Now in his nineteenth year at Washington, veteran coach Pat Licari continues to churn out All-Americans on a yearly basis.
Licari Coaching Pole Vault
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Over the past 18 seasons, Licari has developed some of the nation's premier pole vaulters, including a two-time Olympian, three NCAA champions with six titles between them, eight Pac-12 champions combining for 10 titles, and 15 different All-Americans. American record-holder and World Championship gold medalist Brad Walker first rose to greatness under Licari’s tutelage.
Even with all his coaching success in the pole vault, the 2015 season may have been the greatest yet, as Washington dominated the Pac-12 Championships like never before, and three different Huskies made the NCAA podium. The men's and women's vaulters combined to score 51 points at the Pac-12 meet, with the men going 1-2-4-7, and the women sweeping the top-three spots plus adding seventh-place as well. Jax Thoirs successfully defended his Pac-12 title with a PR of 18-6 1/2, and Kristina Owsinski won her first Pac-12 title to go with two MPSF titles, while 2014 champ Diamara Planell Cruz took second. At the NCAA Indoor Championships, Thoirs and Planell Cruz each finished in fourth-place, and then at the NCAA Outdoor meet, it was Owsinski's turn, as she broke the school record with a 14-5 1/4 clearance to get the third fourth-place finish of the year for the Husky vaulters. All told, seven Husky vaulters qualified for the NCAA West Prelims, a program-best, including Lev Marcus, who made it to the NCAA Indoor meet as a redshirt freshman with a make of 17-11 1/4.
The 2014 season brought an historic first for Licari, as Washington swept the Pac-12 pole vault titles for the first time, a feat they would duplicate in 2015. Jax Thoirs won his first men’s title, the fourth different UW man to win the Pac-12 title in a six year span. Then Diamara Planell Cruz won the women’s title with a dramatic third-try make at 14-0 ½. Washington joined UCLA as the only schools to sweep the men’s and women’s vault titles in the same year.
Also in 2013, sophomore Kristina Owsinski won the MPSF title indoors for another big piece of hardware, and freshman Elizabeth Quick was third at Pac-12s. Thoirs and Planell Cruz each went on to compete at both the NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2014, the best finish of which was an eighth-place spot for Thoirs at the indoor meet to earn All-America First Team honors.
A 2013 graduate, Logan Miller reached new heights for a Husky women’s vaulter. In 2012, Miller vaulted to a school record and moved to seventh in Pac-12 history with a clearance of 14-4 ½ at the Pac-12 Championships, finishing second. Miller went over the 14-foot mark three times, including a vault of 14-3 ¼ at the NCAA Outdoor Championships which earned her fourth-place, best finish by a Husky since Kate Soma's 2005 NCAA title. Miller earned First Team All-America honors and competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She came back from a foot injury in 2013 to have her best meet of the year at NCAAs, clearing 13-9 ¼ to finish 12th and earn her third All-America honor.
J.J. Juilfs punctuated his first year with Licari by winning the 2012 Pac-12 Championship with a personal-best clearance of 17-10 ¼. Juilfs also made both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in 2012, earning All-America Second Team honors. That year saw freshmen Chris Williams and Thoirs go over 17-feet and reach the NCAA Prelims. Williams was the Pac-12 runner-up in his rookie season, and Thoirs set a Scottish record with an 18-0 ½ vault in the summer that he has since surpassed.
At the 2012 Olympic Trials, Licari enjoyed a watershed moment, as former Huskies Brad Walker and Scott Roth finished first and third, respectively. Walker qualified for his second U.S. Olympic Team, making the final in London. Roth, unfortunately, did not have the `A' standard so he did not make the trip, but it was his best finish at the U.S. national championships. Walker and Roth were also the two U.S. vault reps at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.
The 2011 campaign saw Roth cap off a remarkable career with his second and third national championships, as he won the NCAA title both indoors and outdoors in the pole vault. He became the first Husky since 1979 to win two titles in the same year, and his three career titles placed Roth second in UW history. Roth was a semifinalist for the Bowerman Award, and was the Tom Hansen Pac-12 Medal winner for Washington. He set the outdoor school record at 18-9 ¼, which was the second-best vault in all of 2011 by an American, and Roth finished with seven All-America honors.
