Pac-10 Titles Up For Grabs In Berkeley

May 13, 2010

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ON THE TRACK: Conference titles are on the line this weekend as the Husky track and field team visits Cal's Edwards Stadium for the 2010 Pac-10 Championships. The meet runs this Saturday and Sunday and will crown individual champions as well as Pac-10 team champions. Pac-10s mark the start of postseason and three critical weekends for Husky track, with the NCAA Preliminary Rounds coming up in two weeks with the NCAA Championships now less than a month away.

This is the 80th running of the Pac-10 Championships for the men and the 24th all-time for the women. Dozens of Pac-10 athletes will also be among the favorites to claim national titles in their respective events. The Husky men are ranked 20th in the latest USTFCCCA rankings, one of five Pac-10 men's teams in the top-25. Oregon is No. 2, USC and Arizona State are sixth and seventh, and Stanford ranks 14th. The Oregon women are also the favorites at No. 3 in the nation, followed by No. 12 USC and No. 16 UCLA. Saturday's action begins at 10 a.m. with the men's hammer throw; track events start at 1 p.m. On Sunday, field events start at 9:15 a.m. and the running again starts at 1 p.m.

Washington won five individual Pac-10 titles last season, its most since 1998, and four of those athletes are back entered in the same events this season. Seven-time All-American senior Katie Follett will be looking for a rare three-peat in her final conference meet. She has won the past two 1,500-meter titles, but only this year does she come in as the true favorite, as she leads the NCAA with a time of 4:10.66. Only one other woman in Pac-10 history was won three-straight 1,500-meter titles, that was USC's Grazyna Penc in 1996-98.

Junior Scott Roth will be the heavy favorite to repeat in the men's pole vault. He has the top mark in the conference this season with an outdoor clearance of 18-0 1/2 and also has gone as high as 18-9 1/4 indoors this year. Roth won the NCAA Indoor Championship back on March 12 and this weekend will be his only chance to chase the bars he has targeted until the NCAA Championships. Brad Walker was the last Husky to defend his Pac-10 title in the vault.

UW's two remaining defending champs will both be competing in their respective events for the first time all season, making for a very critical race for each as they will also need to run strong times this weekend to advance to the NCAA preliminary rounds. Sophomore Mel Lawrence, the Pac-10 Track Newcomer of the Year in 2009 and the Pac-10 record-holder in the steeplechase, will be steepling for the first time this year, and competing for the first time since a hip injury sidelined her after the Stanford Invitational at the end of March. Last season Lawrence broke the Pac-10 meet record to win the steeple in 9:54.13. Senior Anita Campbell dominated the Pac-10 10k last year, winning by more than a full minute over second-place, but she has yet to run a 10k this year and has been working herself into form after some nagging injuries. Both Lawrence and Campbell took third at the NCAA Championships in their events last year, but both will need good performances this weekend to have a shot at returning to Nationals.

Several other Huskies will be among the favorites to take home their first Pac-10 titles. Freshman James Alaka has the top time in the conference in the 200-meter dash (20.87) and the No. 2 time at 100-meters (10.22). No Husky has won a sprint title shorter than 400-meters since Ja'Warren Hooker in 2000, though UW did win the 4x100m relay in 2008, featuring current sophomore Ryan Hamilton.

The javelin will be a big event for UW on both the men's and women's sides. Junior Kyle Nielsen is ranked third in the NCAA and one of the two men ahead of him is Oregon senior Cyrus Hostetler. Freshman Joe Zimmerman is also seeded sixth in his first Pac-10 meet. For the women, junior All-American Brooke Pighin will vie for her first Pac-10 title. She ranks fourth coming in and 10th in the NCAA.

Colton Tully-Doyle and Jake Schmitt are two of 14 men who have gone under 14-minutes in the 5k and will be competing for points in a loaded field. Schmitt will also be among the favorites in the 10k, where he has made NCAAs the past two years. For the women, senior All-American Kailey Campbell was a finalist at both 800- and 1,500-meters last year and will focus just on the 1,500 this year. A number of UW's talented distance women could also double back in the 5k. Lawrence and Campbell were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 5k last year even after picking up individual wins one day prior.

