May 11, 2011
May 13-14 Tucson, Ariz. Drachman Stadium
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ON THE TRACK: Championship season is at hand for the Husky track and field teams, as UW will battle for conference supremacy this weekend at the Pac-10 Championships, hosted by Arizona at Drachman Stadium. The Husky athletes will have to stock up on the sunscreen for the first time this year, as they leave the wet Seattle spring behind for desert temperatures pushing triple digits.
The two day meet runs this Friday and Saturday, May 13-14. First field events are at 2:30 p.m. on Friday and the first track event is set for 5:15. The final track events won't go off until after 10 p.m. to spare the long distance runners from the most intense heat. Saturday picks up at 3 p.m. in the field and 6 p.m. on the track and will end around 10.
In addition to the coveted Pac-10 titles on the line, the meet will be the last chance for any Husky athletes with NCAA aspirations to post qualifying marks for the NCAA prelims at the end of May.
Washington's men's team looks to have the firepower to contend for a top-three finish, something they have not achieved since 1997. The men already have 10 points in the bank thanks to junior Jeremy Taiwo, who last weekend captured the Pac-10 decathlon title, the first by a Husky since 1986. Taiwo was named Pac-10 Men's Field Athlete of the Week for his efforts, and will be back in Tucson this weekend to go for more points in the 100m hurdles, long jump, high jump, and pole vault. The top eight positions score in every event.
The men are ranked 23rd this week, their first time in the Top-25 since the preseason poll. USC is the highest-ranked men's team at No. 7, followed by No. 10 Arizona, No. 12 Stanford, No. 20 Oregon, No. 21 UCLA, and the Huskies at 23rd. The Ducks are looking for a fifth-straight conference title. Oregon is the defending women's champs as well, and the team battle looks to be fierce between No. 4 USC, No. 5 Oregon, No. 8 Arizona, and No. 12 Arizona State, with Washington State also ranked 23rd.
Looking at the top contenders for the Husky men, the first stop is Scott Roth. The senior pole vaulter won the 2009 Pac-10 title before being upset by his own teammate Ryan Vu last year. Roth's season-best is more than a foot higher than his closest competitor, but anything can always happen in the vault.
Sophomore James Alaka was third a year ago at both 100- and 200-meters, and he should again contend for the sprint titles this weekend. Freshman Maurice McNeal should be a factor at both 200- and 400-meters, as he is seeded sixth in both fields. The two will also compete on both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays for the Dawgs. Washington's 4x1 has the No. 2 seed time coming in, and junior Ryan Hamilton on the anchor leg is the only Husky apart from Roth and Taiwo to own a Pac-10 title, as he anchored the winning 4x1 relay in 2008 as a freshman. In the hurdles, Taiwo and sophomore Shayne Moore each scored in the 110-meter hurdles last year and will look to duplicate that feat, while sophomore Dan Sanders makes his Pac-10 debut in the 400m hurdles.
In the middle distances, junior Ryan Styrk and redshirt freshman Brad Whitley run at 800-meters. A large group of sophomore Joey Bywater, junior Ryan Soberanis, junior Charlie Williams, and redshirt frosh Gareth Gilna will compete at 1,500-meters. Bywater was a finalist in 2009 before redshirting last year. At the longer distances, sophomore Michael Miller is seeded fifth in the steeplechase coming off his big win at the UW-WSU dual. Senior Colton Tully-Doyle will slug it out in a loaded 5,000-meter field.
In the jumps, Taiwo and freshman A.J. Maricich are entered in the high jump. Taiwo cleared 6-11 in the decathlon last week which could score if matched. Junior Robby Fegles is seeded sixth in the pole vault. Sophomore Julian Bardwell has the potential to surprise in the long jump, and freshman Kasen Covington is seeded fifth and could earn crucial points in the triple jump.
