May 31, 2008
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior Michelle Turner and junior Jared O'Connor both registered major upset victories with huge new personal bests at the NCAA West Regional today hosted by Cal State Northridge. Turner's win in the 1500-meters and O'Connor's win in the pole vault were two of eight automatic NCAA Championship berths earned today by the Husky track and field squad.
The Husky men's team placed fourth out of 25 teams, rebounding from a ninth-place Pac-10 finish with 54 total points, trailing only Arizona State, USC, and UCLA and finishing ahead of Pac-10 rivals Oregon, California, Arizona, Stanford, and Washington State. The Husky women also finished in the top-10 out of 29 teams, finishing tied for eighth with Washington State and Cal State Northridge, all with 31 points. The Arizona State women were Regional champs.
Turner, seeded ninth in the region, stunned the thousands in attendance by pulling away on the back straightaway, stretching her lead from five meters out to fifteen on the final turn. Sophomore Katie Follett was the only runner who significantly closed the gap, catching up with her training partner to give the Huskies a one-two finish. Turner finished in 4:14.94, nearly nine seconds faster than her previous lifetime best of 4:23.38. Follett's second-place time of 4:15.78 was also a personal best by nearly four seconds.
"I was stunned, I thought I was dreaming," said a beaming Turner after the race. "I'm trying not to pinch myself and wake up. Usually I get tired in the 1500 at a certain point and I think I can't push it, but there was just a go button and I pushed it with 300 (meters) to go and I felt so amazing I just wanted to finish it. I didn't know if there was anyone around me I just ran hard."
Turner becomes just the fourth Husky ever to run under 4:15 in the 1500. Her time and Follett's now rank fourth and fifth all-time at Washington. Senior Amanda Miller was sixth in the same race in 4:21.27, and her top-12 finish should produce an at-large berth for the three-time All-American.
Follett, the reigning Pac-10 Champion at 1500-meters, had been training with Turner recently and thought her teammate was due for a breakout performance.
"I've worked out with Michelle all year long, and I knew she had an effort like that in her," said Follett. "When we're working out, she's always with me or ahead of me and so when I saw her going I knew it was legit and I knew she was going to do something today. I'm so proud of her because she's been working towards this all season. I tried to lock in and go with her and we both got PR's today."
Both women's marks were well under the provisional time of 4:19.50 for the Olympic Trials.
"We had a great workout a week ago at about a 4:16 pace. I thought it was so stinking hard. I thought, `No way, I'll try a 4:19," said Turner. "But the girls set a wonderful pace early in the race, and with 300 to go I just wanted to carry it through, and we both ran fast so it's great."
O'Connor made it to Regionals owning only the minimum qualifying mark of 16-6 ¾. But after missing his first attempt at 16-1 ¾, O'Connor was successful on four consecutive attempts, setting three new personal bests in the final three of the four. O'Connor went over on his first try at 16-7 ¼, then went over 17-feet for the first time in his career with a first-attempt clearance of 17-1. Finally, O'Connor cleared 17-5 on his first try, which was especially important as it was the last height cleared by the remaining three vaulters, and O'Connor earned the win by virtue of fewest attempts. O'Connor finally missed attempting to clear 17-9.
"Coming into the meet, it's obviously a big meet and you have tons of competition around. Having that level of competition builds you up and at the same time it humbles you," said O'Connor. "It just puts you in a great state of mind to jump well. My expectations are just to jump within my capabilities and finally today I fulfilled my potential as an athlete. I am stoked beyond belief to be going to nationals."
The top-five finishers in each event, and top three relays earn automatic entry into the NCAA Track and Field Championships, held June 11-14 in Des Moines, Iowa. An additional six to eight competitors will be added to each event based on season-best marks.
Washington's 4x100-meter relay group earned an NCAA bid via a second-place finish in 39.97. Jordan Boase led off the group and handed off to junior Randy Bacon with the lead. Bacon gave way to junior Joseph Turner with the Huskies neck-and-neck with Arizona. Freshman Ryan Hamilton brought it home for the Huskies, who were barely nipped by the Wildcats, who won in 39.95. It will be the first NCAA Championship appearances for Turner and Hamilton.