Coming off a PR at the Ken Shannon Invite, senior Ryan Vu should contend for a podium spot along with Roth in the pole vault. Fellow senior Zack Midles has posted two-straight third-place finishes at Pac-10s in the men's hammer and will give it his all this weekend to take home a title.

Leading the women's sprints efforts will be senior Falesha Ankton, competing close to her hometown of Benicia, Calif. for her final Pac-10 appearance. Ankton made the finals two years ago but barely missed out in 2009 so she will be looking to contribute some points once again and shoot for a top-three finish. Junior Dominique Lauderdale is also coming off huge season-bests from the WSU dual and would give the women a big boost with a finals appearance in the 100- and 200-meters.

TAIWO GIVES UW A LEG UP AFTER DECATHLON: Washington is already in second-place on the men's side thanks to the efforts of sophomore Jeremy Taiwo, who set a huge PR to take second in the decathlon at last weekend's Pac-10 Multi-Event Championships, also in Berkeley. Taiwo amassed 7,521 points over the two days, and finished with a dominating win in the 1,500-meters. His score is the fourth-best in UW history and best in 24 years. It also moves him up to 10th in the NCAA this year. Taiwo had wins in the high jump at 6-8 and dominated the 1,500-meters by 10 seconds, winning in 4:17.57, a PR by 13-seconds. He also took second in the 100m dash (11.10), 100m hurdles (14.54), and discus (136-0). Junior Andrew Ferleman was 11th in the decathlon. In the women's heptathlon, first time competitors Sarah Schireman and Lindsey Kirschman were ninth and tenth, both posting new career-bests. Schireman, a freshman, scored 4,623, the eighth-best mark in UW history, while Kirschman, a junior, had 4,382.

NEW NCAA QUALIFYING FORMAT: Athletes, coaches, and fans will be dealing with a new format this year for NCAA Championships qualifying and competition. The old system with four regional sites sending five auto qualifiers apiece to the national meet has been tossed out.This year, descending order lists will be the focal point, similar to the NCAA Indoor Championships, though for the outdoor meet there will be no set qualifying standard whatsoever. Hitting a certain mark will not guarantee anything, but will place an athlete on a massive region-wide descending order list. And this year there are just two 'regions', West and East. Then based on set field sizes for each event, the top athletes in the west will head to Austin, Texas and the best in the east will meet at Greensboro, North Carolina for what are essentially the NCAA preliminary rounds. Athletes will need to qualify through those two large meets to move on to Eugene, Oregon and the final site of the NCAA Championships. For most individual events, there will be 48 qualifiers at each preliminary round site, while there will be 24 relay teams at each location. Multi-events are the only events that will still qualify directly to Eugene based on top scores.

LAST YEAR AT PAC-10s - HUSKIES COLLECT FIVE PAC-10 TITLES: Washington athletes turned in a slew of historical performances at the 2009 Pac-10 Championships at Oregon's Hayward Field, with five athletes taking conference crowns, the most since UW also won five titles in 1998. Sophomore Scott Roth started things off with a dominant win in the pole vault. He set a new PR of 18-4 1/2, the second-best vault in the NCAA this year and second-best in UW history. Then UW's women's distance stars claimed the spotlight with runaway wins of their own. Redshirt freshman Mel Lawrence won the steeplechase in a Pac-10 meet record time of 9:54.13, more than 20 seconds ahead of the runner-up. The former meet record belonged to then-Husky assistant coach Kelly Strong from her days at Arizona State. Shortly thereafter, junior Anita Campbell claimed her first Pac-10 title in the 10,000-meters, crushing the field by a full minute. The next day UW added two more titles. Senior Jordan Boase rolled to a win in the 400-meter dash in 45.64 seconds, then junior Katie Follett successfully defended her Pac-10 1,500m title, edging Stanford's Alicia Follmar at the line by 0.04 seconds. Follett becomes the first Husky woman ever to win back-to-back Pac-10 titles in any event. The wins for Boase and Lawrence were also the first ever for Washington in those events. The Husky women had not won a conference title in a running event from 2002-07, but now have earned four in the past two years. Other performances of note included third-place finishes for junior Zack Midles in the hammer throw and freshman Christine Babcock in the 800-meters. Jared O'Connor was fourth in the pole vault, and Kyle Nielsen took fourth in the javelin. In the women's throws, Elisa Bryant was fifth in the women's hammer as was Brooke Pighin in the javelin. Freshman Jeremy Taiwo had a tremendous third-place finish in the decathlon one week earlier, scoring 7,299 points.

HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: The Husky men moved up two spots to a season-best 20th this week in the USTFCCCA team rankings. Washington received a boost in the latest number crunching from senior Ryan Vu, who moved up to 12th in the NCAA in the pole vault with his PR of 17-7 from this past Saturday. They also tacked on some new points thanks to Jeremy Taiwo's efforts in the decathlon at the Pac-10 Multis, as he also has moved up to 10th with a PR of 7,521 points. The Husky women currently come in at No. 42. Looking at the individual rankings, senior Katie Follett is the NCAA leader at 1,500-meters after her school-record 4:10.66 from the Mt. SAC Relays two weeks back. The men have a pair in the top-three in their respective events, as junior Kyle Nielsen is third in the javelin at 247-1 and junior Scott Roth is third in the pole vault with a best clearance of 18-0 1/2. Also ranking in the Top-25 nationally for the women is junior Brooke Pighin in the javelin at 10th. For the men, freshman James Alaka is 10th at 100-meters, freshman Joe Zimmerman is 17th in the javelin, senior Jake Schmitt is 20th in the 10k, and senior Zack Midles is 22nd in the hammer.

LAST TIME OUT: The Husky track and field team enjoyed a picture perfect afternoon at Husky Stadium for Saturday's Ken Shannon Invitational, and the Huskies warmed up with dozens of season and career bests. Senior Ryan Vu proved that the winds in off Lake Washington are perfect for his personal sails as he soared to a new lifetime-best in the pole vault, clearing 17-feet, 7-inches with ease. The clearance ties the Interlake grade for eighth on the UW all-time top-10 list, and also moves him up to 12th on this year's NCAA descending order list. On the track, sophomore Ryan Styrk picked up the win in the 800-meter run, clocking 1:51.43, while freshman Michael Miller cut nearly a second off his PR to take second in 1:51.97. Redshirt freshman Rob Webster Jr. had the best 5k of his young career, as he took second overall in 14:32.56, which is 15 seconds faster than he ran one month ago at the Pepsi Team Invite. One impressive win came from true freshman Dan Sanders as he lowered his PR in the 400m hurdles to 54.35 while junior Miles Timpe was close behind in 54.59. Redshirt freshman Greg Drosky also clocked a PR in the steeplechase, taking second in 9:18.79. In the jumps, redshirt frosh Clayton Johnson continues to improve by leaps and bounds in the triple jump, as he PR'd with a mark of 48-feet, 9-inches that was tops among collegiate competitors. That was a full foot beyond his previous PR. All-American Kyle Nielsen went 239-6 to win the javelin throw despite taking just four throws. Moving over to the women's action, sophomore Jordan Carlson got the win in the 200-meter dash in a PR of 25.11 despite running into a 1.9-meter headwind and freshman Justine Johnson had a strong season-best at 800-meters, taking second in 2:13.01. Senior Syreeta Martin was second in the 400-meter hurdles in her final Husky Stadium appearance, clocking 1:02.55. Sophomore Kelly Mudlo and freshman Logan Miller both cleared 12-4 in the pole vault, which matches Miller's best and was a new season-high for Mudlo. Yet another true freshman, Shaniae Lakes, earned the triple jump victory with a best of 39-10 ½ while senior Nicole Vielma showed she's not done improving as she had a PR of 39-3 ¾. In the throws, senior Korede Oyetuga made her last discus throw in Husky Stadium the best of her career, as she tossed 144-feet, 11-inches to get the win in a new PR. In the javelin, junior Brooke Pighin got in a good tune-up for the Pac-10 meet with a solid toss of 159-11, about eight feet off her season-best.

