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Huskies Bid For Conference Title In Postseason Opener
Release: 02/23/2000
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Feb. 23, 2000

The Schedule: Fri.-Sat., Feb. 25-26 - Track travels to MPSF Championship meet, Univ. of Nevada-Reno, Reno, Nev.

This Week: Husky sprinter Ja'Warren Hooker (Ellensburg, Wash.) leads a strong pack of Dawgs up against the best the Pac-10 and Big West Conferences have to offer at this weekend's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship meet. Scheduled to appear are four of the nation's top-25 men's squads, including second-ranked Stanford, and three of the nation's top women's teams, headlined by No. 1 UCLA. Joining Hooker at the meet for Washington will be a strong men's field highlighted by three-time All-American Ben Lindsey (Lynnwood, Wash.) and a youthful women's squad which will include senior thrower Seselia Thomas (Spanaway Lake, Wash.) and exciting young runners Jamara Smith (Oakland, Calif.) and Kelsey Sheppard (Bellevue, Wash.). The meet begins Friday with selected field events and preliminary heats on the track, and concludes Saturday.

Last week: Washington picked up where it left off in Idaho the previous week, capturing a slew of event titles in Friday's Vandal Invitational. Lindsey made first competitive appearance since the 1999 NCAA Outdoor Championships and proceeded to take the discus title with a 189'-8" throw, and surpassing the NCAA provisional qualifying mark in the shot put with a 59'-8.5" heave. Hooker remained undefeated in sprint races in 2000, taking the 60-meter Vandal Invitational title in a season-best 6.63 seconds, just shy of the NCAA's automatic qualifying standard of 6.62.

The rankings: The Husky women slipped two spots to No. 20 in this week's NCAA Dual Meet Rankings, while the Husky men remained constant at 22nd. The rankings, compiled weekly at Idaho State University, moved Nebraska past Big-12 rival Kansas State atop the women's rankings, while Montana State unseated Florida at No. 1 on the men's side. Both Husky squads remained unranked in this week's Trackwire 25, with No. 2 Stanford closing the gap on NCAA champion Arkansas on the men's side, while MPSF meet competitor UCLA leapfrogged the Texas Lady Longhorns to move into a first-place tie with Louisiana State among women's squads. The Trackwire 25 ranks teams based on predicted finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Last Year at the MPSF Championships: Both Husky squads placed fifth at last year's conference championship meet, despite a flurry of NCAA provisional-qualifying marks. Senior Deeja Youngquist and junior Anna Aoki achieved four provisional qualifying marks, both besting the NCAA's standard in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters. All-American junior sprinter Derek Prior placed second to Utah State's Corey Hurdock in the 400m, with both besting the meet record of 46.66 seconds. Sophomore sprinter Ja'Warren Hooker sat out the meet with an ankle injury that derailed his bid for a defense of his 1998 NCAA title in the 60-meter dash.

Generation X-Cellent: Washington has seen an explosion of young talent in the past three years, from sprinter Ja'Warren Hooker's NCAA indoor title as a freshman in 1998, to promising 2000 newcomers Jamara Smith (Oakland, Calif.) and miler John Russell (Spokane, Wash.). Following is a list of UW freshmen ranked among the top two Husky competitors in their events:

, 2nd, Greg Forni, 6.59s, 60m, 2nd, Forni, 7.05s, 200m, 2nd, Forni, 22.36s, Mile, 1st, John Russell, 4:09.22, Pole Vault, 2nd, Brad Walker, 15'-11, Shot Put, 1st, Doug Jackson, 51'-6.25", 35-lb. Weight, 2nd, Jackson, 41'-9.75".

, 1st, Jamara Smith, 7.12s, 60m, 1st, Jamara Smith, 7.63s, 200m, 2nd, Smith, 25.27s, High Jump, 1st, Brittany Roberts, 5'-4.25, Long Jump, 2nd, Smith, 18'-5.75", Triple Jump, 1st, Smith, 37'-3.75", 2nd, Roberts, 36'-3".

