Jan. 7, 2005
Pardon head coach Greg Metcalf if he gets a little excited talking about his women's team in 2005.
It's just that with five returning NCAA Championships competitors, and the return of 15 of the 17 Huskies to score at last year's Pac-10 Championships, there's plenty to be excited about.
"Last year we went to the Pac-10 meet with the goal of breaking into the top-five," says Metcalf, whose Huskies fell just two points shy of their 2004 goal with a sixth-place conference finish. "This year, we have the talent to do that and more."
Long known for their success in the distance and throwing events, the Husky women showed their versatility in 2004 by qualifying three women's pole vaulters, one heptathlete, and one hurdler for NCAA Championships competition, in addition to graduated javelin thrower Megan Spriestersbach.
"The distances and throws are always going to be an important part of what we do here," Metcalf says. "But to be able to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the nation, we need to be able to compete across the board, and that means being outstanding in the sprints, hurdles and jumps as well."
Incoming prep stars like four-time All-American sprinter Jennifer Nash (Sacramento, Calif./Merrill West) and heptathlete Bonnie Snyder (Salina, Kans./Salina Central) have the Huskies on the way towards fulfilling Metcalf's vision, but the coach knows it will take more than speed and athleticism for UW to reach its goals in 2005.
"This team is talented, but talent isn't enough," he says. "You have be willing to bring the best version of yourself every day to practice. So far, this group is doing that better than any I've ever had, and that makes for a potentially exciting season."
First-year UW assistant LaMonte Vaughn likely needed to look only at the talent on the Huskies' 2005 roster before accepting the job of sprints/hurdles/relays coach this fall.
Sophomore Ashley Lodree (Richmond, Calif./El Cerrito) ranked seventh in the IAAF's World Junior Rankings with a time of 13.41 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, and was the No.-1 college freshman in the nation in the 60-meter hurdles.
Lodree set UW records in both events and placed 14th at the NCAA indoor meet, before finishing sixth in the 100 hurdles at the outdoor Regional Championship. In addition, the freshman was UW's top 100-meter dash competitor, with a best of 11.73 seconds that is UW's third-fastest ever.
"Ashley has a lot of natural ability, but she also takes her preparation very seriously, and has a lot of mental toughness," Vaughn says.
Lodree will likely cede 100-meter honors this year to freshman Nash, a four-time prep All-American whose 2004 prep best of 11.58 seconds would have qualified the high-school senior for NCAA competition out of the West Region in 2004.
"Jennifer is one of the most powerful young female athletes I have ever coached," Vaughn says. "She's as fast as anybody I've ever been associated with."
It will be Dignam who provides Nash's stiffest test in the 200. The junior ranks sixth in UW history in the event with a best of 24.34 seconds, and holds the UW record of 54.41 seconds at 400 meters.
"Lauran's looking great in practice," Vaughn says. "I'm pleased with her development. She's definitely going to make better strides in her racing."
Rounding out the sprints/hurdles unit are veterans Steward and Grace Vela (Toronto, Ont./Vaughan HS/Lewis College), both of whom rank among UW's top-10 all-time in the 100-meter hurdles. Combined with Lodree, the three give Washington a sprint hurdles trio to rival any on the West Coast.
"They're capable of great things," Vaughn says. How much they accomplish is entirely up to them."
As is usually the case at Washington, the Huskies are loaded in the middle-distance events, with retur-ning Pac-10 scorers at both 800- and 1,500 meters.
The talent-laden unit is led by senior Lindsey Egerdahl (Auburn, Wash./Auburn), who seeks an NCAA bid in the 1,500 meters after sixth-place Regional finishes in 2003 and 2004. Among UW's all-time top-10 in three events, Egerdahl is a three-time top-10 Pac-10 finisher with a best of 4:22.38 that is fourth among Pac-10 returnees.
Pacing Egerdahl in 2004 was sophomore Kira Harrison (Bellingham, Wash./Meridian), whose 800-meter best of 2:09.26 earned 11th at the NCAA Regional. Harrison, Egerdahl and Amy Lia (Bothell, Wash./Bothell), UW's freshman record-holder indoors in the 800 (2:09.73) and mile (4:50.51), give the Huskies three women capable of NCAA bids at one or both distances in 2005.
"Those three girls are all capable of making an impact at the Pac-10 meet," Metcalf says, "but they're just the tip of the iceberg when you're talking about our talent in those events."
In fact, the Huskies boast nine returning Pac-10 qualifiers at 1,500 meters, including seniors Angela Wishaar (Shoreline, Wash./Shorecrest) and Laura Halverson (Mica, Wash./Freeman), and sophomores Marie Foushee (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) and Brianna McLeod (Jenks, Okla./Jenks). Add to that mix four-time state 800-meter champion Amanda Miller (Wenatchee, Wash./Eastmont) and fellow freshman Dani Schuster (Kennewick, Wash./Kennewick), and Washington boasts one of the nation's top collections of young middle-distance talent.
"Dani and Amanda are going to be competitive in this conference for sure," Metcalf says. "Top to bottom, this is without a doubt the most talented middle-distance group I've ever had."
The good news doesn't stop there for Metcalf, who also returns three of the Pac-10's top-nine steeplers, and four Pac-10 5,000-meter qualifiers.