FOLLETT AND PIGHIN TAKE PAC-10 WEEKLY AWARDS: A pair of Husky All-Americans have added Pac-10 Athlete of the Week honors to their long list of achievements this season. Brooke Pighin earned the honor for the week of April 5-11 and Katie Follett was named AOW for April 12-18. Pighin is the first women's thrower to earn the award since three-time Olympian Aretha (Hill) Thurmond. Pighin took the javelin title at the Pepsi Team Invitational April 10. She threw a season-best 166-feet, 10-inches, and no other competitor from Oregon, Texas A&M, or Missouri was within 10 feet of her winning mark, which came on her second attempt. Follett won the Mt. SAC Relays 1,500-meter invitational on Friday April 16 in a school-record time of 4:10.66. Follett lowered her already-impressive personal-best by more than four seconds in what turned into a duel with fellow Seattle-resident Jessica Pixler of Seattle Pacific. Pixler led for most of the race, before Follett passed her on the inside down the homestretch for the victory. Follett's time was the fastest by an American woman this year, and the second-fastest mark in the world. She took the NCAA lead by more than two seconds. The Fort Collins, Colorado native moved past UW legends such as Regina Joyce (PR of 4:12.84) and 2006 NCAA Champion Amy Lia (4:14.63), and broke the record of 4:10.93 held by 2003 grad Courtney Inman.

FOLLETT ADDED TO BOWERMAN AWARD WATCH LIST: Husky senior Katie Follett was added to The Bowerman women's watch list The Bowerman Women's Watch Committee announced on May 5. The award honors the top male and female athletes in collegiate track and field. Follett currently leads the NCAA in the 1,500-meters with a time of 4:10.66. The Bowerman is in its second year of existence and is awarded each year to the top male and female collegiate athletes in the sport, similar to college football's Heisman Trophy. Follett is now one of ten women in the NCAA on the main watch list, with another 23 athletes falling in the 'also receiving mention' category. The Fort Collins, Colo. native is the first Husky ever on the watch list, just a another in a long line of 'firsts' for Follett, who ran to the school-record in the 1,500-meters in a win at the Mt. SAC Relays on April 17. Her time is the best in Division I by over two seconds and is the fifth-best in world this year. She earned Pac-10 Athlete of the Week honors for the performance. Earlier this season Follett posted her best NCAA finish as she placed second in the mile run at the NCAA Indoor Championships, earning the seventh All-America honor of her track and cross country career. She broke the UW mile record indoors as well, running 4:34.98, and was named West Region Track Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Follett's career accomplishments have been unprecedented at Washington. She is the first woman ever to earn three All-America honors in cross country, and set a record with four All-America awards in indoor track, giving her seven altogether. In 2008, she was the fourth finisher, 26th overall, on UW's NCAA Champion cross country team and was part of UW's historic 1-6 Pac-10 sweep that season as well. She will be going for her third-straight Pac-10 title at 1,500-meters, something only one other woman in Pac-10 history has done. Her 4:10.66 time ranks fourth in Pac-10 history at 1,500-meters. She ranks in UW's top-10 in seven different events with records in the mile, 1,500-meters, and distance medley relay.