Boase later made his NCAA 400-meter participation official, taking third in the final in 46.80, a pedestrian time for the nation's No. 2 quarter-miler. Boase got out of the blocks slowly and pushed just hard enough to make sure he was in the top-five.
Senior Austin Abbott, a four-time NCAA All-American who finished fourth in the 2007 NCAA Indoors in the 800-meters, punched his ticket for his first NCAA Outdoor 800m appearance with a fourth-place finish in a deep field with a time of 1:49.75. Fellow senior James Fredrickson, already a relay qualifier, turned in a strong performance later in the day, qualifying for NCAA's in the 400m hurdles with a fifth-place finish in 51.22 seconds. Fredrickson, who was 10th at NCAA's last year in the same event, had to make his run out of lane one after qualifying eighth in the prelims, but was clearly determined to get back to nationals.
Also joining UW's mid-distance All-Americans in Des Moines will be sprinter Falesha Ankton, who placed second in the 100m hurdles in a time of 13.46. Ankton, a sophomore outdoors, will be making her first individual NCAA appearance.
"I think we had a great day today," said Husky head coach Greg Metcalf. "Our men finished fourth in the West Regional after finishing ninth in the Pac-10. Although the goal here isn't to come and score points, the goal is to get people through this meet and onto the national meet, but in doing that I would say for two years in a row our kids have come to the West Regional and competed incredibly well and done fantastic things."
Sophomore Zack Midles fell just short of an automatic bid in the hammer throw. Fifth-place threw 209-9 and Midles finished seventh with 205-1. Coming into the weekend Midles was 29th on the NCAA descending order list, so depending on how things fall in the other regionals, he should be right on the bubble for an at-large berth.
Also falling just one place short was Joseph Turner in the 200m dash, and sophomore Jeff Gudaitis in the 400m dash. Both placed sixth in their finals. Senior Carl Moe was UW's last competitor to see the track, and just missed an auto bid with a seventh-place finish in the 3000m steeplechase. Moe should be in good position for an at-large berth.
2008 NCAA West Regional
Matador Track Complex - Northridge, Calif.
May 31, 2008
Men's Team Results (Top Ten): 1) Arizona State, 74; 2) Southern California, 72; 3) UCLA, 68.50; 4) Washington, 54; 5) Oregon, 53; 6) California, 50; 7) Arizona, 42; 8) Boise State, 40; 9) Stanford, 39; 9) Washington State, 39; 9) Long Beach State, 39.
Men's Results (UW Only)
200m Dash (Final): 6. Joseph Turner, 21.23. 400m Dash (Final): 3. Jordan Boase, 46.80; 6. Jeff Gudaitis, 47.30. 800m Run (Final): 4. Austin Abbott, 1:49.75. 400m Hurdles (Final): 5. James Fredrickson, 51.22. Steeplechase (Final): 7. Carl Moe, 8:51.82. 4x100m Relay (Final): 2. Washington (Jordan Boase, Randy Bacon, Joseph Turner, Ryan Hamilton), 39.97. Pole Vault (Final): 1. Jared O'Connor, 17-5. Hammer Throw (Final): 7. Zack Midles, 205-1.
Women's Team Results (Top Ten): 1) Arizona State, 114; 2) UCLA, 87.50; 3) Southern California, 78; 4) Stanford, 74; 5) Oregon, 50 6) California, 44.50 7) San Diego State, 42; 8) Washington, 31; 8) Washington State, 31; 8) Cal State-Northridge, 31.
Women's Results (UW Only)
1500m Run (Final): 1. Michelle Turner, 4:14.94; 2. Katie Follett, 4:15.78; 6. Amanda Miller, 4:21.27. 100m Hurdles (Final): 2. Falesha Ankton, 13.49. 400m Hurdles (Final): 8. Falesha Ankton, 1:02.89. Steeplechase (Final): 32. Mo Huber, 11:17.70.