Back on Track: Junior sprinter Ja'Warren Hooker (Ellensburg HS) gets a taste of the competition at March's NCAA Championship meet this week when he goes head-to-head with Arizona State senior Marcus Brunson in the 60-meter dash at the MPSF Championships. Brunson, ranked No. 4 nationally in the event with a 6.61-second mark, was supposed to match up with Hooker last year, before an ankle injury derailed Hooker's defense of his 1998 NCAA 60-meter title. Hooker's 6.63-second mark at last week's Vandal Invitational places the him tenth in the event entering the conference meet. Hooker has bested his season-high in each meet in 2000 while remaining undefeated (8-0) at distances less than 400 meters since the season began. Hooker will likely be competing in two events at the NCAA meet, having posted a NCAA qualifier of 21.34c seconds in the 200 meters, the nation's 14th-fastest time in 2000. With personal-bests of 6.55c seconds in the 60m and 21.20c in the 200m, Hooker has plenty of room to move up in the national rankings. Prior to the 1999 injury, Hooker had posted an NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 6.22 seconds in the 55 meters, and had helped qualify the men's 4x400-meter relay squad for an NCAA appearance as well. On January 15, Hooker blew away the competition at Penn State in his first indoor races since the injury last March. Hooker tied or broke two long-standing course records, shattering the facility record of 21.31 in the 200 with a 21.21-second mark, and tying the record of 6.75 seconds in the 60m. As a freshman in 1998, Hooker captured Washington's first-ever national sprint title, winning the 55-meter dash in a blistering 6.13 seconds. Hooker has proven just as fast outdoors, winning twenty-one consecutive sprint races in 1998, including Pac-10 championships in both the 100m and 200m dash, en route to a third-place NCAA finish in the 100m. For his efforts, Hooker was named the Pac-10's 1998 Male Track Athlete of the Year, the first Husky since 1976 to be bestowed with the honor. On May 2, 1998, he broke the Washington record in the 100m, posting a 10.18. The sprint specialist, who has also competed on the UW football team as a wide receiver, bypassed the Huskies' 1999 football season to focus on earning a berth on the U.S. Olympic team for the 2000 Sydney games.

Catching Up With "Hook": Hooker has been on fire this year in both the 60- and 200-meter dashes, besting the NCAA's provisional qualifying standard a total of eight times. How fast has he been? Following is a comparison of Hooker's first five 60m finals in 2000 to his first five finals in 1998, when Hooker went on to win an NCAA title in the 55-meter dash.

2000: 1. 6.75, 1st, Penn State Quadrangular, 2. 6.72, 1st, Ohio State Buckeye Invitational, 3. 6.69, 1st, Silver State Invitational, 4. 6.64, 1st, McDonald's Scoring Invitational, 5. 6.63, 1st, Vandal Invitational.

1998: 1. 6.79, 1st, UW Indoor Classic, 2. 6.70, 1st, Eastern Washington Invitational, 3. 6.69, 1st, McDonald's Scoring Invite, 4. 6.59, 1st, Vandal Invitational, 5. 6.55c, 2nd, Flagstaff Invitational.

Golden Evans Dons Washington Purple: Lee Evans is giving new meaning to the words "purple and gold." The 1968 Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder joined the Husky coaching staff this offseason. A three-time national champion in the 400 meters, Evans set a world record of 43.86 in the event that stood for 20 years before being eclipsed in 1988. Evans has coached the national programs of Nigeria, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, and will work primarily with Washington's sprinters and relay squads. Evans has coached the national teams of Nigeria, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, and works primarily with Washington's sprinters and relay squads. Evans was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1983, and was one of 100 "Golden Olympians" at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Husky Qualifiers: Five members of Washington's track and field team have qualified for this year's NCAA Indoor Championships, to be held March 10-11 at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.. Here is the list of current Husky provisional and automatic qualifiers, adjusted for altitude (aa) and track size (c) to meet NCAA standards. NCAA meet invitations are traditionally extended to the top 15 qualifiers in each event:

* Melinda Campbell -- 3,000m (Prov: 9:40.54c -- ranks 35th nationally) Sophomore, Newport, Ore. (Newport HS/Boise State University)

* Sandy Erickson -- Pole Vault (Prov: 11'-11.75" -- tied for 41st) Sophomore, Whitefish, Mont. (Whitefish HS)

* Ja'Warren Hooker -- 200m (Prov: 21.34c seconds -- tied for 13th) 60 meters (Prov: 6.63 seconds -- tied for 10th) Junior, Ellensburg, Wash. (Ellensburg HS)

* Ben Lindsey --Shot Put (Prov: 59'-8.5" -- ranks 20th) Senior, Lynnwood, Wash. (Lynnwood HS)

* Seselia Thomas --Shot Put (Prov: 49'-9.75" -- ranks 25th) Senior, Spanaway, Wash. (Spanaway Lake HS)

On the Road Again: Perhaps least affected by the Huskies' lack of home indoor meets this year is sophomore distance runner Melinda Campbell (Newport, Ore.) who over the last two years has become used to excessive travel. After a stellar high school career which included two Oregon state championships in the 3,000 meters, Campbell enrolled at Boise State University, placing 19th for the Broncos at the 1998 NCAA Cross-Country Championships and capturing Big West crowns in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. In the fall of 1999, Campbell packed her bags once again, this time for Seattle, where she helped lead the Huskies' cross-country squad to a 13th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. In her first 2000 indoor meet, Campbell posted a provisional-qualifying mark of 9:39.74 in the 3,000 meters. Her reward? Another road trip, this time to Fayetteville, Ark., home of the 2000 NCAA Indoor Championships.

