FRIDAY NIGHT RECAP: The first night of the Flotrack Husky Classic is in the books, and to say it got off to a fast start would be something of an understatement. The long distance events were the focus tonight inside the Dempsey, but the times were still fast and furious.
Washington only had a couple competitors tonight, but there was plenty of top notch competition to take in. In the women's 5,000-meter run, eight women dropped under the previous NCAA-leading mark and secured automatic bids to the NCAA Indoor Championships next month. Tennessee's Jackie Areson won in a blazing 15:39.81.
The final heat of the men's 5k also made the previous NCAA-leaders list obsolete, as the top five finishers ran faster than all but one prior time, that of multiple NCAA Champ Sam Chelanga, who will run the 3k in the Dempsey on Saturday. Stanford's Elliott Heath used a huge finishing kick to win in 13:37.77. Six finishers hit the NCAA Auto qualifying mark, and several more will certainly be headed to Fayetteville, Arkansas next month for nationals based on their effort tonight.
The Alabama men also won the distance medley relay with the third-best time in the NCAA this year.
Saturday's action kicks off at 8 a.m. on the track, with field events starting at 9 a.m., and the invitational track heats beginning at 2:30 p.m. along with the live web stream on Flotrack.org.
MEET PREVIEW: The high point of the Dempsey Indoor track series comes this weekend, as Washington gets set to host the Flotrack Husky Classic this Friday night and all day Saturday. Dozens of the nation's best teams are sending top athletes from all compass points to Seattle this weekend to run in what they know will be some of the fastest races of the year. Olympians, NCAA Champions, All-Americans, and a great Husky contingent will make for an action-packed meet.
Once again this year, fans around the country can follow the Husky Classic thanks to Flotrack.org, which will be live streaming the invitational sections on Saturday afternoon, beginning at 2:15 p.m. Pacific. First up on the live broadcast will be the fast heats of the men's and women's mile runs, which typically produce numerous sub-4-minute miles and sub-4:40-miles for each gender.
Friday night's focus is the long distance events, with the distance medley relays starting at 6 p.m. followed by the 5,000-meter runs. Saturday starts bright and early at 7:45 a.m. with the 3,000-meter runs. Invitational sections of all track races start at 2:30 and run until the end of the day, with the men's 4x400m relays set to wrap things up at 6 p.m. The exception to the invite section set-up is in the dashes, as the 60-meter hurdle and dash finals will come from 10:30 - 11:00 a.m. Field events get underway Saturday at 9 a.m. with flight one of the women's high jump.
For an idea of the quality of the field assembling this weekend, one need look no further than the current national Top-25, tabulated by the USTFCCCA. On the men's side, 16 of the Top-25 teams in the country right now will have athletes headed to Seattle, while 12 of the Top-25 on the women's side will be represented. Both No. 1-ranked teams, the Florida men and Oregon women, will be on hand. This week, the Husky men moved up to a season-best 20th in the rankings.
While the field events and sprints are packed with talent, outside observers wait with the most anticipation for the times to pop up from the Dempsey's distance events. This year should follow that pattern, as some of the best American distance runners toe the line with the NCAA's elite. American 10k record-holder Chris Solinsky leads the men's mile field. Solinsky set the Dempsey mile record last year, clocking an incredible 3:55.75. In the men's 3,000-meters, two-time reigning NCAA Cross Country Champion Sam Chelanga of Liberty will run against pros including the likes of 2008 U.S. 5k Olympian Ian Dobson, and 2010 U.S. 5k runner-up Tim Nelson, along with UW's top distance standout, senior Colton Tully-Doyle and 2009 NCAA 1,500m champ German Fernandez of Oklahoma State, a former Dempsey record-holder.
Highlighting the women's distances will be 2008 Olympian and two-time defending 10,000-meter U.S. Champion Amy Yoder Begley, running in the 3,000-meters. That heat will also feature 2009 World Championship steeplechase competitor Bridget Franek, as well as Husky sophomore Justine Johnson, and freshman Katie Flood, who just placed third at the U.S. Junior Cross Country Championships last weekend in San Diego to earn a spot on the U.S. national team headed to World Juniors in Spain.
