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Track Heads To NCAA Indoor Championships
Release: 06/21/1999
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March 3, 1999

The Schedule: Fri.-Sat., March 6-7 -- NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship, RCA Dome, Indianapolis, Ind.

This Week: Two Huskies, senior Derek Prior and junior Anna Aoki, head to the RCA Dome in Indianapolis for the 1999 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship Meet, co-hosted by Butler University and USA Track and Field. The two-day meet will run Friday and Saturday and will feature the top athletes from college and university programs around the country. Prior will compete in the 400-meter dash, and Aoki will run the 5,000m event. For Prior, it is a return to the site at which he helped the 4x400m relay squad to an eighth place NCAA finish at the 1998 championships. Aoki will also be treading familiar ground; she placed thirteenth nationally in the 3,000m as a freshman in 1997.

Last Week: Aoki and Prior both set NCAA provisional qualifying marks en route to victories at Notre Dame's Alex Wilson Invitational. Aoki buried the field in Friday's 5,000m run, finishing in 16 minutes, 36.23 seconds, more than 30 seconds ahead of second-place Stephanie Dueringer of Invaders Track Club (17:11.89). Aoki's time in the 5,000 was a meet record, and ranks as the fifth fastest in Husky history. Not to be outdone, Prior made good on his promise to run a personal best, smoking the field in Saturday's 400m dash to win in 46.45 seconds. Prior finished well ahead of Eastern Illinois' Chad White, who crossed the line second in 47.03 seconds. Also competing for Washington was senior Deeja Younquist, who failed to better her previous provisional qualifying mark in the 3,000m of 9:33.84 set at January's New York Sports Museum Collegiate Invitational, instead posting a 9:40.23 en route to a fourth-place finish.

Event Schedule: Following are times for the preliminary and final heats of the men's 400m dash and the women's 5,000m at this weekend's NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship meet. All times are Pacific Standard Time. Friday, March 6th Saturday, March 7th 1:45 p.m. Men's 400m Dash Preliminary 3:55 p.m. Men's 400m Dash Final 3:30 p.m. Women's 5,000m Finals

Huskies at 1998 NCAA Indoors: Washington finished 13th at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships, only 40 points behind champion Arkansas, who won for the second consecutive year. The strong UW finish was due in large part to freshman sprinter Ja'Warren Hooker. Hooker's win in the 55-meter final (6.13) brought UW its first national champion since 1988, when Jennifer Ponath won the shot with a throw of 54' 4.5". Hooker also placed eighth in the 200m, and ran on the 4x400m relay team along with junior Derek Prior and seniors B.J. Dawson and Scott Anabel. The team placed eighth in the event with a time of 3:10.60, only five seconds behind national-champion Baylor. Two-time All-American Ben Lindsey rounded out the Huskies NCAA field, placing fifth in the shot put (62' 5.75").

Forbes "400": Husky senior Derek Prior (San Jose CC), a marketing major in the UW School of Business, has his sights set on a different "400" this season - the 400m dash at March's NCAA Indoor Championships. Prior torched the field at last week's Alex Wilson Invitational, just missing an automatic qualifier with a first-place finish of 46.45 seconds. The time was a career-best for Prior, and marked the fourth time this season that Prior has bested his previous career-high. The provisional qualifying mark ties Prior for ninth in the national rankings with Auburn University senior Julius Edwards, whom Prior will run head-to-head with at this week's NCAA Championship meet. Earlier this year, Prior broke the Mountain-Pacific Sports Federation meet record in the 400m, placing second in 46.64. Prior also runs on the Huskies' defending Pac-10 champion 4x400-meter relay team, which placed eighth at 1998's NCAA Indoor Championships in 3:10.60, and earlier this year posted a provisional qualifying mark of 3:10.07 at the Moscow McDonald's Scoring Invitational. Prior is ranked second all-time at UW in the 400m, with an outdoor personal best of 46.13, and placed third at last year's Pac-10 Championships.