Goin' Deep: Husky senior Seselia Thomas (Spanaway Lake HS) has thrust herself back into the national shot put rankings for the second consecutive year. On Jan. 22, Thomas launched a personal-best 49'-9.75" put at Ohio State's Buckeye Invitational, besting the NCAA's provisional qualifying standard by nearly a foot. The mark ranks 22nd nationally as of February 16th, and puts Thomas in position to make her first trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships. Thomas bested the NCAA provisional qualifying standard in 1999 as well, but fell just short of earning an invitation to the national meet.

Big Ben: Senior weight man Ben Lindsey (Lynnwood HS) made his 2000 debut in dramatic fashion last weekend, capturing the discus title and posting an NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 59'-8.5" in the shot put at Saturday's McDonald's II Scoring Meet. Lindsey has already bested his top indoor throw of 1998 (59'-8.25"), is poised to improve on his fifth-place finish in the shot put at the 1998 NCAA indoor meet. The three-time All-American placed 19th in the event at last year's NCAA outdoor meet while battling mononucleosis. Prior to his illness, Lindsey established the third-best discus throw in Husky track history, a 202'-7" heave last April, and ranks second all-time at UW in the shot put with a personal-best throw of 65'-4". Lindsey placed sixth at the 1998 U.S. National Track & Field meet, just on the heels of a fifth-place discus finish at the NCAA outdoor championships, his second top-ten national finish in two years. Lindsey placed fourth in the discus at last year's Pac-10 Championships, and was runner-up in 1998.

Up, Up, and Away: That's what Husky track fans have been saying about sophomore vaulter Sandy Erickson (Whitefish, Mont.) since her arrival on campus in 1999. Erickson returns this week to the site where three weeks ago, at Nevada's Silver State Invitational, the Husky sophomore became the fourth Husky to qualify for March's NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., clearing the bar at a personal-best 11'-11.75". Erickson continued her success in the 1999 outdoor season, tying her career high in the vault at the Pac-10 Championships en route an eighth-place conference finish. Erickson's 11'-11.75" vault at last year's Pac-10 Championship meet ranks as the top mark by a Husky women's vaulter since the event was introduced for the 1998 season.

Richburg USA's Top Dawg: Entering his 15th season as a head track & field coach at Washington, Orin Richburg was honored in December by USA Track and Field's International Competition Committee, who selected Richburg to coach the United States National Team at the 2001 World Championships. This will be Richburg's fourth stint with the national team. He served a head coaching stint for the 1997 World Indoor Championship Meet, and worked on National Team staffs at the 1989 Junior Pan-American Games, as well as in a 1994 dual meet with Great Britain. The committee could hardly have made a better choice: in 1998 alone, four Huskies claimed conference titles, including sophomore sprinter Ja'Warren Hooker's double victory in both the 100m and 200m events. The five victories were the most for Washington since the 1976 squad claimed six championships. In his tenure, Richburg has converted Washington into one of the top dual-meet squads in the nation. The UW women's team has ranked among the top-10 dual-meet teams in the nation every year during the 1990s. His 1988 UW squad finished 10th at the NCAA championships, the best national finish in the school's history. Prior to coming to Washington, Richburg spent seven seasons at Kent State and three years as an assistant at Western Michigan. A fine athlete in his own right, Richburg earned All-America honors as a sprinter at Kent State, finishing sixth in the 200-yd dash at the 1967 NCAA championships.

Huskies at 1999 NCAA Indoors: Two Huskies competed at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships, with departed All-American Derek Prior finishing 10th in the 400 meters, and current senior Aoki crossing the line 12th in the 5,000 meters with a career-best time of 16:33.51. In all, seven Washington athletes posted at least provisional qualifying marks for the national meet, including Hooker (55 meters and 4x400m relay), senior Ben Lindsey (shot put), Thomas (shot put), departed letterwinner Deeja Youngquist (3,000 meters, 5,000 meters), and 4x400-meter relay specialists James Mackey and Scott Anabel.

Next Week: Bye week before NCAA Indoor Championships, March 10-11 at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.

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