The men's javelin is where UW could get a major day one boost, as All-Americans Kyle Nielsen and Joe Zimmerman enter with the Pac-10's top-two marks, and sophomore Jimmy Brookman is close behind at No. 5. All three scored a year ago but the senior Nielsen especially is looking for UW's first javelin title since 2006. Junior Angus Taylor is ranked sixth in the men's hammer throw, while junior Conner Larned is seventh in the discus. Despite a hip flexor injury prior to the UW-WSU dual, senior Cameron Elisara had his best shot put of the year in that meet to help the Huskies clinch the win. He is soldiering on for one final Pac-10 appearance, and will be joined by Richard Anderson, who will also throw the disc.
Moving over to the women, in the sprints the Huskies will count on senior Dominique Lauderdale to contend in some very deep fields at 100- and 200-meters. Lauderdale was sixth in the 100-meters last year, and despite improving her PR this year, she's still seeded just eighth coming in, a reflection of the Pac-10's talent level. Junior Bianca Greene will run at 200-meters. School record-holder Jordan Carlson and freshman Michelle Fero are entered at 400-meters, though Carlson recently suffered a hamstring injury and may not get to run, a tough break for the fiery competitor. Coming off a big PR last time out at the dual with WSU, freshman Kayla Stueckle aims to continue her time trending downwards in the 400-meter hurdles, as she has gone faster each time out this year. She is seeded eighth.
A number of Husky women's distance runners should be in the mix to score this year, starting with junior Mel Lawrence in the steeplechase. The Pac-10 record-holder and 2009 Pac-10 Champion, Lawrence has battled the injury bug this season but made her debut two weeks ago with a time that slots her sixth coming in. At 1,500-meters, freshman Katie Flood owns the fourth-fastest seed time, and 2010 finalist Justine Johnson comes in eighth.
Freshman Megan Goethals will run the 5k, and brings the fourth-fastest time with her. One of the most hard to predict events could be the women's 10k, where sophomore Lindsay Flanagan is seeded second overall, though the top six entrants are all with 15-seconds of each other. Flanagan will also likely double back and run the 5k.
One of UW's top events in the field will be the women's triple jump, where sophomore Shaniae Lakes and junior Taylor Nichols could contend for podium spots, and redshirt freshman Alana Alexander and junior Lindsey Fleishman could be in the mix for points as well. Kelly McNamee, who has been healing from an ankle injury shold be in the mix in a deep high jump field, with sophomore Caroline Soules also jumping after debuting at the Ken Shannon. Sophomore Logan Miller should have her sights set on going 13-feet in the pole vault, which may be needed to score in the loaoded field. Taylor Fjerand and Kelly Mudlo will also vault. Sophomore Sarah Schireman, ninth at last week's Pac-10 heptathlon, will be UW's only long jumper.
Leading the way for the throws group is school record-holder Amanda Peterson. She will likely battle a pair of Cougars, defending champ Marissa Tschida and Courtney Kirkwood, for the conference title. Junior Elisa Bryant knows how to score at this meet in the hammer and discus, and is a strong candidate to move up the form chart and grab points in both. Erica Huse will also throw the discus in her first Pac-10 meet, and sophomores Ally Mueller and Jordin Seekins will look to break into the top-eight in the javelin. Freshman Shelby Williams rounds out UW's contingent, competing in the shot put.
ON THE AIR: FOX Sports Net will air a two-hour tape delayed show starting Thursday, May 19. Paul Sunderland and Joanna Hayes will call the action, while color commentary will be provided by Tom Feuer. Samantha Steele will provide additional commentary from the infield. Check the local listings for the airing dates of the championships on your FOX Sports Net or ROOT Sports regional provider.
