June 11, 2005 -- UPDATED 9:14 p.m. with final team scores.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Husky senior Kate Soma became the most decorated women's track and field athlete in UW history Saturday, winning the NCAA pole vault title at the 2005 NCAA Track and Field Championships. Junior vaulter Carly Dockendorf placed sixth.
The runner-up at each of the last two NCAA Championships, Soma became the 24th Washington track and field athlete, and fourth UW woman, to win an NCAA title all-time, and the first Husky to do so outdoors since 1988. The Portland, Ore., native is the second Husky athlete to win an NCAA individual title in the past two weeks, joining NCAA men's golf champion James Lepp.
Soma was one of four Huskies to win All-America honors at this year's NCAA meet, which concluded Saturday. Washington's women finished among the top-20 teams for the second-straight year, their 17 points earning a tie for 15th place, its best finish since 1988. Texas captured the women's title with 55 points, while Arkansas won its 11th NCAA men's title since 1992 with 60 points. Washington's men did not score.
Soma led the field through 14 feet, 1 ¼ inches, clearing each of the first four heights on her first attempt. Things nearly turned ugly when Soma's pole snapped in half on her first attempt at 14-5 1/4, her fourth broken pole this year and the fifth of her UW career. Moved to the end of the jumping order as a result of the equipment failure, Soma was able to watch as each of the three remaining competitors missed all three of their attempts, crowning the Husky champion.
Soma says she knew after clearing her second height, 13-6 ¼, that she would win the competition.
"I felt so good going over that bar," she said afterward. "I just knew right then that this was my competition to win."
Dockendorf, meanwhile, moved into the top-10 in Pac-10 history with a third-attempt clearance at 13-9 ¼, before narrow misses on all three attempts at 14-1 1/4. Dockendorf's vault equaled the Pac-10's ninth-best all-time, and was the fifth-best vault ever by a Canadian woman.
"Kate's been runner-up twice, so for her to win at her final meet is just awesome," said vault coach Pat Licari. "It's also exciting to see Carly realizing her potential. This was just a great day all around for us."
Licari has coached at least one UW vaulter to an NCAA title in each of the past three seasons, adding Soma's win Saturday to back-to-back NCAA indoor crowns by Brad Walker in 2003 and 2004.
During Soma's four-year career, Washington's women's vault unit has evolved into the nation's most accomplished. Five Husky vaulters boasted marks over 13 feet in 2005, and four competed at the national championships, both firsts for any NCAA institution.
"We've been blessed to be able to enjoy watching Kate on a daily basis over these past four years," said third-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "We'll hopefully someday have another 14-foot vaulter, and another five-time All-American," Metcalf said. "But we'll be hard-pressed to replace Kate's impact on our program. She's proven that you can become a star at Washington, and that's a legacy that will live on for years to come."
Soma's legacy includes 2004 Pac-10 and 2005 West Regional titles, as well as five All-America honors, the most-ever for a UW woman. Only three UW men have earned more, including Ja'Warren Hooker (10), Scott Neilson (7) and Rick Noji (6).
As Soma made her first attempt at 13-6 ¼, sophomore Amy Lia sprinted past in the finals of the 1,500 meters, The Bothell, Wash., native, making her NCAA Championships debut, placed 12th in the event, crossing the line in 4 minutes, 27.89 seconds. Seeded 18th entering the meet, Lia qualified for Saturday's 12-woman final with a third-place preliminary finish, her time of 4:18.19 a four-second personal best and the third-fastest in Washington history.
The sophomore returned to the track barely two months ago after missing nearly a year due to injury, and has run just 11 1,500-meter races in her collegiate career.
"Amy's overcome a lot of adversity in the last year to put herself in this position, competing in the finals at the NCAA Championships," said Metcalf. "I think this experience has really opened her eyes as to what she's capable of. She'll be back here soon for sure."
A record 16 Huskies competed at this year's NCAA meet, with seven earning top-10 finishes. Soma, Dockendorf, hurdler Ashley Lodree and half-miler Ryan Brown all earned All-America honors - UW's most outdoor All-Americans since 2000 - adding to the 10 such honors earned by Husky athletes indoors in March.
"I tell you, it felt great to go into that stadium every night knowing that we had a bunch of folks out there competing, going after All-America honors," Metcalf said. "The past couple of years we've been laying the foundation, and this year we've started to build. Eleven of these 16 folks are coming back next year, and we have a bunch more who feel like they should be here, too. Washington track is again becoming the nationally-renowned name it used to be, and that's a credit to everyone involved in our program."
While the collegiate season is officially concluded, several UW athletes will continue to compete throughout the month of June. Numerous Huskies will be entered in next week's Harry Jerome Classic in Burnaby, B.C., while others are qualified to compete at the U.S. Junior and Senior National Championships, with berths at August's World Championships up for grabs.
For complete results from the 2005 NCAA Track and Field Championships, visit www.ncaasports.com.