ROTH REACHES RARE AIR: 2010 is more than a third of the way over, and Scott Roth remains the top American pole vaulter for the year. In a sport that lends itself easily to metaphor, Roth has taken an already impressive career to dizzying new heights this season, winning his first NCAA Championship indoors and leading the U.S. with his mark of 18-9 1/4 that he set in the Dempsey Indoor while winning the MPSF title. Roth came into 2010 with three All-America honors already to his credit. He won his first Pac-10 title with ease last season, and followed with a West Regional victory. Roth then finished as the runner-up at NCAA Outdoors to Jason Colwick of Rice and ended his season placing eighth at the U.S. Championships. Still, that season was essentially a comeback year following a year away from competition to heal a chronic back injury. Now in 2010 with a long stretch of training in the bank, Roth has continued his ascension. He was undefeated during the indoor season, including a win at the National Pole Vault Summit over Colwick. Roth and Colwick figured to battle at NCAA Indoors, and that came to fruition as they traded bars in Fayetteville, Ark. in March. This time around it was Roth who came out on top with a clutch third-attempt clearance of 18-4 1/4 to earn his first NCAA title. It was the fourth title for assistant coach Pat Licari who mentors Roth, as U.S. Olympian Brad Walker won back-to-back indoor vault titles in 2003 and 2004 and Kate Soma was victorious outdoors in 2005. Roth credits his father, Curt, a former vaulter himself, for starting his love of the sport, and Licari for taking him the rest of the way. So far this outdoor season Roth has been short of his personal-bests, but remains third in the NCAA with an 18-foot clearance. He certainly has the ability to overtake Walker's outdoor school-record of 18-6 1/2 before season's end.

CANADIANS LEAD JAVELIN CORPS: At the 2009 NCAA Championships, two Husky Canadians became All-Americans, as Kyle Nielsen placed sixth in the men's javelin and Brooke Pighin was seventh on the women's side. The coinciding achievement was no surprise to them as they'd spent the early part of their careers together in British Columbia training side by side with Nielsen's father as coach. This year both are again in the hunt for Pac-10 and NCAA titles, but the javelin unit as a whole is on the rise with a number of talented freshmen in the mix. Joe Zimmerman out of Spokane is one of the top newcomers in the NCAA, and his top throw of 228-1 ranks 17th in the nation, and third in the NCAA among all freshmen. Zimmerman was the Washington State 4A Champion in 2009, and second-place went to Jimmy Brookman of Redmond, who has also thrown 207-feet this season. Washington, Oregon, and BYU are the only schools with multiple javelin throwers in the top-20. Nielsen is currently third overall with a PR of 247-1, and he continues to close in on the school record of 249-6 set by Darryl Roberson back in 1989. Pighin is currently 10th on the NCAA list, and freshmen Ally Mueller and Jordin Seekins have both thrown 136-3 this season, which ties for seventh on the UW top-10 list with the new implement.

CAMPBELLS LOOKING TO PEAK FOR POSTSEASON: Two of Washington's most accomplished seniors will be finishing up their track careers in the coming weeks, hopefully with appearance in the finals of the NCAA Championships. And while Anita Campbell and Kailey Campbell are not related in the usual sense, they each have played huge roles in UW's recent distance dominance, and both are now looking to round into form just in time for the championships season. Anita Campbell is the defending Pac-10 Champion at 10,000-meters, winning by over a full minute in 2009, but has not run a 10k since she placed third at the NCAA Championships last year to earn her first track All-America honor. Campbell had exhausted her cross country and indoor track eligibility but came back for her final outdoor season. Unfortunately she had some aches and pains over the winter and has been working hard to reach her All-American form in time to make it to Eugene. This weekend's Pac-10 Championships will be her first 10k of the year. She showed positive signs with a 16:17.85 time in the 5k at Mt. SAC, and then won the 3k against Washington State by 17 seconds. The Vancouver, B.C. native ranks in UW's top-10 in five events, was a two-time First Team All-Pac-10 runner in cross country and helped lead UW to the 2008 NCAA Cross Country title. Running slightly shorter distances, Kailey Campbell has also been battling back after an injury during the indoor season. Kailey made her first NCAA Outdoor Championships last year in the 1,500-meters, and also earned All-America honors indoors as part of UW's distance medley relay. She opened her outdoor season at Stanford with a time of 4:20.32 that should easily get her to Austin for the first rounds, but Campbell is still working hard to get back to and surpass her PR of 4:18.43. Campbell exhibited a new level of fitness in the fall, as she was one of UW's top-five cross country runners for the first time in her career, highlighted by a fourth-place finish at the NCAA West Regional meet.

