June 10, 2004
AUSTIN, Texas - Washington junior Grace Vela placed 21st Thursday in the heptathlon at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas, the top finish by a UW heptathlete at the national meet since 1994. The Husky men's 4x400-meter relay squad, featuring three graduates of Seattle-area high schools, also competed Thursday on the second day of the four-day meet, which concludes Saturday.
Multiple weather delays Wednesday forced competitors to remain at Texas' Mike A. Myers Stadium for more than 14 hours to complete the heptathlon's first four events, but mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 90s made for ideal conditions for the final three events Thursday.
Toronto native Vela, currently the third-ranked Canadian woman in the heptathlon, scored 4,960 points in the two-day event, a score bettered by just two other women in Washington history. Arizona State freshman Jackie Johnson won the heptathlon with a 5,807-point total, edging favorite Hyleas Fountain of Georgia by 22 points.
Vela's finish was boosted by a strong performance in the javelin, traditionally a low-scoring event. Her final-attempt toss of 104 feet, 9 inches added 513 points to her score, while a long jump best of 18-5 earned an additional 732 points. In 21st after six events with a 4,276-point total, the Toronto, Ont., native - seeded 22nd overall in the event - held onto her position with a time of 2:30.72 in the 800 meters, good for 684 points.
Vela competed in more events than any other Husky in 2004, her first season at Washington since transferring from Chicago's Lewis University in January. She was the fourth-place finisher at the Pac-10 Championships with a best of 5,225 that ranks second all-time in Washington history, and is the third-best by a Canadian woman this year.
"We've asked Grace to do a lot this year, and she's never backed down," said second-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "I'm glad that she was able to come here and get this experience, because it will only make her that much better next season."
Capping the night for the Huskies was the team's homegrown 4x400-meter relay, featuring Lakes grad Cristian Adams, Juanita's Phil McCary, Lake Washington's Sean Williams and Nathan Hale's Bruce Jackson. The relay - just the third UW 4x400-meter squad to qualify for NCAA competition since 1975 - placed sixth in the second of three preliminary heats, crossing the line in 3:08.16, faster than all but three relays in Washington history. The team placed 15th overall in the event; the top nine teams advanced to Saturday's final.
"It was great to see those guys running out there tonight," Metcalf said. "They did Seattle proud."
Washington will have four athletes in action Friday, including 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier Megan Spriestersbach in the javelin, and a record-equaling three competitors in the women's pole vault.
For complete schedules and results from the 2004 NCAA Track and Field Championships, visit www.ncaasports.com.