May 28, 2010
AUSTIN, Texas - Husky track and field had one of its strongest all-around showings of the year at a time when it matters most as day two of the three-day NCAA West Preliminaries wrapped up. Five Huskies fought their way into the NCAA finals and seniors Zack Midles, Ryan Vu, and Falesha Ankton all came through in the clutch to extend their seasons.
Washington has been camped out in Austin since Tuesday. All teams from the western half of the country have crowded into Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas to try and progress on to the NCAA Championship finals in Eugene, Oregon, June 9-12.
Roth, Vu Punch NCAA Tickets In Vault
The long and challenging day opened with two favorites delivering the goods with very little drama in the men's pole vault. NCAA Indoor Champion Scott Roth was especially businesslike, as his stay in Austin consisted of two jumps. Roth passed up to 17-2 ¾ and cleared it on his first try. The bar was raised to 17-4 ½, and again Roth was over on one attempt. That was all that was needed to whittle the field of 48 down to 12, giving Roth a tie for first.
Joining Roth in Eugene will be senior Ryan Vu, who was nearly flawless himself in qualifying for his first career NCAA Championships. The reigning Pact-10 Champion missed his first attempt at 16-8 ¾, but after assistant coach Pat Licari instructed him to use the next biggest pole, Vu cleared easily on his second attempt. From there he had first attempt makes at the next three heights, winding up in a tie for fourth overall. This will be the second-straight year that UW sends two vaulters to nationals, as Roth and Jared O'Connor made the trip a year ago.
"It's phenomenal, I just feel great," said Vu. "I felt relaxed today and just did what it took to get there. I'm beyond excited."
Senior Falesha Ankton stepped into the blocks for the first round of the 100-meter hurdles during the hottest part of the day. Ankton was in the fifth of six eight-woman heats, where the top-three in each heat automatically moved on, plus the next six best times. The senior got out of the blocks well but hit the fourth hurdle which set her back a bit. Determined to give her all in what could have been her final race, Ankton came back strong at the finish to take fifth in 13.62 seconds. She showed some distress after crossing the line, knowing she wasn't top-three, but her heat wound up being the fastest of the day, and she earned the second time qualifier to advance to tomorrow's quarterfinals.
"I felt relieved when I found out I made it through. At first I hit that hurdle and I thought to myself, `Do not give up.' I was so close to thinking, `Oh, it's over,'" said Ankton. "But I just ran through the line and thought maybe there's a chance. I looked at my time and it wasn't that bad, and Coach Sheen came down and had a look on his face and I could tell I had made it."
Ankton will now run in one of three eight-woman heats tomorrow, with the same advancement procedure, only this time the next stop will be NCAAs in Eugene. She remains confident in what she can do with a clean run.
"I know (the time) is there because I felt good and I was out with the girls in the front, so tomorrow will be a whole different day," Ankton said.
It was a busy but gratifying day for freshman James Alaka, as he solidified himself as one of the top sprinters in the West by advancing yet again in the 100-meter dash, this run propelling him to Eugene. Alaka was third in his quarterfinal heat in 10.42 seconds. He is the first Husky to make NCAAs in the 100-meter dash since Ja'Warren Hooker's heyday. Alaka then came back just over an hour later for the opening heats of the 200-meters, and moved on yet again with another third-place finish in 20.93 seconds.
"I was super excited to make it in the 100. It made me a bit more relaxed coming into the (200m) because knowing that I'm going to Eugene I can solely focus on just executing, because regardless of where I come through in this I'll be in Eugene," Alaka said. "Hopefully tomorrow I can go a lot faster than 20.93. I'm very excited though."
The next Huskies to step up big on Friday were hammer throwers Zack Midles and Angus Taylor, both of whom endured a long day in the heat to each set career-bests. Midles, an All-American last year in the hammer, launched his first throw 212-feet, 7-inches, basically guaranteeing himself a top-12 spot and a trip to Eugene with one fling. That was more than a foot beyond his old PR and would end up slotting him fifth on the day.
Taylor had certainly the best day of his career, as he had four throws that went beyond his previous PR. Starting out in the second of the three flights, and seeded just 27th in the 48-man field, Taylor opened up with a toss of 198-5, a PR by a few inches. That throw placed him 14th after the full field completed its first three throws, with the top-16 advancing to the finals.
Knowing he'd have to improve again to grab a top-12 spot, Taylor delivered with a big toss of 201-feet even, his first throw ever over 200-feet. His next two tosses were also past his old PR coming into the day, but it wasn't quite enough for the sophomore, as he placed 13th overall, needing to throw one foot farther to move on. Still, Taylor moved up to seventh on the UW career top-10 list, and was happy with his efforts.
"It felt really good today. Can't ask for much more if you're going to PR," said Taylor. "I can't control what other people do, so I'm pleased."
Closing out the night was sophomore All-American Mel Lawrence in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Lawrence came back from a six-week layoff to run the steeple at Pac-10s for the first time this season. That qualified her for tonight's West Prelim meet, where she looked to qualify this time for NCAAs. In the first of three 16-woman heats, Lawrence placed fourth in 10:16.32. Only the top three advanced automatically, so Lawrence had to sit and worry over whether her time would earn one of the three time qualifiers for the women.
The wait would pay off, as each of the next two heats were progressively slower than the first, so Lawrence became the fifth Husky on Friday to secure a spot at NCAAs. Her time actually wound up being seventh-fastest on the night.
Washington concludes its stint in Austin on Saturday with several more critical events. Katie Follett and Kailey Campbell run in the quarters of the 1,500-meter run, the men's 4x100-meter relay competes in a quarterfinal heat, and Colton Tully-Doyle, Max O'Donoghue-McDonald, Kayla Evans, and Lindsay Flanagan all run in the 5,00-meter semis. Then there are quarterfinal rounds for Alaka in the 200m and Ankton in the 100m hurdles. Shaniae Lakes in the triple jump is the only field competitor tomorrow.
NCAA Track & Field West Preliminary Rounds
Austin, Texas - Mike A. Myers Stadium
Friday, May 28, 2010
Men's Results (UW Only)
100-meters (Quarters; Top-12 To Eugene): 8. James Alaka, 10.42 (Advances To Eugene); 200-meters (First Round): 13. James Alaka, 20.93 (Advances To Quarters); Pole Vault (Top-12 To Eugene): 1 (tie). Scott Roth, 17-4 ½ (Advances To Eugene); 4 (tie). Ryan Vu, 17-4 ½ (Advances To Eugene); Hammer (Top-12 To Eugene): 5. Zack Midles, 212-7 (Advances To Eugene); 13. Angus Taylor, 201-0 (Does Not Advance).