Dialing Long-Distance: Two Husky women, junior Anna Aoki (Fort Vancouver HS) and senior Deeja Youngquist (Enumclaw HS), continue to accumulate top marks in the distance events this year. Aoki was stellar at last week's Alex Wilson Invitational, establishing a new meet record in the 5,000 meters with a 16:36.23 finish. The personal-best time was more than 30 seconds ahead of second-place Stephanie Dueringer, and ranks as the fifth-best 5,000m mark in Husky history. With that mark, Aoki sewed up a spot in this week's NCAA Championship meet, where she earned all-American honors with a 13th-place finish in the 3,000m as a freshman in 1997. The defending Pac-10 10,000m champion, Aoki also owns a provisional mark of 9:38.74 in the 3,000 meters, set at January's New York Sports Museum Collegiate Invitational. Aoki was not the top Husky finisher at that meet, however, as Youngquist crossed the line ahead of her in 9:34.54 to claim second place. The two have teamed together in the distance events all year, right up through their near-identical finishes at February's MPSF meet. Youngquist set the pace in the 3K, taking third in 9:51.17, just ahead of Aoki's fourth-place mark of 9:52.23. Roles reversed in the 5,000m, with Aoki crossing the line second in 17:10.60 and Youngquist third in 17:14.16. All four times were NCAA provsional qualifiers. In all, the two combined to score 21 of Washington's 59 points at the meet.

Super Soph: Sophomore sprinter Ja'Warren Hooker (Ellensburg HS) has decided to forgo this year's NCAA Championship meet in order to gear up for a run at an NCAA outdoor sprint title. Hooker, who won the 55-meter dash at last year's NCAA Indoor meet, has been slowed throughout the season by a nagging shin injury, recently revealed to be a stress fracture. After repeatedly attempting to run through the injury, Hooker has finally decided to rest it in hopes of a championship performance at this year's NCAA outdoor meet. Prior to this decision, Hooker had posted an NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 6.22 seconds en route to victory at the San Diego Indoor Games. He is currently rated number one nationally in the 55 meters and fourth in the 200m by Trackwire magazine. As a freshman, Hooker won last year's NCAA championship with a time of 6.13 seconds, and ran a career-best of 6.09 seconds in the event last February in Flagstaff, Ariz. Hooker continued to dominate during the outdoor season, winning twenty-one consecutive sprint races, 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 Track Athlete of the Year. On May 2, 1998, he broke the Washington school record in the 100m, posting a 10.18. This summer, Hooker placed fifth in the 200m at the U.S. National Track & Field meet, finishing in 20.63 seconds. Hooker also competes on the UW football team, but was slowed this season due to shoulder injuries.

Pupil Turns Teacher: Junior thrower Seselia Thomas (Spanaway Lake HS) is used to being the pupil, learning the ropes from former UW star and 1996 Olympian Aretha Hill. But with Hill's graduation in June, Thomas has been asked to become the leader of an otherwise young corps of throwers. So far, Thomas has adapted well to her new role, posting an NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 48' 10.75" in the shot put at the Wolf Pack Invitational. Thomas has gone head-to-head with her former mentor twice this season, defeating Hill at the Wolf Pack meet, and finishing second to her at the Jerry Martin Invitational.

Fab Freshmen: This year's MPSF meet was a coming-out party for the UW's class of 2003, which garnered six top-7 finishes. The youth movement was led by former Lake Washington High School star Kelsey Sheppard, whose fifth place finish in the 400m and seventh placing in the 55m hurdles netted the Huskies six points. Other frosh making an impact at the conference meet were Zee Ogarro (4th, long jump), Courtney Inman (7th, 800m), Jason Fayant (7th, 3,000m), and Josh Rogge (7th, 200m). The dominance of this year's freshmen is also evident in the list of 1999 UW top performances, with rookies dominating the upper ranks. Matt Phillips (1st, pole vault), and Matt Schwinn (1st, weight throw; 4th, shot put) lead the way on the men's side, followed by a large group of frosh standouts including Fayant, Rogge, Owen Iddings, Craig Downey, and Moses Lewis. On the women's side, freshmen rank in the top five UW scorers in every event, led by sprinter Shavon Hawkins (1st, 60m dash; 2nd, 60m hurdles and 55m dash; 3rd, 55m hurdles; 4th, 200m). Other key frosh include Sheppard, Inman, Ogarro, Sandy Erickson, Laura Becker, and Elizabeth Rogers.

