Huskies Expand Their NCAA Roster In Austin Finale

May 29, 2010

Day Three Blog Rewind

AUSTIN, Texas - Three more Washington track athletes earned NCAA finals bids on the last day of the NCAA West Preliminaries, bringing their final tally of Eugene-bound qualifiers to 11. Seniors Katie Follett and Falesha Ankton stepped up on Saturday to extend their storied UW careers while freshman James Alaka capped off a demanding weekend with yet another thrilling finish.

The Huskies continued to outperform their seedings on Saturday as they had consistently done the previous two days. But despite some season-best efforts from Ankton, Alaka, and the men's 4x1 relay, Washington also was dealt some hard luck as senior Kailey Campbell and junior Colton Tully-Doyle were both tripped and knocked to the ground in their quarterfinals and were unable to finish.

Washington withstood the blazing-hot Texas days with aplomb, and will send seven men to compete in eight events at Oregon's Hayward Field, where the NCAA finals are held June 9-12. Four UW women will make the trip to compete in four events.

'I was incredibly proud of our effort from top to bottom this week,' said head coach Greg Metcalf. 'We managed the long days and the heat incredibly well. Every day we had people on our team setting PRs and beating people they were not supposed to beat. And every person moving on to Eugene does so feeling that they can still improve, and I believe that they can.'

Ankton's performance in the 100-meter hurdles was particularly memorable. The senior from Benicia, California came back for a fifth year after her 2009 season ended with her missing the finals at Pac-10s and Regionals by just one spot. She last competed at NCAAs in 2008, making the preliminary round. Ankton chose to return for a fifth year thinking she had unfinished business, and she took fifth at Pac-10s in a slight PR of 13.45 seconds.

In yesterday's prelims, Ankton hit an early hurdle and had to push hard to the finish to get through the first round. Assigned to the same lane for her quarterfinal heat, Ankton didn't let the same hurdle foil her twice, as she got out extremely well and was clean over the hurdles en route to a major career-best of 13.37 seconds. However that was fourth in her heat, and only the top-three automatically advance, so Ankton had to wait to see if she would earn one of three time qualifiers. Ankton sat on the infield of the track on a bench for discus throwers, and watched the last heat. One woman bumped her time down but it held up as the 12th-best time overall, sending her on to Eugene.

'I am on top of the world right now,' said a beaming Ankton. 'After last year I said I have to redeem myself. I have some unfinished business. This year it was all about outdoors. Every practice, every workout I've just been thinking about making nationals. When I crossed that finish line and I looked up and saw 13.37 I was jumping for joy because I thought even if that doesn't make it, that's a best for me and I can be happy ending my career on that note. But now I have another one and hopefully I can just keep punching the clock and keep moving.'

The women's 1,500-meter quarterfinals contained more drama than the Huskies would have liked. Senior Katie Follett, who owns the top time by a collegian this year, has endured digestive problems throughout the week and was feeling well under a hundred percent. But the seven-time All-American still had to take care of business and make the top-five in a loaded heat. Follett went to the lead from the very start and stayed there for all but the final 75-meters or so, when she clearly didn't have her usual kick but still was able to cruise in for third place in 4:19.36, which will send her on to her third-consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships.

'The race itself wasn't really that crazy. It was kind of what I was expecting. Really coming into the race it was just about being tough and competing and getting through to Eugene,' Follett said. 'I've had some weird digestive stuff going on for the last week that feels like there's a bunch of little plastic army people in my stomach fighting to get out after I eat. It's been painful but I've just been trying to keep food down and keep things under control. I've got two weeks to Eugene and I just want to get to feeling 100 percent.'

Follett chose to do the hard work of leading the pack in part because of what befell her teammate, Kailey Campbell, in the previous heat. Campbell was tripped up coming around a turn about halfway through the race and fell to the track. She got to her feet and continued on for another half lap but was 50 meters behind, and eventually she dropped out. Washington filed an appeal but it was ruled 'incidental contact.'

Events on the track did not start up until 6 p.m. local time, when the men's 4x100-meter relay lined up. Washington's group of Sam Rucker, James Alaka, Colton Dunn, and Ryan Hamilton had earned the 24th and final spot into Regionals with a top time of 40.53, but they literally wasted no time crushing that mark with a time of 40.14 that placed them 15th overall, much higher than their seeding. Their run was just 0.14 seconds short of the 12th and final spot to NCAAs, but considering Alaka and Dunn are just freshmen, and Rucker and Hamilton just sophomores, this is certainly a group that could do some damage in the next few seasons.

