May 29, 2004
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Washington senior Megan Spriestersbach threw the javelin 167 feet, 3 inches on her final throw Saturday to crush her own UW javelin record and move to sixth in Pac-10 history at the NCAA West Regional Championships, earning second place and an automatic berth to next month's NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Spriestersbach was the only Husky to earn an automatic NCAA berth Friday, as four UW athletes earned sixth-place finishes - one spot shy of the fifth necessary for automatic entry to the NCAA meet - including three who missed fifth place by a combined 17 hundredths of a second.
Those who did not finish among the top-five in their events still have a chance to compete at the NCAA Championships, as one of 5-7 non-qualifiers added per event based on their performances during the season. The full NCAA Championships field, including both automatic and provisional qualifiers, will be announced Sunday at 5 p.m. on the NCAA's official website, www.ncaasports.com.
Spriestersbach's second-place finish earned eight team points for Washington, helping the Huskies to 30 team points overall and an eighth-place finish, both numbers significant improvements over the team's 11th-place, 26-point effort a year ago. Top-ranked UCLA defended its 2003 regional crown with a first-place total of 141 points, matching that on the men's side with a winning score of 141. Washington's men were 17th with 13 points.
"Our women's team is young, so for them to come here and earn a top-10 finish is exciting," Metcalf said. "It's tough to watch so many kids get so close to earning those automatic spots, especially the seniors, but I'm excited for those who will be going to Austin. On the whole, we're a young team, so hopefully we'll come back here a chip on our shoulder next season."
One of those heading to Texas for the national meet is Spriestersbach, whose final-throw effort of 167-3 broke her own UW record by more than three feet and earned a loud roar from spectators on both sides of the Matador Track Complex. Already a U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier, Spriestersbach's throw ranks ninth by an American woman in 2004, and was the sixth-best by a Pac-10 woman since the new javelin implement came into use six years ago.
Oregon's Sarah Malone won the event with a throw of 173-10, while four-time Pac-10 champion Inga Stasiulionyte slipped to third at 166-2.
"Megan just looked better and better with every throw," said second-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "She just keeps getting stronger as the year goes on, which obviously bodes well for nationals and the Olympic Trials."
Spriestersbach's record was one of two set by Husky women Saturday, as junior Laura Halverson lowered the Huskies' steeplechase mark by two seconds with a 10-minute, 33.28-second finish. Running in the first of two heats being contested as a timed final, Halverson and teammate Dallon Williams went to second and third place early and hung on through 2,000 meters, surrending one spot to finish third and fourth in their heat, and 14th and 16th overall.
Both Huskies had a shot at the record coming off the final barrier, with Halverson outkicking Williams over the final 50 meters for the chance to knock Kate Spigel's 10:35.31 off the top of the UW's all-time list. Williams, though, did not go home empty-handed - her fourth-place time of 10:37.27 broke her own Washington freshman record of 10:41.79 set earlier this year, and goes down as the third-fastest ever by a Washington runner.
Also highlighting the day on the track for Washington was the performance of the team's 4x400-meter relay squad, whose fourth-place finish bettered their regional ranking by one place. Senior Cristian Adams, sophomore Phil McCary, junior Sean Williams and junior Bruce Jackson each ran outstanding legs, the latter making up 15 meters on BYU down the homestretch to lift the Huskies from fifth to fourth by just .03.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the steeple and relay were the exception on a heartbreaking day, which saw four Huskies miss automatic qualifying spots by just one place.
No race was closer than the men's 800 meters, which Washington senior Todd Arnold entered as the favorite after running the fastest time in Friday's prelims. Seeking to match or better his fourth-place finish at last year's Regional, Arnold surged ahead of the pack by as much as 10 meters entering the back stretch. Passed off the final turn by four runners, Arnold crossed the line in a virtual tie with BYU's Lars Kjerengtroen for the crucial fifth-place spot.
Anxious eyes of UW fans turned immediately to the stadium scoreboard, only to be foiled in their anticipation by the identical times of 1:51.15 posted for both Arnold and Kjerengtroen. As the officials huddled over the finish-line picture to break the tie, Arnold and Kjerengtroen shook hands at the finish line, each awaiting the result. Arnold was prematurely announced over the stadium PA as the fifth-place finisher, but when the officials emerged from the tent moments later, it was in fact Kjerengtroen who had crossed the line first, by a heartbreaking one one-thousandth of a second.
"That's a tough pill to swallow," Metcalf said. "Todd is such a tremendous competitor; I know he expected to be toeing the line in two weeks at the NCAA Championships. He and the rest of this senior class, though, have done so much to turn this program around. I know he's disappointed with how this raced turned out, but his career is something he can be truly proud of."
Just minutes earlier, junior Lindsey Egerdahl found herself two seconds shy of an NCAA Championships bid in the 1,500 meters, despite the seventh-fastest effort in Washington history. Running in the top-five for much of the final 400 meters, Egerdahl fell victim to a surging Alejandra Barrientos of UCLA, who passed the Husky junior with 100 meters to go and held on for the fifth and final qualifying spot, her time of 4:20.20 edging Egerdahl's career-best 4:22.38.
"Lindsey ran tough today; I know she gave it all coming down that home stretch," Metcalf said. "I guarantee you she'll be a factor in this race next season."
The story was similar in the men's 1,500 meters, where senior Eric Garner was attempting to reach his third-straight NCAA Championship. The fifth-seeded athlete in the field, Garner was running third entering the final turn before falling to sixth in the span of 100 meters. As UCLA's Jon Rankin faded down the stretch, though, Garner reeled him in, eventually crossing the line just 15 hundredths of a second behind the Bruins junior, who earned the final NCAA berth.
"Eric's been such a rock for us throughout his career," Metcalf said. "You can't talk about the greatest distance runners in UW history without talking about Eric Garner. Hopefully, he'll get into the meet as a provisional qualifier, and have one more chance to add to his legacy."
While the West Regional marked the last chance for senior Garner to earn an NCAA berth, it was the first of what will likely be many opportunities for record-setting freshman Ashley Lodree.
The third-ranked junior-age hurdler in the world, Lodree entered Saturday's 100-meter hurdles final seeded seventh in the nine-woman field, which included five of the top-14 women in the nation. A false start by Arizona State's Jackie Johnson cut the field to eight at the gun, but Lodree's 13.62-second effort couldn't crack the top-five, falling just two hundredths of a second short of fifth-place finisher Amy Menlove of BYU. Lodree also missed narrowly in the 100-meter dash just 30 minutes later, placing eighth in 11.93 seconds.
Not even the field events were immune to the narrow-miss bug, as freshman Brian Harris fell seven feet short of fifth place with a 211-foot, 8-inch throw in the men's javelin, good for seventh overall.
In all, 32 Huskies competed for Washington at this year's regional, of which three - Spriestersbach and pole vaulters Kate Soma and Carly Dockendorf - are guaranteed entry to June's NCAA Championships. The rest will have to wait until Sunday to see if their names are on the NCAA's provisional list, to be posted at 5 p.m. Pacific to www.ncaasports.com.
"We definitely expect to send more than three people to the national meet," said Metcalf. "I expect that when the list comes out Sunday, we'll be sending enough athletes to the meet to make some noise, especially on the women's side."
For complete results of all four NCAA Regional Track and Field Championships, visit www.trackshark.com.