June 14, 2003
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Washington's track and field teams capped an historic 2003 season with a pair of All-America winners Saturday at the 2003 NCAA Track and Field Championships at Sacramento State. Senior Courtney Inman placed fourth in the 1,500 meters and sophomore Kate Soma was seventh in the pole vault, leading the Husky women to nine team points and a tie for 29th-place overall.
LSU captured its 13th NCAA women's title with 64 points, beating out No. 2 Texas (50 pts) and third-place finisher South Carolina (47). Fellow SEC power Arkansas earned its ninth NCAA men's title in the last 13 years with 59 points, ahead of challengers Auburn (50) and USC (41.5).
Including an All-American performance on Friday by senior Heather Reichmann in the javelin, Washington's women earned three All-America certificates at this year's meet, equaling the most by a UW women's team since 1988. The team's nine points are also its most since that same 1988 meet, when the UW women scored 26 points to place 10th.
"I couldn't be prouder of what our women have accomplished this season," said first-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "Our seniors, in particular, made the decision to change the way people think about Washington track and field. I'm sad to be losing those girls, but I know that the impact they've made on our program will be felt for many years. In that way, they'll always be a part of the great things to come for the Huskies."
Inman made history for the final time in a Washington uniform, crushing the school's 1,500-meter record for the second time in three days. The Abbotsford, B.C., native placed fourth overall in a scintillating 4 minutes, 10.93 seconds, the second-fastest time in Pac-10 history, the 12th-fastest by an NCAA runner during the collegiate season, and the 20th-fastest ever by a Canadian woman.
Mississippi State sophomore Tiffany McWilliams led for all but 100 meters of the race, outkicking UCLA's Lena Nilsson down the homestretch to win in 4:06.75. McWilliams' mark was the fastest-ever by an NCAA runner during the collegiate season, which is considered to end with the NCAA Championships.
Nilsson ran second in 4:09.86, placing her and Inman 1-2 all-time in Pac-10 history.
"What an unbelievable race!" said first-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "Courtney's entire career has been building towards this moment, and as she has been throughout her career, she was ready. I'm so happy for Courtney and thankful for all that she's given to our program, and the legacy she's left behind."
Inman was electric in Thursday's qualifying round, taking advantage of a fast heat to break a 22-year-old Washington record. The senior's time of 4:12.36 in the prelim was at the time the third-fastest in Pac-10 history, the fifth-fastest by a Canadian woman this year, and below the hand-timed UW record of 4:12.7 set by Husky legend Regina Joyce in 1981.
Inman leaves a significant mark on the UW program, with three school records and seven NCAA Championships appearances, including four in track and three in cross-country.
Making her third NCAA Championships appearance in just two years was sophomore Kate Soma, who soared 13 feet, 5 1/2 inches to place seventh overall, the highest-ever NCAA finish by a UW women's vaulter.
The news was not all good for Soma, however, who was forced to retire from the competition after injuring herself when her fiberglass pole broke on her third attempt at 13-9 1/2, cutting her hand. Soma was given the opportunity to repeat the vault, but was unable to continue due to the injury, and was thus credited with passes at each of the remaining heights.
Oregon senior Becky Holliday, who two weeks ago set the collegiate record of 14-8 at the NCAA West Regional, won her first national title with a clearance of 14-5 ˝.
The UW school-record holder both indoors and out, Soma qualified for Saturday's final with first-attempt clearances at the each of the three qualifying heights on Thursday. The sophomore has been at her best in the 2003 postseason, placing second at the NCAA West Regional Championships with a vault of 13-10 that was sixth-best in Pac-10 history, and nearly nine inches beyond her previous best.
"It's too bad that we didn't get to see what Kate would have done on that third vault," said Metcalf. "With as hot as she's been these past few weeks, I wouldn't have been surprised to see her clear 14 feet tonight. She'll be back next year, though, as the nation's No. 2 returning vaulter, and with some unfinished business to take care of. That's a pretty exciting thought."
Washington sent nine athletes to this year's NCAA Championship meet, more than doubling the team's four-member contingent in 2002. Four earned top-10 finishes, including Reichmann, Inman, Soma and senior Sabrina Monro, who placed 10th on Thursday in the 10,000 meters. Also competing were juniors John Russell, Todd Arnold and Brittiny Roberts -- each making their NCAA debuts -- and two-time NCAA competitors Kate Bradshaw and Eric Garner.
With the collegiate season officially closed, Washington's athletes will turn their attention to national competition, including next weekend's USA Junior and Senior Nationals, and July's Canadian National Championships.
For full results of the 2003 NCAA Track and Field Championships, visit www.ncaasports.com. For more information on the 2003 USA National Championships and the 2003 Canadian National Championships, including entry lists and event schedules, visit www.usatf.com and www.athleticscanada.com, respectively.