May 7, 2004
TUCSON, Ariz. - Washington junior Grace Vela stands fourth through one day of Pac-10 Championships heptathlon competition, on the strength of personal-best performances in each of the four events contested Friday at Arizona's Roy P. Drachman Stadium.
The heptathlon concludes Saturday with the 800 meters, long jump and javelin. For scheduling purposes, multi-events at the Pac-10 Championships are conducted the week before the full meet, which begins at Arizona next Friday.
Currently Canada's fourth-ranked heptathlete, Vela's 3,189 points through the first four events were just 234 behind current Pac-10 Championships leader Jackie Johnson of Arizona State. Cal's Brooke Meredith stands second at 3,260, while Washington State's Julie Pickler holds a narrow lead over Vela at 3,193.
Vela got off to a fast start with a second-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles, the day's first event. Her wind-legal mark of 14.00 seconds was the sixth-fastest in Washington history, and moved the Toronto, Ont., native to sixth in the 2004 Athletics Canada national rankings.
The mark also earned Vela a whopping 938 points in the event, tops on the day for the Husky junior. A high-jump mark of 5 feet, 3 1/4 inches, matching her season-best, and a two-foot shot put PR of 34-10 1/2 put Vela fifth entering the final event, the 200-meters. Needing a big mark to leapfrog Oregon's Abby Andrus into the top-four, Vela clocked a wind-legal season-best of 24.93 seconds, third in the Pac-10 field and 11th-fastest by a Canadian woman this year.
In her first season at Washington since transferring from Chicago's Lewis University this winter, Vela has already climbed to third on the Huskies' all-time heptathlon list, having recorded a best of 5,065 earlier this season. The junior averaged 797.25 points per event on Friday; she needs to average just 693 per event Saturday to break Washington's school record of 5,266, set by Sonja Forster in 1992.
While Vela concludes her heptathlon competition Saturday, her UW teammates will be battling the Northwest's top college and club athletes in the Ken Shannon Invitational at Husky Stadium. Events begin at 11 a.m., and admission is free to all spectators.