June 10, 2010
EUGENE, Ore. - The Husky men's track team made its mark today with three top-four finishes, wracking up 16.5 points on the second day of the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Oregon's Hayward Field. Kyle Nielsen and Joe Zimmerman went third and fourth in the javelin, and Scott Roth placed third in the pole vault. Washington sits alone in third-place halfway with two days remaining.
Senior Falesha Ankton became the first All-American for the women at this meet with a ninth-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles in a huge PR, and Katie Follett and Mel Lawrence each advanced to the finals of the 1,500-meters and steeplechase, respectively.
Already the Husky men have their second-most points at NCAAs since 1983. Only the 19.33 points scored in 2008 surpassed it, with two competitors remaining on Friday.
The first All-American of the meet for the Huskies came from senior Falesha Ankton who ran the race of her life to take ninth overall in the 100-meter hurdles. Ankton was the 24th and final qualifier to nationals, but wound up missing the final by just one spot, after she powered to a time of 13.18 seconds in the second of three semifinals. Running out of lane one in front of her family for the last time, Ankton was clean over every hurdle, keeping her head down and focused on her own race. She looked up and saw her place and time and was overjoyed before crouching down and embracing the moment by herself. It didn't much matter that a fast final heat just bumped her out of the final.
"I would have loved to make finals but my goal was to come here and go up a spot. Not to finish last," said Ankton, who did much more than that. "Lane one I had to just focus on my lane and just go. Those were tears of joy because that's my last collegiate race at UW and I'm so proud. I'm peaking at the right time, so good coaching!"
Ankton now plans to keep going this summer on to the USA Championships at the end of the month. Still she was soaking up the end of one chapter.
"To be this close to home (Benicia, Calif.), and my parents are up in the stands. I heard my mom say, `Dig deep'. I will forever remember this, I'm keeping everything, my hip number, my bib, everything."
UW Duo Goes 3-4 In NCAA Javelin Finals
Washington added two more All-Americans in the men's javelin with a pair of top-four finishes by Nielsen (Langley, B.C.) and Zimmerman (Spokane, Washington). The two were both in the 12-man first flight, which caught a break as the weather deteriorated for the second flight. Zimmerman went 231-9 on his first attempt, and Nielsen surpassed that on his second attempt with a heave of 234-9. That placed them second and third after the first flight, and only one flight two competitor passed them.
Coming back later for three final throws, both were able to improve again, but weren't able to climb the standings. Zimmerman went 233-7 on his fifth throw, and Nielsen amped himself up for a toss of 241-6 on his last throw. That actually tied exactly for second, but Boise State's Pontus Thomee got the tiebreaker with a longer second-best throw. It took 250-3 to win the title.
Nielsen is now a two-time All-American after his sixth-place finish last year. "We were lucky with the weather in the first flight, it didn't rain on us," he said. "We got to come out in the finals and just go at it hard. Second All-American, happy about that and just happy to get some points for the Huskies."
Zimmerman was fifth at the Pac-10 Championships and now is fourth at NCAAs. In 1996, Troy Burkholder was also fourth as a freshman in the javelin for UW. When asked if he could have envisioned this a month ago, Zimmerman replied, "Uh, no. I just wanted to be an All-American and to be fourth is awesome. (Nielsen) took me under his wing and showed me the ropes."
The event most affected by the inclement weather was the men's pole vault, where junior Scott Roth and senior Ryan Vu and the rest of the field had to endure an hour-long rain delay after each had already taken some attempts. Once the vault got restarted, few athletes seemed able to find their rhythm, Roth being one of them. He had cleared 17-4 ½ on one try, his first bar of the meet, but missed all three shots at 17-8 ½ after going 18-2 a year ago. Still, only two competitors made 17-8 ½ so Roth wound up in a two-way tie for third-place based on fewest misses, scoring 5.5 points for the Huskies and earning his fifth All-America honor, which ties him for seventh-most in UW history.
Vu also had a strong day in his first career NCAA Championships. He cleared 16-4 ¾ and 16-10 ¾ on first attempts, but after the rain delay he couldn't quite get over 17-4 ½, barely grazing the bar off on two attempts. Vu wound up in a tie for 11th out of the 24 competitors.
Senior Katie Follett progressed through yet another round of the 1,500-meters and at long last is in the finals. The seven-time All-American has waded through two rounds in Austin, Texas and now navigated the semifinals with the second-fastest run of her career. Follett took it out quickly and led throughout, avoiding the few stumbles that came behind her. She eased up down the stretch and crossed the line fourth in her heat in 4:13.58. Follett will be one of 12 women vying for the national title on Saturday.
Joining Follett in the finals on Saturday will be sophomore Mel Lawrence, who has steadily improved since coming back from a torn hip flexor just two months back. Lawrence, third at nationals in the steeple a year ago, has run faster each time out, and looked closer to her 2009 form today in qualifying through to the final. Lawrence posted the sixth-best time of the day, running 10:06.09, an eight-second season-best.
"I actually felt really good," Lawrence said. "I've been a little tentative lately. Coming back from injury is always hard. I knew I could do it, Coach Metcalf always tells me to trust my instincts. I'm really happy, I definitely have some more confidence than I did coming into the weekend.
Although conceding she's not where she was a year ago, Lawrence remains excited about another NCAA final.
"I'm so relieved. I can't even explain how happy I am," she said. "I've been so nervous, and tentative about it, so it feels good to finally be back in it. I'm not where I was last year, but that's the nature of our sport. You get hurt you have to come back. I've had a lot of good trainers working with me trying to get me back as fast as I can."
The day started early for Jeremy Taiwo in his first career NCAA decathlon. Taiwo, the Pac-10 runner-up, was very impressive in the running events, winning his 100-meter dash heat in a PR of 11.02 seconds and then turning in a major PR in the 400-meters of 48.98 when he had never previously broken 50-seconds. Taiwo amassed 3,944 points, a career-best for day one, to sit sixth overall heading into Friday's conclusion.
Freshman James Alaka saw his outstanding rookie year end in the semifinals of the 200-meter dash. He was fourth in his semifinal heat in 21.11 seconds, and 13th out of all competitors. Alaka was also 14th overall in the 100-meters on Wednesday. He was the top finishing freshman overall in the 200m, a sign of big things to come for the Londoner.
Washington Track & Field
NCAA Outdoor Championships
Eugene, Oregon - Hayward Field
Thursday June 10, 2010 - Day 2 of 4
Men's Results (UW Only)
200-meters (Semifinals): 13. James Alaka, 21.11 (does not advance); Pole Vault (Finals): 3 (tie). Scott Roth, 17-4 ½ (All-American); 11 (tie). Ryan Vu, 16-10 ¾; Javelin (Finals): 3. Kyle Nielsen, 241-6 (All-American); 4. Joe Zimmerman, 233-7 (All-American); Decathlon (Day One): 6. Jeremy Taiwo, 3,944.
Women's Results (UW Only)
1,500-meters (Semifinal 1 of 2): 4. Katie Follett, 4:13.58 (7th overall; advances to final); 100-meter Hurdles (Semifinal 2 of 3): 3. Falesha Ankton, 13.18 (9th overall; does not advance); 3,000-meter Steeplechase (Semifinal Heat 2 of 2): 5. Mel Lawrence, 10:06.09 (6th overall; advances to final).