NEW DAWGS MOVE INTO THE DEMPSEY: Washington's freshman class has provided a huge lift in a number of critical areas throughout both the indoor and outdoor seasons. London's James Alaka has made the biggest splash, as he has already staked his claim as UW's best short sprinter since 10-time All-American Ja'Warren Hooker. Alaka heads to the Pac-10 Championships ranked second in the conference in the 100m (10.32) and first in the 200m (20.87). The 100-meter time is fifth in school history, and he has also posted a wind-aided 10.22. Joe Zimmerman is also well on his way to the NCAA first round in Austin in the javelin, as he ranks 17th in the nation with a season-best of 228-1. Close behind is Jimmy Brookman, who has tossed the spear 207-9. Zimmerman and Brookman went 1-2 at the Washington state meet as seniors. Shaniae Lakes of Richland, Wash. has immediately given the Huskies a boost in the triple jump, where she broke the freshman record with a mark of 41-0 1/4 that ranks third in school history. Newcomer Julian Bardwell has been the team's best long jumper outdoors, measuring 23-3 1/4. Illinoisan Lindsay Flanagan, the only freshman to run in UW's top-seven during the fall, took ninth in the 5k at MPSFs, running a time of 16:48.71 that ranks seventh in school history and then PR'd outdoors with a time of 16:38.21. Flanagan also competed on the U.S. Junior Team at the NACAC Cross Country Championships in Tobago, finishing sixth overall and third among Team USA. Justine Johnson of British Columbia came up less than a second shy of an NCAA Provisional mark in the mile indoors, as she ran 4:47.90 at the UW Final Qualifier. Newcomer Sarah Schireman of Everett has shown a ton of talent in the multis, and turned in the eighth-best heptathlon in school history at Pac-10s, scoring 4,623 points for ninth. Logan Miller of Reno, Nev. vaulted her way into the UW indoor top-10 list with a clearance of 12-9 1/2 at the UW Indoor Open. A former 2A state champion, Shayne Moore of Blaine, Wash. shows great promise in the short hurdles as he set a huge 60m hurdles PR at the Indoor Open with a time of 8.15 that ranks 9th on the top-10 list. James Cameron, UW's top freshman during the cross country season, capped off his indoor season with an excellent mile time of 4:06.99. Freshman walk-on Dan Sanders leads the team in the 400m hurdles with a time of 54.35, and Bryce Borer of Mercer Island cleared 16-feet in the vault indoors. Ally Mueller and Jordin Seekins, two rookie javelin throwers, have both tossed an identical 136-3, which ranks them seventh in UW history.

HEAD COACH Greg Metcalf: Former Husky All-American Greg Metcalf is in the midst of his eighth season as head of Washington's track and field program, and his 13th year overall on the staff, and remains the driving force behind UW's rise to national prominence. Metcalf, also the head cross country coach, led the women's cross country team to the National Championship in 2008, the first team title for a UW track program. The women went undefeated and Metcalf earned Pac-10 and National Coach of the Year honors. This past fall the women were third at NCAAs and Metcalf repeated as the Pac-10's top coach. The men's cross country squad has also reached NCAAs in five of the past seven years with three Top-20 finishes since 2006. The track and field squads have also enjoyed a prolonged period of unprecedented success the past several years. The men have finished in the Top-25 at eight of the last nine NCAA Championship meets, including consecutive Top-10 indoor finishes in 2007 and 2008. At the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the men placed 20th while the women were 19th. At the end of the year, Washington was one of six programs to place both its men's and women's teams in the 2008-09 USTFCCCA Program of the Year Top-10 standings, which measures combined NCAA Championship results across cross country, indoor, and outdoor track. Men's track 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 five 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 seven NCAA titles, 16 Pac-10 crowns and 164 NCAA Championships appearances, while breaking school records on 72 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 USTFCCCA All-Academic honor, including the men's team being named the 2008 Outdoor Scholar Team of the Year, and six UW individuals have earned Academic All-America. 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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