FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Washington increased its NCAA final site party size to ten tonight at the University of Arkansas, as four more Dawgs made it through the huge West Preliminary fields. Three women earned return trips to Eugene: Gianna Woodruff and Kayla Stueckle in the 400-meter hurdles, and Liberty Miller in the steeplechase. And junior Derrick Daigre continued to roll at 800-meters, reaching his first national semifinal.
Six Huskies advanced on day one, and UW will look to continue to add on when the meet wraps up tomorrow. The West Prelims trim the top 48 athletes in every individual track and field event on the western half of the country down to a final 12 that moves on to Oregon’s Hayward Field for the final one or two rounds on June 11-14.
Woodruff and Stueckle have swapped PRs and top finishes over the last two years, so it was only fitting that they ran nearly identical times in the same heat, separated by just four thousandths of a second, to both advance to the final site today. In the second of three quarterfinal heats, Woodruff came on strong late in the middle of the track to lean across in 57.713 seconds for third, which just edged Stueckle out in lane eight who crossed in 57.717 seconds. Only Woodruff knew she was in, Stueckle had to wait for the final heat, but she ended up with the fastest of the three time qualifiers, and the eighth-fastest time of the day.
Two weeks ago, it looked like Stueckle might have been out of potential PRs, as a foot issue contributed to her running two of her slowest 400m hurdles times of the year at Pac-12s, where she placed just eighth. But the senior showed her level of determination today, going out hard and running the fastest race of her career when it mattered most. Woodruff’s previous PR was 57.72, so she matched that today, and Stueckle now ties her for third on the UW top-10 list. Woodruff will also now get a chance to actually compete at NCAAs, as she qualified last year but then was diagnosed with a stress fracture and had to miss the meet every athlete works for.
“Pac-12s was definitely just an off-weekend across the board, and it was more mental. I knew I had it in me and my training’s been awesome. It was just me having to be able to mentally bounce back,” Stueckle said. “Coming here knowing that I’m capable, I got myself through the first round, and I think just coming into today I knew that I had to put it together, I had one last shot at this, and my season’s not over yet, so off we go!”
Said Woodruff, “It’s definitely really amazing to be able to make it again (and show) that last year wasn’t a fluke. To be able to actually run … I’m going to run this time! There are no words, it’s just a great feeling.”
For the second straight day, Derrick Daigre and Brad Whitley were battling it out at 800-meters, with a spot in Eugene on the line. Both were in the third and final quarterfinal heat. Daigre, the Pac-12 Champion, settled into second-place over the first lap with Whitley, the fifth-year senior, right behind in third. The pack came up behind and the two Huskies dropped back into it. Daigre found himself boxed in on the rail in about fifth-place around the final turn. Making a cut to the outside lane, the Kent, Wash. native got himself space to charge ahead and he got the third auto qualifying spot in the heat, running a new lifetime-best of 1:48.03 in the process that moves him all the way up to No. 4 all-time at UW.
“When you win the Pac-12 Championship you start to question what can you not do?” said Daigre afterwards. “You really trust in your training and believe everything your coach is telling you. When he says I can run 1:47 or 1:46 one day I really believe that. Winning the Pac-12 meet really boosts your confidence as it would anyone, so I feel there’s nothing really I can’t do right now, and I’m trusting my body and my practice and ability.”
Whitley saw his storybook late season run come to a close, as he was sixth in the heat, and 16th overall, in 1:49.74, just four spots away from advancing. The Libery Lake, Wash. native went to Pac-12s two weeks ago without an NCAA qualifier, then ran a PR to make the finals, score for the first time, and now make it all the way to the NCAA quarterfinals.
The last race of the night saw another Husky standout punch a return trip to the national meet, as junior Liberty Miller ran the fastest 3,000-meter steeplechase of her career to take second in the last heat and automatically move on. Miller, an NCAA semifinalist in the same event a year ago, earned a second trip to the final site with a time of 10:07.52, taking a second off her old PR which ranks her No. 2 in school history. She quickly separated herself in the third spot in the heat, with the top three automatically advancing. Miller then made a move for second and opened up a big gap and was never threatened the rest of the way, securing the fourth-fastest time in the field of 48.
The Huskies saw a couple standout seniors have their careers come to a close one meet sooner than they would have liked. In the high jump, A.J. Maricich had clearances of 6-7 ½ and then a third-attempt make of 6-9 ½ to stay alive. But after missing once at 6-11 ½, Maricich seemed to have some back problems, as he passed his next two attempts to buy some time as Coach Pat Licari worked on his back on the high jump apron. With two tries now at 7-1, Maricich couldn’t get up and over, ending his day too soon. Triple jump school record-holder Shaniae Lakes did not have the final day she’d been hoping for either, as she was unable to record a legal mark, albeit with some questionable foul calls.
The Huskies lost one of their top-ranked contenders in the men’s steeplechase, as Pac-12 Champion Aaron Nelson did not have the same reserves he did two weeks ago. Despite leading early in his heat, Nelson fell back late and wound up eighth in 9:04.27, just ahead of sophomore Tim Cummings, who was ninth in 9:04.37 in his first NCAA Prelims. Nelson had come in with the No. 8 seed time.
The first race for UW this evening was the men’s 110m hurdles. Sophomore Chris Williams was at Prelims for a second straight year, but couldn’t achieve the same result as when he reached the final site a year ago. He was 37th overall in the field today with a time of 14.42 seconds.
Saturday’s final day will start at 4 p.m. Pacific time with senior Kasen Covington in the men’s triple jump. That will be followed by the quarterfinal heats of the 1,500-meters, with Nick Harris and Izaic Yorks on the men’s side and Katie Flood and Eleanor Fulton on the women’s side. Freshman Katie Knight will run the 5,000-meters, and the women’s 4x400m relay will go with Stueckle and Woodruff back on the track along with Krista Armstead and Haley Jacobson.
2014 NCAA West Preliminary Championships
May 30, 2014 – Day 2 of 3
Fayetteville, Ark. – John McDonnell Field
Husky Men’s Results
800m (Heat 3 of 3): 3. Derrick Daigre, 1:48.03 (Advances to Eugene); 6. Brad Whitley, 1:49.74; 3,000m Steeplechase (Heat 3 of 3): 8. Aaron Nelson, 9:04.27 (does not advance); 9. Tim Cummings, 9:04.37 (does not advance); 110m Hurdles (Heat 5 of 6): 6. Chris Williams, 14.42 (does not advance); High Jump (Top-12 to Eugene): 30. A.J. Maricich, 6-9 ½;
Husky Women’s Results
3,000m Steeplechase (Heat 3 of 3): 2. Liberty Miller, 10:07.52 (Advances to Eugene); 400m Hurdles (Heat 2 of 3): 3. Gianna Woodruff, 57.72 (Advances to Eugene); 4. Kayla Stueckle, 57.72 (Advances to Eugene); Triple Jump (Top-12 to Eugene): -- Shaniae Lakes, Foul.
Advancing to Eugene
Derrick Daigre, Jr., 800m
Gianna Woodruff, Jr., 400m Hurdles
Kayla Stueckle, Sr., 400m Hurdles
Liberty Miller, Jr., 3,000m Steeplechase
Jax Thoirs, So., Pole Vault
Diamara Planell Cruz, Jr., Pole Vault
Quinn Hale, Jr., Javelin
Carson Fuller, So., Javelin
Megan Goethals, Sr., 10,000m
Lindsay Flanagan, Sr., 10,000m