March 16, 2007
SEATTLE - Washington assistant coach Kelly Strong broke the American record in the 2,000-meter steeplechase Friday, highlighting the outdoor season-opening UW Outdoor Preview meet at Husky Stadium.
Running alone at the front of the pack in a field comprised mostly of small-college and club competitors, Strong soared around the track in 6 minutes, 25.98 seconds, more than three seconds faster than the previous American record of 6:29.2 (hand-timed) run by Ann Gaffigan in Eugene on July 28, 2005.
The former ASU All-American, who has coached distance runners at Washington since 2002, already ranks among America's finest steeplers at the more commonly-run 3,000-meter distance, where her best of 9:48.90 is the seventh-fastest ever by an American woman. Strong, who competes professionally for Asics, continues to train under Washington head coach Greg Metcalf with the goal of qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where the women's steeplechase will be contested as a medal event for the first time.
"The conditions tonight were just perfect," said Strong, whose race began under a clear sky with gentle winds and temperatures in the mid-60s. "My legs have never felt that good before -- I went out a little fast on the first couple of laps and had to slow down a bit. It's a good start to the year."
Strong's record-breaking performance was certainly the highlight of the annual season-opening meet, held at night under the Husky Stadium lights for the first time in its long history.
Though few in number, the Washington athletes who competed represented their school well, winning 16 events and combining for two NCAA Regional qualifying marks. Both regional qualifiers came in the women's pole vault, where senior Stevie Marshalek (Kent, Wash,/Kentlake) soared over 13 feet, 1 ½ inch on her third attempt, and junior Kelley DiVesta (Colorado Springs, Colo./Palmer) topped 12-5 ½.
Other event winners on the women's side included Emily Collins (800m). Lindsay Todd (high jump). Liz Fuller (long jump), Nicole Vielma (triple jump), Sheree Ellis (shot put) and Shannon Harvey (hammer).
Brian Govier (1,500m), Jake Schmitt (3,000m), Blake Bidleman (110m hurdles), Carl Moe (2,000-meter steeplechase), , Teddy Davis (high jump), Seth Perrins (pole vault), Braden Weeks (triple jump), Peter Follmer (shot put) and Dave Nyland (javelin) all won events for the Washington men's team.
"We rested a lot of our folks this week, particularly those who were coming back from the NCAA Indoor meet last weekend," said Metcalf. "But I thought that the athletes we had competing did an outstanding job. To win 16 events with a limited squad shows that those folks really went out and competed hard. I thought especially Lindsay Todd in the high jump, and our men's and women's vaulters, as well as our guys in the steeple and 3K did a tremendous job tonight."
After more than two months at home, not counting the NCAA Indoor Championships one week ago, the Huskies will compete en masse on the road for the first time next weekend when they travel south for the annual Stanford Invitational. For complete results of Friday's UW Outdoor Preview, or for more information on Washington track and field, visit www.GoHuskies.com.