Roth was not alone on the men's side in 2011. Senior Ryan Vu had only indoor eligibility remaining, but he made the most of it, qualifying for his first NCAA Indoor Championships and tying for 11th-place to earn All-America Second Team honors, the first of his career. Transfer Robby Fegles had just two years with Licari, but raised his PR to 17-2 ¾ in 2012 and took fourth at Pac-12s, and made NCAA Prelims both years.
In 2010, Roth took another step up among the nation's elite vaulters. He won every competition he entered during the indoor season, culminating with a victory at the NCAA Indoor Championships for his first national title, and the fourth overall for Licari vaulters. He also posted the top indoor vault by an American in 2010, clearing 18-9 ¼ to win the MPSF Championship. Roth went on to take third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Yet it was another Licari disciple who upset Roth to win the 2010 Pac-10 title, as Ryan Vu cleared a career-best 17-7 ¾ to take the win after Roth won in 2009. Vu qualified for his first career NCAA meet in his final outdoor season, tying for 11th overall.
Roth won his Pac-10 Championship in 2009 with a season-best clearance of 18-4 ½ and followed that with a West Regional title. He then went on to place second at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to earn his third All-America honor. Roth's fantastic summer ended with an eighth-place finish at the U.S. Track Championships.
Licari's successes in 2009 stretched far beyond Roth. In fact, Roth was just one of a trio of Husky men that cleared 17-6 in the vault. Senior Jared O'Connor went over 17-7 and made the NCAA Outdoor final for the second year in a row, while junior Ryan Vu had a big breakthrough, PRing by a foot at the UW-WSU dual and making his first Regionals.
Still, the best story from 2009 may have been Andrea Peterson on the women's side. Peterson brought a personal-best of 12-8 into her senior season, but made Regionals for the first time in her final year, and then at the Regional meet she PR'd by seven inches, clearing 13-9 ¾ to take second and make her first NCAA meet.
The 2008 season brought similar surprise successes. Indoors, senior Kelley DiVesta continued to improve all the way through her final national meet, as she set a lifetime-best at NCAA Indoors of 13-9 ¼ to earn her first All-American honor, placing seventh. In one of the year's best moments, Jared O'Connor raised his PR by nearly a foot at the final two outdoor meets, winning the NCAA West Regional title and then finishing in a tie for second at the NCAA Championships.
Roth broke onto the scene for the first time in 2007. Licari coached the freshman to All-American honors both indoors (11th) and outdoors (8th), and Roth won gold at the 2007 Pan-American Junior Championships in São Paulo, Brazil. Roth's best indoor jump of 18-1 ¾ broke the UW freshman indoor record set by Walker.
Licari guided Walker to back-to-back NCAA indoor titles in 2003 and 2004, and a collegiate-best clearance of 19-0 1/4 that is a Pac-10 record, and the sixth-best mark ever by a collegiate vaulter. Licari continued to train Walker during the latter's professional career, guiding the former Husky to gold medals at the 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships and 2007 IAAF World Outdoor Championships. Walker is now a nine-time U.S. champion, most recently winning the 2013 outdoor title, then going on to take fourth at the 2013 World Outdoor Championships. In June of 2008, Walker cleared 19-9 ¾ at the Prefontaine Classic to break the American record which had stood for eight years. Walker has represented the U.S.A. at the Beijing and London Olympic Games.
Washington in 2005 became the first school in America to qualify four women's vaulters for the NCAA Championships, doing so both indoors and out. Senior Kate Soma won the NCAA title outdoors -- Licari's third NCAA champion in as many years -- and was the national runner-up indoors, earning the fourth and fifth All-America honors of her collegiate career.
Carly Dockendorf (sixth outdoors) and Ashley Wildhaber (fifth indoors) also earned All-America honors at the NCAA meet, while Stevie Marshalek and Kelley DiVesta each earned NCAA Championships berths. Dockendorf was a converted gymnast who climbed into the top-10 in Canadian history after less than one full calendar year of work with Licari. Dockendorf earned the bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Canada. All five women's vaulters topped the 13-foot mark in 2005 -- a feat never before accomplished by any women's collegiate vault unit -- while Soma's collegiate-best vault of 14-3 1/2 ranked seventh in collegiate history.
Walker first entered elite status in 2002, when he won his first of two-straight Pac-10 titles, was runner-up at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and placed sixth at the U.S.A Championships. His first All-America honor had come in 2001 when he placed seventh at NCAA Indoors. Licari's first pole vault All-American was Matt Phillips, who placed eighth at Outdoor Nationals in 2000, clearing 17-4 ½.
