Feb. 24, 2011
SEATTLE - Conference bragging rights are on the line this weekend, as are NCAA Indoor Championship bids, as Washington plays host to the annual Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships this Friday and Saturday in the Dempsey Indoor. The two-day event serves as the indoor conference championships for the West Coast's top track squads and will be the final preparation for many athletes prior to the national meet, which looms on March 11-12 in College Station, Texas.
The MPSF Championships include every Pac-10 team which sponsors indoor track and field, including Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Washington State. Three Big West Conference teams also are in the fold: Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, and for the first time this year, UC Irvine's women's team. Whereas most meets in the Dempsey often feature just a handful of athletes from each team, the MPSF stands out with the participants bringing complete teams with a cap to their rosters.
Friday's action gets underway at 12:30 p.m. with the men's weight throw, so a champion will be crowned about one hour into day one. The men's heptathlon and women's pentathlon also get underway early on Friday. Finals on the track on day one include the men's and women's 5,000-meter runs, 200-meter dashes, and distance medley relays. Field event finals on Friday include the men's and women's long jump, weight throws, and men's pole vault. The final pentathlon event, the women's 800-meter run, is scheduled for 6:55 p.m. to close out day one.
Saturday gets going at 11 a.m. with several field event finals. The men's and women's high jumps, triple jumps, shot puts, and women's pole vault will all be decided on Saturday. On the track the first final will be the men's mile run at 12 noon, followed by the women's race. 60-meter hurdle and dash finals will follow, and then fans will see finals at 400-meters, 800-meters, 3,000-meters, and the 4x400-meter relays to cap off the championships at 3 p.m.
The UCLA men and Oregon women captured the MPSF team titles a year ago. The Stanford men are ranked highest nationally at No. 7 entering the weekend, followed by No. 12 Oregon, No. 14 Arizona, and the Huskies at No. 21. The Duck women will be big favorites to repeat as they rank No. 1 nationally, with Arizona coming in at No. 12, Stanford at No. 23, and Arizona State at No. 25.
PREVIEWING THE HUSKIES: Washington will have a number of athletes vying for conference titles and to strengthen their NCAA case. Starting with the weight throws on Friday, junior Elisa Bryant has the No. 2 mark coming in but will need to improve on her season-best to reach the NCAA meet, where she placed eighth in 2009 to earn All-America honors. Conner Larned will look to score on the men's side.
In the men's heptathlon, senior Andrew Ferleman and freshman Kale Schmidt will vie for points, while freshmen Shelby Williams and Greta Zietz get their first taste of conference action on the women's side. Schmidt posted the No. 3 mark in school history in his first heptathlon last month, and Ferleman owns the No. 2 mark from 2010. School record-holder Jeremy Taiwo will participate in several open events but not the full heptathlon, as he already has his NCAA qualifying mark.
Husky senior Ryan Vu is the favorite in the men's pole vault. Fellow senior Scott Roth is out this week with a hamstring injury and is looking to mend up in time for nationals. Vu, the 2010 Pac-10 Champion, had his indoor PR of 17-7 two weeks back and will look to add another conference title to his collection.
The prelims in the hurdles and dashes bring some more opportunities for Husky points. Sophomore Shayne Moore scored in the 60m hurdles a year ago and will look to do so again. Senior Dominique Lauderdale burst out of the gate with a win in 7.48 seconds at the Husky Classic two weeks back and she will look to make the 60m dash final on Friday.
The distance event fields are very open to change, as athletes pick between the 3k or the 5k, but Friday night's 5,000-meters should feature sophomore James Cameron, having a great indoor campaign thus far, in his first indoor 5k. Rob Webster Jr., Taylor Carlson, and Cameron Quackenbush are also entered for the men, while Lindsay Flanagan and Phoebe Merritt are entered in the women's 5k.
The Husky men's distance medley relay remains ranked ninth nationally, yet the Huskies know they will in all likelihood need to lower their season-best in that event in order to make it to College Station. UW is expected go with a lineup of Ryan Soberanis, Colton Dunn, Ryan Styrk, and Colton Tully-Doyle on the anchor for the first time. The UW women will also have a vision of NCAAs, and have a preliminary team of Justine Johnson, Michelle Fero, Chelsea Orr, and Katie Flood.
The first group of field events on Saturday will be big for the Huskies. Freshman Kasen Covington and sophomores Clayton Johnson and Julian Bardwell should be in the mix for points in the triple jump. A.J. Maricich and Jeremy Taiwo are both coming off of matching 6-11 ½ PRs in the high jump two weeks back and will look to raise the bar. Meanwhile, sophomore Logan Miller leads four Huskies in the women's pole vault. Last but not least, Richard Anderson and Cameron Elisara will look to get rolling in the men's shot put.
Four veteran Dawgs are entered in the men's mile: Soberanis, Tully-Doyle, Bywater, and O'Donoghue-McDonald. Justine Johnson, Orr, and freshman Mackenzie Carter will be in the fast heat of the women's mile. It will be the first mile of the season for Johnson, who ran a 4:47 a year ago.
In the 400-meters, sophomore Colton Dunn looks to lower the PR of 47.90 he set two weeks back. A dark horse could be Federal Way freshman Maurice McNeal, who ran a great relay split at the Husky Classic and will be running the open 400 for the first time. On the women's side, junior Jordan Carlson and freshman Michelle Fero lead for UW.
In the women's high jump, junior Kelly McNamee is ranked fourth coming in with her season-best of 5-10. She'll look to hit that plus at least one more bar to improve her chances of a second trip to NCAAs.
After breaking 1:50 for the first time at the Husky Classic, junior Ryan Styrk aims to score in the men's 800-meters as will Soberanis and sophomore Brad Whitley. The 3,000-meter runs should have some scratches depending on who runs what races earlier in the day, but freshman Megan Goethals is expected to compete attached for UW for the first time on the women's side, along with Pac-10 Cross Country Freshman of the Year Katie Flood, both of whom could chase the 9:13 NCAA auto mark. The men's 3k has a similar cast of characters as the other distance events, led by school record-holder Tully-Doyle, so a lot will depend on who is still fresh late in the meet.
The meet wraps with the traditional 4x400-meter relay. UW's women's group posted a new time to the Top-10 list in its past outing and will be aiming to better that, while the Husky men could find a winning combination with Dunn and McNeal anchoring after sophomore Dan Sanders and Taiwo open up.