Jan. 30, 2009
SEATTLE - Junior All-American Katie Follett ran a blistering final leg of the women's distance medley relay, leading the Huskies to an NCAA Automatic qualifying mark to highlight the first night of the UW Invitational at the Dempsey Indoor. The UW women's DMR, comprised of freshman Christine Babcock, junior Falesha Ankton, junior Kailey Campbell, and Follett, are now the NCAA leaders.
The first night of the two day meet featured mostly heptathlon and pentathlon competitions, but ended with dramatic performances in the 5,000-meter runs and the distance medley relays. Each of the final races featured an NCAA Automatic mark, culminating with Washington running a school-record 11:05.80 in the DMR. After the first two legs, BYU opened a large gap with Stanford in second and the Huskies running third, but Ballad High's Campbell closed the gap on the 800-meter leg, running a 2:08 split. She handed off to Follett who passed Stanford early on and continued tracking down BYU, eventually pulling past the Cougar on the final turn. Follett's 1600-meter leg was approximately 4-minutes, 34-seconds.
"I just tried to keep my eyes up and looking ahead at the BYU runner," said Follett. "Coming around on the last lap, with about 200-meters to go I thought I'd be able to catch her so I just said okay let's turn on the jets. It's a really great feeling that my starting point this season is already better than my PR from last year. That's a testament to our workouts and everyone is in really good shape right now."
The Huskies now boast the NCAA's fastest time in the women's DMR, an event they placed 11th in at last year's NCAA Championships. They shattered the school record by seven seconds, which had been set in 2008. Over the past two seasons, the Husky women have lowered the DMR school record by 18 seconds. Brigham Young and Stanford also hit the Automatic qualifying marks behind the Huskies. The UW was less than a second off the Dempsey facility record.
A Dempsey record would be broken just a few minutes later in the men's distance medley relay, as the men from No. 1-ranked Arkansas defeated an Oregon relay that featured a pair of 2008 Beijing Olympians. Arkansas' Andy McClary overtook NCAA Cross Country Champion and 10,000-meter Olympian Galen Rupp of Oregon in the final lap, powering Arkansas to an NCAA-leading time of 9:28.35. Oregon also eclipsed the former facility record, finishing in 9:29.39. The Ducks had taken the lead on the 800-meter leg thanks to U.S. Olympian Andrew Wheating. The Huskies placed sixth in 9:52.12 but had the lead after the first two legs thanks to senior Austin Abbott and junior Jeff Gudaitis.
2008 U.S. Olympic high jumper Sharon Day won the women's pentathlon, competing for Asics. Day set another Dempsey record with 4,276 points. She was followed by Oregon's Brianne Theisen, who eclipsed the auto standard with 4,181 points. Washington senior Daria Amiad-Pavlov hit the NCAA provisional mark right on the head, scoring 3,700 points for a fifth-place finish.
All told, there were eight NCAA Automatic qualifying marks, and 12 more Provisional qualifying marks on day one of the meet.
Saturday's action gets underway at 8:30 a.m. in the field events and at 9 a.m. on the track. Top running event sections start at around 1 p.m.