May 14, 2006
EUGENE, Ore. -- Senior Shane Charles broke Washington and Grenadan national records in winning the 400-meter hurdles Sunday, lifting UW to fourth in the final standings at the 2006 Pac-10 Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field. The UW women placed seventh.
Charles' win was the third by a Husky men's athlete at the two-day meet, Washington's highest number of individual titlists since 1976. Senior Juan Romero won the javelin on Saturday, and sophomore Norris Frederick won the long jump.
Charles' win, and a runner-up effort by Frederick in the high jump, helped carry the UW men to fourth in the final standings, the Huskies' best team finish at the Pac-10 Championships since 1997. USC won the conference men's title with 140 points, edging out defending champion Oregon (133.5), Arizona (122) and UW (99). Arizona State won its first Pac-10 team championship on the women's side, the Sun Devils' 154 points narrowly holding off defending champion Stanford (151.5). USC was a distant third at 112.
"Our men's team had a great weekend," said fourth-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "Shane Charles was huge, Norris Frederick came up big again, and guys left and right were getting us points we weren't supposed to get. This is one of the deepest, toughest conferences in America, so to place fourth in this event is really something to be proud of."
The top seed in the event, Charles started in lane four after clocking the fastest time in Saturday's preliminary heats. By the end of the first turn, Charles had already made up the stagger on the runners in lanes five and six, and by the 200-meter mark, it was clear that only Washington State's Jon Casselman -- runner-up to Charles at April's UW-WSU Dual and the second-fastest qualifier in the field -- would have a chance to catch him.
Charles and Casselman cleared the final hurdle side-by-side, then sprinted to the finish line, where the Husky senior outleaned Casselman for the win in 49.51 seconds - just two hundredths ahead of his Cougar rival.
After seeing his name atop the scoreboard, Charles raised his arms to the sky in celebration, before embarking on a victory lap with teammate Phil McCary, who placed sixth in the race.
"I knew from having raced him at the dual meet that he [Casselman] would come hard after that last hurdle," Charles said. "I just tried to push as hard as I could to the finish line."
Charles' winning time crushed the previous UW record of 49.83 set in 1991, and was more than a half-second improvement over the Grenadan national record of 50.12 set by Charles earlier this year. It is the second-fastest collegiate time in the nation this year, and among the 25-fastest times in the world in 2006.
"This is like the most beautiful thing in my life," he said. "My last Pac-10 Championships, to win, and set a school record and break my national record ... it just means so much."
The win was important for Washington on a day when little went as expected.
Fourth in the team standings after Saturday's action, Washington pinned its title hopes Sunday on a sextet of potential title contenders, including Charles, Frederick, thrower Will Conwell, distance runners Ryan Brown and Austin Abbott, and the 4x400-meter relay team.
Conwell, seeded third in the discus, finished fourth in the day's first event (186-6), and Abbott - the runner-up at 1,500 meters last year and the No. 2 seed again in 2006 - matched that with a fourth-place finish in the 1,500 (3:44.36). That left points on the board for conference rivals USC, Oregon and Arizona, who widened their day one leads on UW, and for UCLA, who moved past the Huskies into fourth.
Likely needing wins from all four of its remaining contenders to make a serious push for the title, Washington watched as defending 800-meter champion Brown placed third in the half mile, his time of 1:49.61 more than two seconds off his winning pace in 2005.
Frederick, however, put the Huskies back on track with a second-place finish in the high jump, his final clearance of 7 feet, 1 inch a lifetime best, and second in UW history only to Rick Noji's record of 7-6 ½. Frederick scored 18 of Washington's 99 points at the two-day meet, combining his second-place effort Sunday with a win in Saturday's long jump. The sophomore's efforts in both events were lifetime-bests, and each rank among the top-10 collegiate marks this year.
"Norris had a phenomenal weekend," Metcalf said. "To jump 25-10 on Saturday and then come back today and push the top high jumper in the country to the wire is outstanding. That's the best meet he's ever had in his track career."
Frederick's runner-up effort, and Charles' win almost immediately thereafter, set up an exciting conclusion in the day's final event, the 4x400-meter relay.
Holding a slim 93-92.5 lead over UCLA for fourth with just one event remaining, Washington needed to defeat the Bruins to ensure the team's best Pac-10 Championships finish since 1997. Also at stake was a chance to score 100 points, something the UW has never accomplished at Pac-10s, and a goal that could have been reached with a first- or second-place finish in the relay.
Sophomore Jordan Boase led UW to second through 400 meters, handing to Charles for the second leg. When the hurdles champion passed the baton to McCary, Washington was in third, but the senior from Kirkland ran perhaps the race of his life, putting the Huskies into the lead at the final handoff.
"Phil was a last-minute substitute in that race, but he ran his heart out," Metcalf said. "Phil may only be 5-foot-8, but his heart's the size of a lion, and he showed that today."
The final leg, however, belonged entirely to USC's Lionel Larry, who quickly caught UW anchor Bruce Jackson and opened a one-second lead on the homestretch, capping the Trojans' winning weekend with a first-place time of 3:05.74. Spurred by his home crowd, Oregon's Jordan Kent lifted the Ducks to second in 3:06.75, while Washington finished third in 3:07.08.
The Huskies, however, did receive team points from a number of unlikely sources - quarterback Isaiah Stanback, seeded 12th in the 100-meter dash, ran fifth in Sunday's final (10.50), while McCary took sixth in the hurdles (52.56) and Warren Eickhoff tied for fifth in the high jump (6-6 ¾). Other scorers included Abbott at 800 meters (6th, 1:53.29) and the 4x100-meter relay squad of Boase, Charles, Stanback and Alex Harcourt (5th, 40.31).
Seeded fifth in the event, Lia finished second only to conference favorite Arianna Lambie for Stanford, her time of 4:18.88 the seventh-fastest by a collegiate female this year. Dockendorf, too, recorded a season-best in her second-place effort, clearing 13-7 ¼ to climb to seventh in the NCAA pole vault rankings.
The second-place finish was Dockendorf's fourth-career top-eight effort at the Pac-10 Championships, a remarkable achievement for an athlete who did not begin pole vaulting until her freshman year at UW.
"Amy Lia ran a really, really smart race," Metcalf said. "Carly, too, just continued to perform on a high level. Not a lot of people can say that they scored four times at the Pac-10 Championships, so that's a pretty special accomplishment."
Numerous other UW women also found their way into the scorebook, including Ashley Lodree (4th, 100m hurdles, 13.59w), Anita Campbell (6th, 5,000m, 16:50.21), Kelley DiVesta (7th, pole vault, 13-3 ½), Lauran Dignam (8th, 400m, 54.50), Dani Schuster (8th, 800m, 2:13.82), and the 4x100-meter (6th, 46.71) and 4x400-meter (6th, 3:43.61) relays.
Washington finished the 2006 Pac-10 Championships with three conference titles -- its most total titles since 2000, when Ben Lindsey won the discus and Ja'Warren Hooker swept the 100- and 200-meter dashes - and a fourth-place finish for the men, their best in nearly 10 years.
"The fact that we could come into today talking realistically about what would need to happen for us to win a Pac-10 title is pretty amazing," Metcalf said. "It just a lot about the heart that our team showed this weekend, and of the pride they have in themselves, and in this program. Hopefully this is the start of something big."
For complete results of the 2006 Pac-10 Championships, visit www.gohuskies.com.