June 9, 2004
AUSTIN, Texas - Competition at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas, was suspended Wednesday after torrential rains and persistent lightning created dangerous conditions for athletes and spectators. Only three of the scheduled 26 events were completed Wednesday, sandwiched between and around an eight-hour weather delay.
Competition in the women's heptathlon and women's javelin -- both underway when the storms which have plagued Austin, Texas, for the past two days moved in for good at 1:15 p.m. CDT - were postponed to late Wednesday night, while all other events were rescheduled.
A complete schedule for the remaining three days of competition in Austin was to be posted to www.ncaasports.com at approximately midnight CDT Wednesday.
"It's certainly been a strange day," said second-year head coach Greg Metcalf, taking shelter under the east stands of Texas' Royal Memorial Football Stadium along with all other coaches, athletes and officials required to evacuate Mike A. Myers Stadium. "I thought the officials did the right thing, though, in postponing the meet. It's not fair to these athletes, especially in an Olympic year, to ask them to compete under the kind of conditions we saw today."
Among the events rescheduled was the women's pole vault, which began early Wednesday with preliminary attempts at the opening height of 12-3 ˝, before the first of two weather delays totaling eight hours. After much discussion among the officials, it was decided that results from the first 45 minutes of competition, prior to the rain delay - including opening-height clearances by Huskies Kate Soma and Carly Dockendorf, and three misses by freshman Stevie Marshalek - were to be wiped off the books, with all 28 vaulters invited back to compete in a straight final at the originally-scheduled finals time on Friday.
"Obviously, there would have been a significant competitive advantage to the ladies who hadn't yet entered the competition when it was postponed, and thus didn't have to compete in the rain," Metcalf said. "I'm glad the committee made the decision to start over on Friday; it's definitely the most fair thing to do."
The eight-hour rain delay separated the first and second qualifying flights of the women's javelin, the latter featuring Husky senior and 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier Megan Spriestersbach. After arriving at the track at 11:30 a.m. for the 1 p.m. event, the Lakewood, Wash., native was forced to wait more than 10 hours, until 9:45 p.m., before taking her first throw. If the layoff affected Spriestersbach, however, she didn't let it show, launching her second throw 158 feet, 1 inch to take seventh in the prelim, and earn one of 12 qualifying spots in Friday's final.
"Sitting around like that for 11 hours is tough on your body and mind," Metcalf said, "but Megan's pretty tough, too. I'm not surprised at all that she managed to put all those distractions to the side and launch a big throw when her name was finally called."
The only other events completed Wednesday were the preliminary heats of the women's 4x100 meters - sandwiched into a 20-minute window in between the two weather delays -- and the first four events of the women's heptathlon.
Husky junior Grace Vela overcame the elements in the heptathlon's first event, the 100-meter hurdles, clocking a time of 14.16 seconds for 956 points, 11th-best in the heptathlon field. After the first, three-hour delay, the Toronto, Ont., native returned for two clearances in the heptathlon high jump, before lightning again stopped the meet, this time for more than five hours.
At 9:45 p.m. - more than nine hours after beginning competition in the 100-meter hurdles - Vela took the track again for her final attempts in the high jump, ultimately clearing 5-feet, 2 1/2 inches, good for 724 points and a 1,680-point total through two events, 20th-best overall.
A shot put mark of 31-4 1/2 dropped Vela to 26th after three events, but a time of 25.40 in the final event of the day, the 200 meters -- completed well after midnight -- earned the Husky 850 points to bring her four-event total to 3,031, tied for 21st overall with three events remaining.
Vela's four-event total leaves the Husky just 2,235 points shy of Sonja Forster's 1994 UW record, equivalent to an average of 746 points per event Thursday.
"Grace had a heck of a long day today," Metcalf said. "If there's anyone who can handle it, though, it's Grace. She's ready to compete any time, any day."
Thursday's congested schedule will feature the final three events for Vela in the heptathlon, and the preliminary heats of the men's 4x400-meter relay, including Huskies Cristian Adams, Phil McCary, Sean Williams and Bruce Jackson.
For schedules and results from the 2004 NCAA Track and Field Championships, visit www.ncaasports.com.