Alaka still had one more race to run in his sprint marathon after the relay. The London frosh had already run two heats of the 100-meter dash where he qualified for nationals on Friday, plus a 200-meter first round heat on Friday, and the morning's 4x1 leg. Now he was back to attempt to add to his workload in Eugene in the 200-meter quarters. Running on the outside in lane seven, Alaka came down the homestretch with a smooth stride and took third in his heat in a new PR of 20.71 seconds, successfully moving on once again to the finals at Oregon. He also moved up to seventh on the UW top-10 list with the effort.

In the men's 5,000-meters, it was an unfortunate moment of déjà vu for the Huskies as junior Colton Tully-Doyle went down around a turn with about four laps to go, getting tripped up just as Campbell had an hour before. Tully-Doyle had been running extremely well, moving onto the outside and up into the fifth spot out of the 24-man field, but he took a hard fall and was unable to continue. Again there was an appeal but again it was denied.

'We did have some unfortunate casualties today,' said Metcalf. 'Kailey and Colton came in with big expectations, they both put themselves in good positions and it's just a real shame because they've worked incredibly hard and had outstanding seasons.'

In the first heat of the 5k, sophomore Max O'Donoghue-McDonald turned in an outstanding effort, taking 10th in his heat and 21st overall in a time of 14:28.62. The time does not tell the full story of how well O'Donoghue-McDonald competed, as nobody was coming close to PRs in the heat and with the tactical runs. O'Donoghue-McDonald was at the very back of the pack for the first few laps, but never faded, and continued to move up all race long until winding up 10th. The sophomore was the second-to-last man in the 48-person field, yet beat out more than 20 runners seeded ahead of him.

Freshman triple jumper Shaniae Lakes kicked things off for the Huskies at two in the afternoon. Lakes, who set the freshman school-record earlier this year, fouled her first two attempts but came through with a strong final attempt to leap 40-feet, 10.25-inches and finish 26th. That was her second-best jump of the year and just two inches off her PR of 41-0 ¼. Lakes, a Richland, Wash. native, had struggled last time out at Pac-10s, but now ends her season on a positive note and should have big jumps ahead in the coming years.

Finally, freshman Lindsay Flanagan and sophomore Kayla Evans wrapped things up for the Huskies in the women's 5,000-meter run. Much like the men's race, it was a slow and tactical affair, and the young Huskies stayed with the pack for the first several laps but fell back when the pace increased. Flanagan took 19th in the second heat while Evans finished 20th.

The Huskies will now take their eleven athletes on a much shorter trip down to Eugene for the NCAA finals in less than two weeks time. The meet runs from June 9-12 at Oregon's Hayward Field.

Washington Qualifiers To The NCAA Championships In Eugene, Oregon
June 9-12 - Hayward Field - 24 competitors per event
James Alaka (100-meters; 200-meters)
Zack Midles (Hammer Throw)
Kyle Nielsen (Javelin Throw)
Scott Roth (Pole Vault)
Jeremy Taiwo (Decathlon)
Ryan Vu (Pole Vault)
Joe Zimmerman (Javelin Throw)

Falesha Ankton (100-meter Hurdles)
Anita Campbell (10,000-meters)
Katie Follett (1,500-meters)
Mel Lawrence (3,000-meter Steeplechase)

NCAA Track & Field West Preliminary Rounds
Austin, Texas - Mike A. Myers Stadium
Saturday, May 29, 2010

Men's Results (UW Only)
200-meters (Quarters; Top-12 To Eugene): 8. James Alaka, 20.71 (Advances To Eugene); 4x100-meter Relay (Top-12 To Eugene): 15. Washington (Rucker, Alaka, Dunn, Hamilton), 40.14 (Does Not Advance); 5,000-meters (Top-12 To Eugene): 21. Max O'Donoghue-McDonald, 14:28.62 (Does Not Advance); -- Colton Tully-Doyle, DNF (Does Not Advance).

Women's Results (UW Only)
100-meter Hurdles (Quarters; Top-12 To Eugene):
12. Falesha Ankton, 13.37 (Advances To Quarters); 1,500-meters (Quarters; Top-12 To Eugene): 6. Katie Follett, 4:19.36 (Advances To Eugene); -- Kailey Campbell, DNF (Does Not Advance); 5,000-meters (Top-12 To Eugene): 35. Lindsay Flanagan, 17:36.06 (Does Not Advance); 39. Kayla Evans, 17:46.63 (Does Not Advance); Triple Jump (Top-12 To Eugene): 26. Shaniae Lakes, 40-10 ¼ (Does Not Advance).

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