Husky Qualifiers: Seven members of Washington's track and field team (includes one relay) have posted NCAA qualifying marks. The championship will be held March 6-7 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Here is the list of current Husky provisional and automatic qualifiers, adjusted for altitude and track size to meet NCAA standards:

Anna Aoki -- 3,000 meters (Prov: 9:38.74 -- ranks 42nd nationally) 5,000 meters (Prov: 16:37.78 -- ranks 16th) Junior, Vancouver, Wash. (Fort Vancouver HS)

Ja'Warren Hooker -- 55 meters (Prov: 6.68 seconds -- tied for 16th) Sophomore, Ellensburg, Wash. (Ellensburg HS)

Ben Lindsey -- Shot Put (Prov: 59' 8.25" -- ranks 28th) Junior, Lynnwood, Wash. (Lynnwood HS)

Derek Prior -- 400 meters (Prov: 47.20 -- tied for 9th) Senior, San Jose, Calif. (Suarta Tonesa/San Jose CC)

Seselia Thomas -- Shot Put (Prov: 48' 10.75" -- ranks 27th) Junior, Spanaway, Wash. (Spanaway Lake HS)

Deeja Youngquist -- 3,000 meters (Prov.: 9:34.54 -- ranks 27th) 5,000 meters (Prov: 16:52.09 -- ranks 31st) Senior, Enumclaw, Wash. (Enumclaw HS)

Men's 4x400m Relay (Prov.: 3:11.67 -- ranks 24th) Hooker, Prior, junior James Mackey (Walnut, Calif.), and senior Scott Anabel (Cascade HS)

NOTE: Neither Hooker nor the 4x400m relay team will compete due to Hooker's injury.

Big Ben: Junior weight man Ben Lindsey (Lynnwood HS) is ready to improve on his fifth-place finish in the shot put at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships. Lindsey posted an NCAA provsional qualifier with a 59' 8.25" effort en route to a fourth-place finish at the MPSF Championships, and is currently ranked eighth in the nation in the shot put by Trackwire magazine, which posts power rankings in each event over the course of the season. Lindsey, a 1998 and 1997 All-American in the discus, placed sixth at this summer's U.S. National Track & Field meet, posting a mark of 198' 3". This came on the heels of a fifth-place discus finish at the NCAA outdoor championships, an improvement on his 1997 finish of ninth place. On May 2 in Husky Stadium, Lindsey threw the shot 65' 4", the second-best mark in Husky history, trailing by seven inches the 65' 11" mark of Steve Summers in 1979. Lindsey was runner-up at the 1998 Pac-10 championships.

The Rankings: The Washington men enter the NCAA meet locked in a six-way tie for 22nd in the current posting of the Trackwire 25, the only weekly ranking of NCAA Division I track and field. The Husky women remain unranked. The men have been ranked as high as sixth in the Jan. 27th poll. Arkansas retained their iron grip on the top spot in the men's poll, a position the Razorbacks have never relinquished in the three-year history of the rankings. On the women's side, Texas continued to lead LSU at the top of the list. The Longhorns took last year's team title away from LSU, breaking the Lady Tigers' string of five consecutive championships. Scoring in the Trackwire 25 is based on predicted team finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Coach Richburg: After 12 years as head women's track & field coach at Washington, Orin Richburg was asked to take on a new responsibility last year, taking over the men's program as well. Richburg, the winningest coach in UW women's track history, performed admirably in his new capacity, leading the Husky women to a fourth-place Pac-10 finish and the men to the sixth-place slot. Under his tutelage, 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. Richburg also led the Huskies to a thirteenth-place finish at last year's NCAA Indoor 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.

Next Week: Washington says goodbye to the indoor track season and welcomes in the outdoor season with the Washington Open Preview meet, an annual open event hosted by the UW at Husky Stadium. Top athletes from Northwest universities, colleges, and track clubs are expected to attend. The event runs all day on Saturday, March 14, with free admission for all track and field fans.

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