Campbell and freshman Christine Babcock turned in outstanding runs that rank among the fastest in school history, and junior Zack Midles submitted the fourth-best hammer throw by a Husky, highlighting numerous strong efforts for UW track and field athletes at the Mt. SAC Relays held at Hilmer Lodge Stadium. Washington came away from their five days of competition in Walnut, Calif. with seven new or improved regional qualifiers. Both members of UW's national champion cross country squad, Campbell and Babcock were each outstanding on Friday. Campbell ran the second-fastest 5,000-meters in school history, setting a 15-second personal best with a time of 15:45.85 that put her fourth in the NCAA. Remarkably, Campbell is the third Husky this year to run 15:50 for the 5k. At the end of March, Katie Follett ran 15:48.72 and Mel Lawrence went 15:50.36 at the Stanford Invite. The Huskies now boast three of the top-seven 5k times in the NCAA this year. Shortly after Campbell, sophomore Kenna Patrick also wrote her name into the recordbooks with a 16-second personal best in another heat of the 5k. Patrick took second in a 27-woman heat in a time of 16:28.83, which places her ninth all-time. Campbell, Follett, Lawrence, and Patrick now account for four of the Top-10 5k times in school history, all run over the past month. Babcock continued her outstanding freshman season earlier in the day, as she ran the sixth-fastest 1,500-meter time in school history (4:16.50) in just her second attempt at the distance. Midles highlighted UW's efforts on Saturday, topping his career-best hammer throw with a mark of 209-4. Midles also set another new PR in the discus, coming ever closer to the Regional mark with a throw of 167-5. Junior Jake Schmitt also cracked the school's Top-10 list in the 5,000-meters, securing a spot at Regionals with a time of 14:03.95 that puts him 10th at UW, while Lauren Saylor covered 10,000-meters for the first time in her career on Thursday and wound up with an NCAA Provisional time of 34:42.10 that ranks 9th on UW's Top-10.

CAMPBELL EARNS PAC-10 WEEKLY HONORS: Washington junior distance standout Anita Campbell was named the Pac-10 Women's Track Athlete of the Week today for the week of April 13-19. Campbell is the first Husky woman to win the weekly award in four years. A native of Vancouver, B.C., Campbell ran her first 5,000-meters outdoors since the 2007 season on April 17 at the Mt. SAC Relays, and crossed the line in 15-minutes, 45.85-seconds, the second-fastest time in Washington history. The time was a 15-second personal best. Campbell now ranks fourth in the NCAA at the 5k, in addition to ranking seventh at 10,000-meters. The only Husky to run a faster 5k was Regina Joyce who went 15:35.60 in 1982. Campbell already set the indoor school record earlier this year in a time of 16:09.26 and went on to place 13th at NCAA Indoors. She was also a First Team All-Pac-10 honoree in cross country in the fall, helping lead the Huskies to the national championship. Campbell is the first Husky woman to earn Pac-10 Athlete of the Week recognition since five-time All-American sprinter and hurdler Ashley Lodree won the honor on April 25, 2005. Three-time Olympian Aretha (Hill) Thurmond is the only other UW woman to win the award. A total of fourteen Huskies have combined to win the award on nineteen occasions, with senior sprinter Jordan Boase the most recent recipient in 2008.

UP NEXT: Next Saturday, May 2, will be the 94th installment of the Washington vs. Washington State dual meet, an event that dates back to 1900. Husky Stadium hosts the meet for potentially the final time this year with stadium renovation plans in the works. The meet will be part of a jampacked day around the UW campus, with crew hosting the Windermere Cup, baseball hosting USC, and softball hosting Oregon.

