Jan. 27, 2007
SEATTLE - School records, national performance lists and reigning Olympic gold medalists proved no match for Washington's track and field teams on Saturday, which thrilled the thousands in attendance at Dempsey Indoor with four NCAA-leading performances, two U.S.-leading performances and a dramatic upset of a reigning Olympic champion. Those superlatives were simply highlights among the 36 NCAA qualifying performances by collegiate athletes at the two-day UW Indoor Invitational, which concluded Saturday.
Four Huskies -- quarter-miler Alex Harcourt, half-miler Ryan Brown, pole vaulter Scott Roth and long jumper Norris Frederick -- shot to No. 1 in the NCAA with their performances Saturday, with Harcourt and Frederick's marks ranking as the best by American males so far this year.
"The energy in the building today was just incredible, and I think that all the athletes here -- not just our folks -- really responded to that," said fifth-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "When you see college kids running neck and neck with Olympic champions, and other past and future Olympians posting some of the best performances in the world everywhere you turn, it's hard not to get excited."
A junior from Kent, Harcourt was responsible for the loudest roar of the day when he outleaned reigning Olympic 4x400-meter champion Darrold Williamson for the win in the 400-meter dash. Harcourt's time of 46.43 seconds -- just ahead of gold-medalist Williamson's 46.48 -- established a new indoor school record, and is the fastest time in the United States this year.
The junior ran side-by-side with Williamson throughout the race, before pulling ahead by barely half-a-meter at the finish line for perhaps the biggest upset in Dempsey Indoor's six-year history.
"We say every day in practice that our goal is to win races, plain and simple -- we don't care who's lining up next to us in the starting blocks," said third-year sprints coach LaMonte Vaughn, Jr. "Alex went out and lived that today. He went into this race believing he could beat one of the best sprinters in the world, and he did. What's important now is to take that same attitude into every race, and to make that kind of success consistent."
Frederick also claimed the No. 1 spot among American men in 2007 with his clearance of 25 feet, 10 inches in the long jump, best-ever by a Husky men's jumper indoors and four inches beyond the Roosevelt High School graduate's previous lifetime best. In addition to ranking No. 1 on the 2007 USATF performance list, Frederick's mark was also the top mark by a collegiate athlete of any nationality this year, and automatically qualifies him for March's NCAA Indoor Championships.
"Norris just continues to do outstanding things week-in and week-out," Metcalf said. "He's an energy jumper, so to have that crowd behind him on every jump, clapping with him and cheering for him, really gets him pumped up. He has the ability to hit 26 feet this year, for sure."
Brown and Roth also claimed No. 1 spots in the NCAA rankings with marks of 1:48.51 in the 800 meters and 18-1 in the pole vault, respectively. Roth's mark -- an NCAA automatic qualifier -- shattered his own UW freshman record of 17-6 ½ set just two weeks ago, while Brown's time crushed Washington's previous indoor school record by more than a second. Both rank among the top-five by American men this year, with the freshman Roth fifth overall, and the defending NCAA 800-meter champion Brown second.
"It felt really good to go out and race well," said Brown, who had not raced a competitive 800 meters since last June. "I've never run that fast this early in the season, so it's exciting to have that kind of a time under my belt already."
In addition to the NCAA-leading quartet, Washington received outstanding performances Saturday from junior Austin Abbott (1:49.59, 800 meters) and senior Martin Bingisser (64-11 1/4, weight throw), each of whom bettered NCAA provisional-qualifying standards, while a total of 11 Huskies posted marks among the 10-best in UW indoor track and field history.
Washington athletes were far from the only ones making waves, however. In addition to Williamson, the United States' 2004 Olympic team was represented by marathoner Jen Rhines who held off reigning U.S. 5,000-meter champion Lauren Fleshman for a thrilling win in the women's mile, the duo's respective times of 4:41.04 and 4:41.16 each ranking among the top-five by Americans this year. Defending NCAA high jump champion and 2008 U.S. Olympic hopeful Jesse Williams, meanwhile, matched his facility record in the event with a clearance of 7-3 ¾, while Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego became the first woman to break nine minutes in the 3,000-meters at Dempsey Indoor with an NCAA-leading mark of 8:56.72.
The thrilling indoor season at Dempsey Indoor continues in two weeks with The Husky Classic on Feb. 10, followed by the MPSF Indoor Conference Championships on Feb. 23-24. For complete meet results, or for more information on Washington track and field, visit www.GoHuskies.com.
-- Brian Beaky Asst. Dir., Athletic Communications Univ. of Washington Box 354070 229 Graves Building Seattle, WA 98195-4070 (206) 543-2331 office / (206) 227-5709 cell www.gohuskies.com