Feb. 24, 2007
SEATTLE - Ryan Brown won the 800 meters and ran the decisive leg of the Huskies' winning 4x400-meter relay Saturtday, leading Washington's fifth-ranked men's track team to its second-consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Indoor Track and Field crown. Brown's individual and relay wins were two of seven by Husky athletes at the two-day meet, which serves as the indoor conference championships for Pac-10 and selected Big West Conference schools.
Washington led by as many as 30 points early in the day, after wins by Brown in the 800 meters and junior Austin Abbott (Chehalis, Wash./W.F. West) in the mile, but saw its lead cut in half before the 4x400-meter squad of freshman Jeff Gudaitis, sophomore Kyle Still, Brown and junior James Frederickson slammed the door shut with a win in the day's final event.
"To come out and defend our indoor conference title is a big deal," said fifth-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "And what's more is that we did it as a team -- jumpers, vaulters, throwers, sprinters, distance guys -- everybody stepped up to the challenge and went out and scored as many points as they could. If we can go to nationals and compete with the same passion and intensity we competed with this weekend, a top-five finish certainly isn't out of reach."
The Huskies' 109 final team points were 21 ahead of runner-up Arizona and 23 ahead of eighth-ranked Oregon. Stanford, ranked sixth nationally, placed fourth with 79.5 points, while Arizona State was fifth at 79.
Washington's women also excelled Saturday, despite losing defending NCAA 1,500-meter champion Amy Lia to illness and failing to score a point in the pole vault for the first time since rejoining the MPSF in 2004. The Huskies' women scored 74.5 points -- including 20 from double-winner Ashley Lodree -- to place fourth overall, just five points back of third-place Cal (79). Top-ranked Arizona State snapped Stanford's string of four-straight MPSF titles with a 135-point effort, while the No. 5 Cardinal were second (96).
The story of the meet, however, was Brown, who captured his second-straight MPSF 800-meter crown and led UW's two relays to top-two finishes. The junior's 800-meter win was in the same mold as his wins at the 2005 Pac-10 Championships and 2006 NCAA Championships, as he hung five meters back from the leaders throughout the race before surging off the final turn for a nearly one-second victory. The Renton native returned three hours later in the 4x400 meters, turning a 10-meter deficit at the start of his leg into a 10-meter lead before handing the stick to Frederickson to close out the win.
Coaches clocked Brown's relay leg at 46.2 seconds, and reported a 1:46.0 split from his 800-meter leg of Friday night's runner-up distance medley relay.
"Ryan Brown was the man this weekend, no doubt about it," said fifth-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "The best thing I can say about Ryan is that he always comes prepared to win, and that gives him a mental advantage before the race ever even starts. He's a talented guy."
Metcalf also had praise for Abbott, whose win in the mile was a lesson in tactical racing. Much like Brown, with whom he trains, the two-time indoor All-American stayed behind the leaders and out of traffic throughout the race, leaving a clear path to the front of the pack when he made his kick on the back straightaway of the final lap. Abbott and Oregon's Michael McGrath entered the final turn running neck-and-neck, before Abbott outsprinted the Ducks' junior down the homestretch to win by just 15 hundredths of a second.
"Austin ran a really smart race," said Metcalf. "There wasn't a single point in that race where I wasn't absolutely convinced he was going to win. He had great positioning, kept a good pace -- it was very, very well done."
In addition to the expected contributions from their top-ranked individuals, Washington received several key contributions from lower-ranked competitors, including a second-place hurdles finish by Frederickson -- who was seeded seventh overall -- and a pair of top-eight finishes in the 60- and 200-meter dashes by sophomore Randy Bacon, who entered the meet ranked 16th and 15th, respectively, among conference competitors. Sophomore Kyle Still and freshman Jeff Gudaitis placed fourth and seventh in the 400 meters, respectively, while junior McKane Lee and senior Seth Perrins went 4-5 in the long jump.
While Washington's men were battling for a team title, senior Ashley Lodree (Richmond, Calif./El Cerrito) was attempting to make individual history with wins in the 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles, a feat unprecedented by a UW women's athlete. The four-time All-American made short work of the hurdles, winning in 8.17 seconds with a margin nearly equal to Abbott's in the mile, before clinching the double with a 7,34-second winning time in the dash. Lodree's hurdles win was her second-straight MPSF title in the event, while her winning time in the 60-meter dash broke her own UW school record, and is among the top-15 marks in the nation of times entering this weekend's action.
"I don't know that there's really that much more I can say about Ashley that hasn't been said already," Metcalf said when assessing the senior's weekend. "She's one of the most focused, driven student-athletes we've had in my time here. It's hard to win when you're the favorite and you have that target on your back, but Ashley just uses that as motivation. We're extremely fortunate to have someone of her talent and leadership ability on our team."
Junior Amanda Miller (Wenatchee, Wash./Eastmont) rounded out the Huskies' conference championship bonzanza with a win in the women's mile (4:48,98), giving Washington a sweep in the event for the second time in the past four years.
In all, Husky athletes combined for seven MPSF titles and another seven runner-up finishes, while achieving 12 NCAA qualifying marks and 16 improvements to UW's all-time top-10 indoor bests, including Lodree's dash record.
"I think that this team right now is just about where we hoped they would be this time of year," said Metcalf. "We'll get Amy Lia and Norris Frederick back at full strength here in the next couple of weeks and will really have a shot to go after it at nationals."
Washington will close out the Dempsey Indoor portion of its 2007 schedule next Saturday with the Last Chance Qualifier meet, before heading to Fayetteville, Ark., for the 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships in two weeks' time.
For complete results of this weekend's meet, or for more information on Washington track and field, visit www.GoHuskies.com.