THROWING UNIT TAKES FLIGHT: Owning the most storied tradition of possibly any unit at Washington, this year's corps of throwers has shown major progress from a year ago and looks poised to add its own chapter to a legacy that includes numerous Olympians, All-Americans, and National and Pac-10 Champions. During the indoor season, sophomore Elisa Bryant became UW's first ever women's weight throw All-American, as she took eighth-place with a lifetime-best and school-record toss of 65-8 3/4. A Regional qualifier in the hammer throw last year as a freshman, Bryant has continued to develop in the discus as well, and earned her first Regional mark in that event as well with a mark of 158-6. Washington's biggest improvement in any event this year might be in the javelin, where sophomores Kyle Nielsen and Brooke Pighin have each rocketed up among the nation's elite in their first few outings this year. Nielsen, a native of Langley, B.C., made Regionals last season as a freshman, but has subsequently smashed his personal best throw in each of his first two competitions this year. Nielsen went 225-11 at the Stanford Invite, a PR by 13 feet, and followed that up with a mark of 239-2 at the Jim Click Shootout. Nielsen currently ranks fifth nationally and leaped up to third in the UW Top-10 lists, ahead of former All-Americans and Pac-10 Champions. Pighin, a transfer from Fresno State, has immediately filled a major need for the women. Like Nielsen, Pighin is a British Columbian, coming from Port Alberni, and made Regionals as a freshman. Pighin set a new personal-best at the Sun Angel Classic, throwing 162-0, which was the second-best throw by a Husky in the past 10 years and currently ranks her 15th nationally. The men's hammer throw continues to be another major strength for UW, as junior Zack Midles (Olympia, Wash./Capital) and freshman Angus Taylor (Richmond, B.C./Vancouver College Prep) have already notched Regional qualifiers, and Midles continues to improve in the discus throw and inch closer to qualifying in that event as well.

FIVE VAULTERS VIE FOR NATIONALS: Washington has been a consistent national pole vault power under coach Pat Licari, producing two national champions, eight different All-Americans, and American record-holder and 2008 Olympian Brad Walker. Two of those eight All-Americans are currently honing their craft on this year's squad and rank among the nation's best yet again. Sophomore Scott Roth, a two-time All-American as a freshman in 2007, is back from injury and vaulting higher than ever before. Roth is currently ranked third in the NCAA after he cleared a new personal best of 18-1 at the Jim Click Shootout, the second-best vault in UW history behind only Walker. Also operating at a high level is senior Jared O'Connor, the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Runner-Up and West Region Champion. O'Connor's season-best clearance of 17-4 1/2 came at the Stanford Invite and is ranked 10th. Three more Huskies have already qualified for Regionals in the vault, all establishing new PR's this season under Licari. Transfer student Lara Jones had never cleared 13-feet in her career before coming to UW this season. Jones has already gone up and over 13-3 1/2 outdoors, the sixth-best mark in school history. Senior Andrea Peterson has also booked her first trip to Regionals with a clearance of 12-11 1/2, which is 10 inches higher than her previous outdoor best entering the season. Last but not least is junior Ryan Vu, who hit his first Regional mark this season and certainly can't be counted out at Regionals, not after O'Connor went into the `08 Regional meet with the minimum qualifying mark and proceeded to PR on three straight vaults and win the title.

WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY TAKES NCAA BY STORM: This past fall, the Husky women's cross country team grabbed the national spotlight, dominating every race they entered en route to the program's first National Championship. At the start of the season, the women were given a No. 3 national ranking, but quickly jumped up to No. 1 after dominating wins at the Sundodger and Tiger Invitational. UW confirmed its top billing with a huge win at Pre-Nationals. The Huskies then headed for a showdown with second-ranked Oregon at the Ducks' home course for the Pac-10 Championships. Washington turned the expected battle into an historic route, sweeping the top six places to record a perfect 15 points and snap Stanford's 12-year run of conference titles. Freshman Kendra Schaaf won the race by 30 seconds in a conference record time, becoming UW's first individual champion since 1982. After another routine win at West Regionals, the women went to NCAA's as the overwhelming favorite and did not disappoint, defeating Oregon once again by 52 points to win the national title. Freshman Christine Babcock led the way with a 7th-place finish, followed by Schaaf (12th-place), sophomore Mel Lawrence (25th), junior Katie Follett (26th), senior Amanda Miller (35th), sophomore Lauren Saylor (41st), and senior Anita Campbell (51st). The top five all earned All-America honors, with Saylor just missing out by one-tenth of a second. Schaaf was named Pac-10 Athlete of the Year, a first ever for Washington, and Babcock was named Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year. Head coach Greg Metcalf swept the coaching awards, as he was named the Pac-10, West Regional, and National Coach of the Year.

