Jan. 27, 2011
The indoor track season makes a large leap in both quantity and quality this weekend as the UW Invitational brings some of the nation's elite college, professional, and prep track athletes to the Dempsey Indoor. A handful of the biggest names in American distance running will be toeing the line this Friday and Saturday, rubbing elbows with a large Husky contingent and thousands of other athletes from around the country.
The two-day meet begins Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. with the start of the pentathlon and heptathlon. Renton native Jeremy Taiwo, the Pac-10 decathlon runner-up last year, will compete in his first multi of the year, while the women's pentathlon is highlighted by defending NCAA Pentathlon and Heptathlon Champion Brianne Theisen of Oregon.
The track heats up Friday night with the 5,000-meters and distance medley relays. American Olympian Kara Goucher headlines the women's 5k. Goucher is a two-time World Championships participant and 2008 Olympian with a bronze medal in the 10k at 2007 Worlds.
In the DMRs, Washington will run a young but talented women's team made up of sophomore Justine Johnson, and freshmen Michelle Fero, Mackenzie Carter, and Katie Flood, the 2010 Pac-10 Cross Country Newcomer of the Year. Oregon and BYU also enter excellent women's teams. The Husky men's quartet of Ryan Soberanis, Colton Dunn, Ryan Styrk, and James Cameron will contend with strong Oregon and UCLA foursomes, and four talented professionals from the Oregon Track Club.
Saturday's first gun goes off right at 8 a.m. with the early heats of the 3,000-meters. The 60-meter dashes and hurdles follow soon after. Sophomore Shayne Moore, a Pac-10 and MPSF scorer in the short hurdles last year, will run, as will James Johnson, new to the track team after crossing over from the gridiron. Former Husky All-American Falesha Ankton, now running for Brooks, also starts her season in the 60m hurdles.
Once again, the top sections of all track races (with the exception of the 60-meters) are grouped together late in the afternoon, to give spectators a chance to watch the highest quality races in one fast-paced block. The top sections begin at 3:40 p.m. with the top heats of the men's and women's mile runs, and these should be some of the can't-miss races of the day.
Shalane Flanagan leads the way in the women's mile. The 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist and American 10k record-holder was a pace-setter two weeks ago in the Dempsey for fellow Nike pro Lisa Koll, who broke the facility 3k record in the process. But Flanagan will be going all the way to the finish this weekend. She'll be joined in the top heat by Nike's Lauren Johnson, 2009 World Championships qualifier Geena Gall of the Oregon Track Club, along with several more All-Americans and potentially Husky freshman Katie Flood coming off the DMR the night before.
The women's 3,000-meters is loaded with Pac-10 standouts from Oregon and Cal plus top runners from Colorado and BYU, with UW's Justine Johnson gunning for a PR in the fastest heat. James Cameron will toe the line in the top men's 3,000-meter heat for the Dawgs.
On the infield, every time Scott Roth is on the pole vault runway in the Dempsey, records could fall, as the NCAA Indoor Champion will look to build momentum towards NCAAs, while fellow senior Ryan Vu, the 2010 Pac-10 Champ, is set on reaching his first NCAA Indoor meet as well.
Talented freshman jumper Kasen Covington will make his Husky debut in the long and triple jumps, while freshman A.J. Maricich looks to improve on his 6-7 high jump clearance from two weeks back. The women's triple jump features freshman record-holder Shaniae Lakes and Taylor Nichols, while Clayton Johnson could be one to watch in the men's triple as well.
All-American Elisa Bryant is slated to return to action in the women's weight throw, after redshirting the full 2010 season. Bryant was eighth at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships and holds the Washington school record. Richard Anderson and Cameron Elisara will have their season openers in the shot for the men and Conner Larned competes in a Husky jersey for the first time in the weight throw.