TAIWO NOW PAC-10'S BEST: Junior Jeremy Taiwo can officially call himself the best all-around athlete in the Pac-10, as the Renton, Wash. native captured the coveted 2011 Pac-10 decathlon title this past Friday and Saturday at University of Arizona's Drachman Stadium, scoring a career-best 7,742 points. He could have been the first decathlete in the NCAA this year to break the 8,000 point barrier, were it not for an elbow injury that forced Taiwo to throw the javelin with his non-dominant left hand and thus finish last in that event by a wide margin. But Taiwo was so strong throughout the rest of the competition that he was able to overcome the setback. On Friday's first day of competition, Taiwo went five-for-five on personal-bests, with wins in the high jump (6-11) and 400 meters (48.49) as he posted a huge first-day PR of 4,215 points. He also finished second in the 100-meters (10.98), long jump (23-11 1/2), 110-meter hurdles (14.41) and was third in the pole vault (15-9 3/4) and shot put (42-11). Taiwo was in a battle with Oregon's David Klech throughout. Heading to the javelin, a torn UCL in Taiwo's right elbow made the event too painful to endure. He was able to throw 107-feet left-handed to still put some points on the board, and maintain his lead heading into the final 1,500-meter run. Taiwo wasn't satisfied with simply sticking close to Klech in the last event, however, as he powered past him on the final lap to take second in 4:18 and sew up the win. Taiwo became the first Husky to win the decathlon title since Mike Ramos in 1986. He also earned Pac-10 Men's Field Athlete of the Week honors on Monday.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO IOWA: The outdoor track season heads towards the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa from June 8-11. For the second season, athletes will reach the final site by qualifying through the preliminary rounds, held at two different locations. The western half of the country will be in Eugene, Oregon for the West Prelims on May 26-28, and the eastern half will meet in Bloomington, Indiana. There are no set NCAA qualifying standards anymore; athletes will qualify for the prelims by ranking in the top 48 in their event in their respective region. For relay teams it will be the top 24. The top-12 finishers from each regional meet then advance to Des Moines. Therefore most events will feature initial fields of 96 athletes over the two sites, that will be whittled down to 24 that advance to Iowa.
ALAKA, ROTH GO BACK-TO-BACK WITH PAC-10 POTW: Washington collected two Pac-10 Track & Field Athlete of the Week honors over the first two weeks of the season. First up was sophomore James Alaka, who garnered Men's Track Athlete of the Week honors on April 11. That came after the Pepsi Team Invitational, in which Alaka won the title at 100-meters, 200-meters, and ran a leg on the winning 4x100-meter relay team. Alaka won the 100-meters in 10.53 seconds into a strong headwind, winning by nearly three tenths. He then cruised to a 21.18 second win at 200-meters, again winning by a large margin into the wind. The relay clocked a season-best 40.24 seconds. On April 18, senior Scott Roth was named Men's Field Event Athlete of the Week, the first such honor in his decorated career. Roth broke the school pole vault record with a win at the Mt. SAC Relays. Competing against a field of professionals that included vaulters with Olympic Games experience, Roth stole the show with a sterling performance. Roth cleared two bars cleanly and then broke the record with a jump over 18-9 1/4, once again needing just one try. That easily surpassed American record-holder Brad Walker's former school record of 18-6 ½ set in 2003. Roth took three shots at 19-0 ¾, which would have been a new Pac-10 record, barely brushing off the bar on his second attempt. Still, the 18-9 ¼ clearance was the best pole vault by an American in 2011 indoors or outdoors, and the second-best clearance in the world outdoors this season.
HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Bolstered by Jeremy Taiwo's Pac-10 title winning PR in the decathlon, the Husky men's team moved up five spots, back into the Top-25 at No. 23 in the USTFCCCA rankings. The women come in at No. 51 this week. Providing big points for the men is Scott Roth, who remains No. 1 nationally in the pole vault. Senior Kyle Nielsen and sophomore Joe Zimmerman are ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, in the javelin for a good chunk of points. Also ranked in the top-25 nationally is UW's 4x100m relay of McNeal, Alaka, Dunn, and Hamilton, ranking 21st. The men's team was ranked 21st in the preseason. Junior Amanda Peterson is providing the most points for the women as she ranks third nationally in the javelin. Other top marks come from Katie Flood at 1,500-meters (21st), Lindsay Flanagan at 10k (19th), and Megan Goethals in the 5k (20th). The men return all of their point scorers from the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships at which they finished 15th.