BOASE READY FOR ENCORE: Few could have predicted the season that awaited Jordan Boase heading into 2008, when the two-time All-American in the 4x400m relay returned to the team after a year off from the sport. Even after Boase started the year by breaking the indoor school record in the 400-meters, and placing third at the NCAA Indoor Championships, he still remained something of an unknown nationally. That all changed at the Sun Angel Classic in April in Tempe, when Boase took over the NCAA lead with a school record 44.82, which was the second-fastest run in the world at the time. Boase would go on to battle USC's senior sprinter Lionel Larry, with Larry getting the edge for the Pac-10 title as both went under 45-seconds. The Bothell, Wash. native also ran the lead-off leg for UW's 4x100m relay, which won the Pac-10 title for the first time in program history, and qualified for nationals. At the national meet, Boase placed fourth in an extremely fast 400m final, running 44.83 despite having been limited in training by an injury. Boase went on to make the semifinals of the U.S. Olympic Trials, before a painful blister stopped him one race short of the final. But a fully healthy Boase is coming off another outstanding indoor season and will be hunting for his first national title outdoors this spring. Boase ran an indoor PR of 46.09 seconds to win his second straight MPSF 400-meter title, and headed to NCAA Indoors as one of the clear favorites. Boase won his preliminary heat with ease, but in the final he was assigned to the outside lane and just beaten to inside position when the lanes converged. Trapped in third, Boase had to slow down to move around one competitor, and was unable to track down the winner of the heat. The winner, Michael Bingham of Wake Forest, actually came out of the first heat, and Boase settled for third for the second straight year. With just one 400-meter race under his belt so far outdoors, Boase is fifth nationally with a time of 45.67 set in a victory at the Sun Angel Classic.

ABBOTT IN PERFECT POSITION FOR FINISHING KICK: The most decorated current Husky in terms of All-American honors this season is senior Austin Abbott, a native of Chehalis, Wash. who will go down as one of the greatest mid-distance runners in school history with a strong final season. Abbott has added to his legacy this this season by breaking the school mile record and submitting the second-best 1,500-meter time in school history outdoors. At the UW Last Chance Meet, in his final appearance in the Dempsey Indoor as a Husky, Abbott ran 3:58.23 to break the school record in the mile run. Abbott was already one of just three four-minute milers in Washington history, but he overtook the marks set by Eric Garner (3:58.93; 2002) and Greg Gibson (3:59.24; 1974) with a powerful finishing kick. Garner was running in the very same heat, competing for Brooks Eastside, and finished in 4:00.66. Gibson was also on hand to witness the record-setting run, and the three gathered for a photo after the race. Abbott has five All-America awards to his name, three coming as part of UW's distance medley relay, which placed fifth at NCAA's in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Abbott also took fourth in the 800-meters indoors in 2007. But following his best individual finish, Abbott was hampered by injury and only competed once on the track over the next year. It was not until the 2008 Pac-10 Championships that Abbott would get back to his old form, as he broke a longstanding personal-best in the 800, running 1:48.14 for a fourth-place finish. Abbott went on to the NCAA Outdoor Championships, where he placed seventh to earn his fifth All-American honor and first in more than a year. He focused on the 800-meters for the majority of this indoor season, and was ranked in the top-10 with an indoor PR of 1:48.56, but chose to run the mile at NCAA Indoors after his record-setting run. Abbott found himself out of his comfort zone at Nationals, up front and setting the pace rather than hanging back and waiting to kick, and he failed to make the final. However, Abbott bounced back in short time at the start of the outdoor season, as he won the top 1,500-meter race at the Stanford Invitational on March 27, running 3:41.62, which was the fastest performance by a Husky since Bruce Stirling set the school record of 3:39.89 in 1987. Abbott's time still ranks second in the NCAA this outdoor season.