More world-class pros on hand this weekend include Cory Martin, the 2008 NCAA Champion in the shot put and hammer and Field Athlete of the Year in his senior season. Martin ranked third in the world last year in the shot put and will be tossing the ball in the Dempsey on Saturday. U.S. Olympian and World Championship competitor Sharon Day, one of the country's best high jumpers and multi-event athletes, will also be in action in the women's shot put and 60-meter hurdles. In the women's 800-meters, 2009 World Championships competitor and former NCAA Champ Geena Gall will be the favorite. She is also entered in the mile run.
This will be a big weekend for the Huskies as well, as it's the last meet before the MPSF Championships in two weeks, with the NCAA Indoors following just two weeks after that.
On the track, NCAA prelim qualifiers Ryan Hamilton and Dominique Lauderdale will both sprint for the first time this season in the 60-meter dashes. The Huskies will also be putting forth their best 4x400-meter relays of the season. On the men's side they'll go with a mix of multi-eventers Kale Schmidt and Jeremy Taiwo along with sophomores Dan Sanders and Colton Dunn or freshman Maurice McNeal. Dunn will also be in the top heat of the open 400m, alongside NCAA hurdles champ Jeshua Anderson of Washington State and Dempsey record-holder and five-time Husky All-American Jordan Boase, running for Nike. The women's 4x4 should also be exciting with the Huskies entering a group in the top heat that includes freshmen Michelle Fero, Kayla Stueckle, and Shea O'Donnell, sophomore Johanna Carr and junior Jordan Carlson.
In the mid-distances, junior Ryan Styrk will look to build on his PR performance from two weeks ago in the 800-meters. Justine Johnson, entered in the 3k, may double in the mile, and in the men's mile, look for Max O'Donoghue-McDonald and Ryan Soberanis to run well.
James Cameron, coming off a big UW Invitational that saw him add his name to the school's Top-10 in both the DMR and 3k, will run in the fifth heat of the 3k, which promises another blistering pace. Rob Webster Jr., who led the Dawgs during the cross country postseason in the fall, will also run for the first time this indoor season, lining up in heat four of the 3k. For the women, freshman Chelsea Orr will look to continue a great three week run in the second-fastest 3k heat. Orr surprised with a great 4:47 mile PR two weeks ago, then took seventh at the U.S. Junior Cross Country Championships last weekend, earning first alternate honors for Junior Worlds. Sophomore Phoebe Merritt will also run in the same heat.
Washington had a number of field event athletes with breakthrough efforts two weeks back, and they will be looking to continue rounding into shape this weekend. Junior Kelly McNamee cleared 5-10 in the high jump last meet for the first time since her freshman year, and she'll be in the top flight this week. The same goes for Elisa Bryant in the women's weight throw, as the 2009 All-American had a great first effort in her return from a redshirt year. She now ranks 22nd on the national descending order list. Taylor Nichols also broke 40-feet in the triple jump for the first time last week, and she'll be in the top flight along with Shaniae Lakes and Lindsey Fleishman.
NCAA-leader Scott Roth is set to take more shots at higher bars in the men's pole vault. His spot in the national meet is already secured, so Roth can jump without pressure. With a 17-1 clearance last meet, senior Ryan Vu is also among the national leaders, ranking 20th, and will be aiming higher so as to try and join Roth at nationals. In the jumps, freshman standout Kasen Covington is in the top flight of the triple jump alongside sophomore Clayton Johnson. Covington became the first Husky over 50-feet since 1995 at the UW Invitational. He'll also go in the top long jump flight.
Freshman A.J. Maricich is in the top flight of the men's high jump after a season-best 6-9 clearance at the UW Invite, while Logan Miller and Kelly Mudlo mix it up in the top women's pole vault flight.
Along with Bryant in the throws, Richard Anderson and Cameron Elisara will throw the shot alongside Cory Martin. Conner Larned, after a strong start last meet in the UW Invitational, will lead the Dawgs in the men's weight throw.
Once the dust settles on the Flotrack Husky Classic, there is still another full day of action on Sunday, as Washington hosts its annual Indoor Open. Filled with mostly club, small college, and high school athletes, the Indoor Open typically features a handful of Huskies as well. The Indoor Open begins at 8 a.m. and should continue until approximately 4 p.m.