Licari Coaching Jumps
Licari has also had great success with his jumpers, most notably coaching 2008 grad Norris Frederick into one of the most decorated dual threat jumpers in the nation. In 2008, Frederick was the only athlete in the NCAA who was an All-American in both the long jump and high jump, and he did that both indoors and out. That brought Frederick's All-America total to nine, tied for second-most ever at Washington. Frederick also set personal-bests in both events, and his 26-foot, 7 ¾-inch long jump to win the MPSF title was a school record. He went on to compete in the Olympic Trials in 2008 and again in 2012, where he finished fifth overall.
While making his name as one of the best decathletes in the country, Jeremy Taiwo also developed into one of the best high jumpers in school history in 2013. Having never before cleared the seven-foot mark, Taiwo announced the big year to come with a make of 7-4 ½ during a heptathlon indoors in Boise, setting a World Record for a heptathlon high jump. Taiwo would compete only in the high jump at NCAA Indoors in 2013, earning All-America Second Team honors. Taiwo would clear seven-feet several times outdoors, going 7-1 ½ in the decathlon at NCAAs as he finished as the runner-up.
Along with Taiwo, Licari coached A.J. Maricich to All-America honorable mention in the high jump in 2012. Maricich emerged as one of the Pac-12's best, as he tied for second at the 2012 Pac-12 Championships and went on to make his first NCAA Outdoors. He cleared a PR of 7-2 ½ at 2012 West Prelims.
Working along with volunteer assistant Eric Metcalf in the horizontal jumps, Licari’s athletes have developed into Pac-12 contenders. Kasen Covington won the first Pac-12 triple jump title in Washington history in 2013, and he followed that with an MPSF title in 2014, where he broke the UW indoor record with a mark of 51-6 ½. Another great Pac-12 triple jump effort came from Shaniae Lakes in 2012, as she finished second by a mere quarter of an inch. Lakes broke the old school record on four of six attempts that day, with a best of 43-3 ¼ that crushed her old PR and the old school record.
In 2010, Lakes broke the women's freshman record in the triple jump, going 41-0 ¼ and reaching West Prelims. 2009 was highlighted by Kelly McNamee in the high jump, as she placed 12th at the NCAA Indoor Championships. McNamee would be a two-time Pac-12 scorer and two-time NCAA Prelims competitor in the high jump.
In 2005, J.R. Wolfork was an NCAA long jumper qualifier and Frederick and Warren Eickhoff became the first Husky duo to top seven feet in the high jump since 1989.
Licari Coaching Multis
Licari also handles the all-around talents on the Husky squad, the decathletes and heptathletes, along with volunteer assistant coach Atanas Atanassov. The two helped develop Jeremy Taiwo into one of the top talents in the NCAA and the country. Taiwo capped his great career with an NCAA runner-up finish in the decathlon in 2013, then he went on to take third at the USA Championships and earn a spot on Team USA at the IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia.
As a senior, Taiwo became the No. 8 decathlon performer in NCAA history with a huge PR of 8,239 points at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene. That score was also the seventh-best decathlon score ever at NCAAs, but one of the top-six happened to be from Texas’ Johannes Hock, who edged Taiwo by 28 points for the win. Taiwo’s indoor season was highlighted by a World Record for the heptathlon high jump that he broke at the Boise State Team Challenge with a clearance of 7-4 ½ en route to a school record heptathlon score of 6,156 points. The record would be broken not long after, but his overall heptathlon score made him the No. 7 performer in U.S. history and No. 3 in NCAA history.
Taiwo became Washington's first Pac-10 Decathlon Champion in 25 years in 2011, as he scored a career-best 7,742 points despite throwing the javelin with his non-dominant left hand due to an injury. Taiwo picked up his second and third career All-America honors in 2011, placing eighth in the heptathlon at NCAA Indoors and 15th in the decathlon at NCAA Outdoors.
Jacob Predmore was UW's last multi-event All-American before Taiwo, as he was seventh in the decathlon at the 2000 NCAA Outdoor Championships with 7,426 points.
In all, Licari's athletes have combined for six NCAA titles, 12 Pac-12 titles, and 52 All-America awards during his 18 years at UW.
Licari was head cross country and track coach at Highline Community College from 1991-96 before coming to the UW in 1997.
A native of Sumner, Wash., Licari was a prep All-American and state pole vault champion at Sumner High School, and earned All-Pac-10 honors in the event at Washington State.
Licari has two daughters, Katelin and Madison.