2008 INDOOR IN REVIEW: The NCAA Indoor Championships on March 14 put the capper on another outstanding indoor track and field campaign for the Huskies. With six collegiate meets at UW's Dempsey Indoor facility, Washington was once again one of the focal points of the national indoor track scene. Many of the fastest times in America were turned in at the Dempsey, with Husky athletes contributing a good number themselves. A whopping 36 new times or marks were written into the UW indoor Top-10 lists this season, with seven new school records. Washington sent 12 athletes to the NCAA Indoor meet in College Station, Texas, and they returned to Seattle with nine All-America honors between them. UW's indoor All-Americans included: senior Jordan Boase, who took third in the 400m for the second straight year; Katie Follett who took fifth in the 3K; Elisa Bryant, eighth in the weight throw in her first NCAA meet; the eighth-place women's DMR comprised of Christine Babcock, Falesha Ankton, Kailey Campbell, and Follett; Jake Schmitt, ninth in the 5K to earn his first All-America award; and freshman Jeremy Taiwo, who was 12th in the heptathlon just three months into his college career. Both teams scored six points at Nationals, which put the men in a tie for 33rd and the women in a tie for 35th. Once again Washington played host to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships with the men placing sixth, though just four points out of second, and the women taking fifth, but only six points from third. UW earned four titles at the MPSFs, including Boase with a win in the 400m, Schmitt in the 5K, Taiwo in the heptathlon, and the women's distance medley relay. Highlighting the school record showings was senior Austin Abbott in the mile run. Abbott went 3:58.23 at the Last Chance Meet to break Eric Garner's school record, with Garner running in the same heat. Other records were set by Boase in the 400m (46.09), Taiwo in the heptathlon (5,559), Mel Lawrence in the 3K (9:08.50), Anita Campbell in the 5K (16:09.26), the women's DMR (11:05.80), and Bryant in the weight throw (65-8 3/4). The women's 3,000-meter list was the most drastically altered, as Lawrence, Follett, Anita Campbell, and Lauren Saylor ran the four fastest times in school history, respectively.

HEAD COACH Greg Metcalf: Former Husky All-American Greg Metcalf is in the midst of his seventh season as head of Washington's track and field program, and his 12th year overall on the staff, and remains the driving force behind UW's rise to national prominence. A native of Ephrata, Wash., Metcalf is just a few months away from capturing the program's first ever national team championship, as the 2008 Husky women's cross country team went undefeated to with the NCAA title. Metcalf earned Pac-10 and National Coach of the Year honors for his efforts, and also guided the men's cross country squad to 18th at nationals, its second Top-20 finish in the past three years. The track and field squads have also enjoyed a prolonged period of unprecedented success the past several years. The men finished in the Top-25 at six consecutive NCAA Championship meets from 2006-08, including consecutive Top-10 indoor finishes in 2007 and 2008. At the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships, UW placed 16th with its most points since the 1983 season. The men also won the MPSF Championships in both 2006 and 2007, and Metcalf was named conference coach of the year on both occasions. The women have also had four Top-25 NCAA finishes since 2005, and sent three team members to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1500-meters. Husky track and field individuals in Metcalf's tenure have combined for six NCAA titles, nine Pac-10 crowns and 145 NCAA Championships appearances, while breaking school records on 60 separate occasions. In addition to their athletic prowess, Metcalf's teams have been among the brightest at a school renowned for its high academic standards. His teams are eight-time recipients of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic honor, including the men's track team being named the 2008 Outdoor Scholar Team of the Year, and the 2008 National Champion women's cross country team being named National Women's Scholar Team of the Year. Six UW individuals have earned Academic All-America honors. Washington is the second head coaching position for Metcalf, who served in 1996-97 as the head cross country and assistant track coach at Auburn University. A four-time Academic All-Pac-10 honoree at Washington, Metcalf earned All-American honors at the 1992 and 1993 NCAA Championships. His best collegiate mark of 8:41.17 ranks fourth all-time among Husky steeplers. He also was a steeple finalist in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials.

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