May 28, 2004
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Husky vaulters Kate Soma and Carly Dockendorf finished second and third, respectively, at the NCAA West Regional Championships at Cal State Northridge, each earning automatic berths to June's NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Automatic NCAA berths are awarded to the top-five individual finishers in each event, and the top-three relays at the two-day meet, one of four regionals being contested nationwide.
The NCAA bid holds special significance for Dockendorf, who also competed individually at April's NCAA Gymnastics Championships, finishing 24th in the floor exercise. While several Husky athletes all-time have qualified for NCAA competition in multiple sports, Dockendorf is one a select few to do so individually, and not as part of a team.
Dockendorf was one of three Husky scorers in the pole vault, their 15 points lifting Washington to third in the team standings, behind leader UCLA at 36 and Arizona at 25.
"We only had five folks competing in finals today, so to get points from three of them is outstanding," said second-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "If we can keep up that same pace tomorrow, when we'll have nearly two dozen folks out there, we should really be able to make some noise at this meet."
Low-hanging clouds filled the San Fernando Valley with fog throughout the morning, keeping temperatures in the 60s through the start of the women's vault.
Washington's vault quartet reveled in the Seattle-like conditions, with three Husky women clearing 13 feet for the second-consecutive meet. As she was at the Pac-10 Championships -- which she won with a vault of 14 feet, 2 inches that was the 10th-best in NCAA history -- Soma was the UW's standard-bearer, clearing 13-5 ľ to place second.
For the second-straight year, it took a collegiate record holder to beat Soma. Bettered at the 2003 West Regional only by collegiate record holder Becky Holliday, Soma found herself bested Friday only by UCLA sophomore Chelsea Johnson, who broke Holliday's record earlier this season. Soma took the lead with a first-attempt clearance at 13-1 ľ, but after both cleared 13-5 ľ on their second attempts, Johnson moved ahead with a clearance at 13-9 ľ that Soma couldn't match.
The Husky junior will be seeking her third-consecutive All-America honor at the national meet, having placed seventh outdoors in 2003 and tied for fifth indoors in 2004.
"Kate's such a competitor, that I know she won't be happy with second," Metcalf said. "She's going to go to the NCAA meet determined to prove that she belongs on top of the podium."
Just behind Soma was Dockendorf, who slid hard over the bar at 13-1 ľ to place third, a three-spot improvement on her sixth-place Pac-10 finish two weeks ago. Sophomore Ashley Wildhaber also excelled, becoming just the fourth Husky woman ever to clear 13 feet with a vault of 13-1 3/4 in a jump-off for seventh place.
"All four of our pole vault ladies, including Stevie Marshalek, have done a terrific job for us this year," Metcalf said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see all four of them at the NCAA Championships next season."
While the vaulters highlighted Friday's field-event finals, it was the Huskies' middle-distance runners who commanded the most attention on the track, none more so than senior Todd Arnold.
The Westport, Wash., native, who last year earned his first-career NCAA Championships appearance in the 800 meters with a fourth-place West Regional finish, solidified his chances at a second-straight NCAA invitation with a win in the preliminary heats of the 800 on Friday.
Using a strategy similar to that which earned the senior a fourth-place finish at this year's Pac-10 meet, Arnold let the pack run ahead at the break, positioning himself in an outside lane five meters behind the other competitors.
As the field moved through 600 meters, however, Arnold began his charge, picking off the third-through-eighth place runners in rapid succession before putting on a final burst to claim the heat victory in 1:49.45, just ahead of BYU's Lars Kjerengtroen (1:49.52) and regional favorite Ben Armel of Santa Barbara (1:49.61). The race was the second in a row under 1:50 for Arnold, who moved to within one hundredth of a second of Washington's all-time top-10.
"How much can I say about Todd Arnold?" Metcalf said. "More than just what he brings on the track, he's a terrific leader for our team. It's going to be tough to lose him next year, but hopefully, he'll have one more chance after tomorrow to show our young guys how to be great."
Joining Arnold in Saturday's track finals will be freshman hurdler Ashley Lodree, who earned one of nine finals spots in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.58 seconds Friday, good for fourth in the first of two qualifying heats. The school-record holder in the sprint hurdles, Lodree will have two chances Saturday to earn an NCAA berth, as she is also qualified in the 100-meter dash, for which there was no prelim.
The Richmond, Calif., native - who enters Saturday's hurdles and dash finals seeded seventh and ninth, respectively - is attempting to reach her second-straight NCAA meet, having placed 14th in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoors in March.
Seeking a repeat of his fourth-place finish a year ago, Garner let Weber State's Trent Hooper take a 20-meter lead before swallowing the deficit in a span of 100-meters, surging to lead at the bell, and holding on for a third-place finish in 3:45.35.
Egerdahl likewise hung in the middle of the pack for much of the women's preliminary race, before holding off UCLA's Allison Hall over the last 200 meters in a battle for the fourth and final automatic finals-qualifying spot. Egerdahl's time of 4:29.15 was 11th-fastest in Friday's heat, setting up an exciting final on Saturday.
"Both Eric and Lindsey ran smart races today," Metcalf said. "Tomorrow's the time to let it all loose and get after it."
Washington will have nearly two dozen athletes in action on Saturday, as the West Regional concludes with finals in 20 track events and eight field events. In addition to the automatic qualifiers in each event, the NCAA Championships will give provisional berths to 6-7 individuals in each event, based on their performances throughout the season. The complete fields for the NCAA Championships, including provisional qualifiers, will be announced Sunday at 5 p.m. Pacific.
For complete results of all four NCAA Regional Track and Field Championships, visit www.trackshark.com.