Halverson ran fourth in the 2004 Pac-10 steeple final before crushing UW's school record two weeks later with a time of 10:33.28 at the NCAA Regional. Just one spot back at the Pac-10 meet was sophomore Dallon Williams (Turlock, Calif./Turlock), whose 2004 best of 10:37.27 was a UW frosh record and the Huskies' third-fastest ever. Junior Karen Schwager (Langley, Wash./South Whidbey) and senior Camille Connelly (Marysville, Wash./Marysville-Pilchuk) have each placed among the top-nine at the Pac-10 meet, while Arizona's reigning prep 3,200-meter champ, Trisha Rasmussen (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Ridge), could challenge for a Pac-10 berth as well.
"We have five women capable of running under 11 minutes in the steeple," Metcalf says. "That could score us a lot of points at the Pac-10 meet."
Williams also challenged UW's freshman record at 5,000 meters, and placed 10th in the event at the Pac-10 meet. Williams, McLeod and Foushee lead are all returning Pac-10 qualifiers in the 5,000, with Wishaar and senior Meghan Lawrence (Bellingham, Wash./Meridian) also in the mix.
"Dallon was running at a different level this fall," Metcalf says. "If she can carry that over to the track, she could be capable of something special."
Injuries could deprive UW of both of its returning 10,000-meter competitors. Fourth-place Pac-10 finisher Alison Tubbs (Enumclaw, Wash./Enumclaw) was forced to retire after just one season, and senior Jamie Gibbs (Arvada, Colo./Arvada West) will be limited to just a handful of meets. Lawrence is consdered likeliest to fill the position, but others could step forward.
UW assistant Pat Licari has no such concerns with his pole vault unit, which with three of the top-14 finishers at the NCAA Championships, and four with vaults over 13 feet, may be the nation's best.
Three-time All-American Kate Soma (Portland, Ore./Grant) will challenge for her first NCAA title after placing second outdoors, and tying for fifth indoors, in 2004. The senior will also defend the Pac-10 pole vault title she won last year with a UW-record vault of 14 feet, 2 inches,10th-best in NCAA history and 12th by an American in 2004.
"Kate's the most technically sound vaulter I've ever worked with," Licari says. "She'll certainly be among the favorites for an NCAA title."
Soma was one of three UW vaulters to qualify for the NCAA meet in 2004, most of any school. Each finished among the top-14, with sophomore Carly Dockendorf (Port Moody, B.C./Best Secondary) placing 13th and freshman Stevie Marshalek (Kent, Wash./Kentlake) taking 14th. In just her second full season vaulting, B.C.-native Dockendorf cleared 13-3 1/2 to move to seventh in Canadian history, while Marshalek's best of 13-3 ranked 18th in the world among junior-age women.
"To see both of them over 13 feet already is exciting," Licari says. "Ashley Wildhaber also added seven inches to her PR last year. Those four are all capable of clearing 14 feet."
Licari should at least add a fifth over 13 feet in 2004 with the addition of Kelley DiVesta (Colorado Springs, Colo./Palmer), whose prep best of 12-6 1/2 is a state record. She and Wildhaber (Chehalis, Wash./W.F. West/UNC-Wilmington), who nearly became UW's fourth NCAA qualifier with a seventh-place finish at the 2004 Regional, round out one of the deepest vault units in NCAA history.
"Is it nuts to think that we could sweep all five spots at the Regional?" Licari asks. "All of these ladies have what it takes to be top-five; whichever are at their best will be the ones going to the NCAAs."
Licari also returns a deep jumps unit led by senior Grace Vela. An NCAA qualifier in the heptathlon last season, Vela boasted bests in the long and triple jumps that each ranked among the 10-best by a Canadian woman in 2004. In addition, her heptathlon best of 5,225 points earned fourth at the Pac-10 meet, and was second all-time at UW.
"Grace is extremely vaulable to our team," Licari says. "She wants to be an All-American in the heptathlon this year, and if she can make the same kind of improvement she did last year, that's certainly possible."
Vela and sophomore Ashley Lodree both long-jumped 19-6 1/4 to rank among the best-ever at UW, and placed ninth and eighth, respectively, at the Pac-10 Championships. Vela was also ninth at the Pac-10 meet in the triple jump while junior Sidney Brown (Brush Prairie, Wash./Prairie) was sixth in the triple, and fourth in the high jump.
"I was really impressed with the efforts by Ashley and Sidney last year," Licari says. "They stepped up and scored some points for us at the Pac-10 meet that we weren't expected to score."
With both Vela and Brown seniors, freshman Bonnie Snyder (Salina, Kans./Salina Central) represents the future of UW's jumps unit. A 16-time top-10 state finisher from Kansas, Snyder could make an impact for UW in all three jumping events, and will join Vela in the heptathlon.
"Bonnie's going to have an outstanding career," Licari says. "She has some truly amazing talent."
Two-time Pac-10 scorer Tiffany Zahn (Newberg, Ore./Newberg) headlines a throws unit that will rely heavily on newcomers in 2005.
Seeking to become UW's third-straight All-American in the javelin, Zahn's third-place Pac-10 finish and best of 157-9 make her the top returning javelin thrower in the Pac-10 conference.
"Tiffany's been so close these past two years," says UW assistant Bud Rasmussen of Zahn, who has narrowly missed NCAA at-large selection in each of her first two seasons. "If she's healthy in May and June, she'll be an All-American for sure."
A season-ending injury to two-time Pac-10 shot put scorer Cherron Davis (Auburn, Wash./Auburn-Riverside) leaves Zahn as UW's only returnee with Pac-10 experience, and just one of two Huskies -- along with sophomore Carin Trygg (Kenmore, Wash./Inglemoor) -- with any collegiate experience.
The sixth-ranked hammer thrower in UW history with a best of 155-2, Trygg will be asked to carry the load in the hammer and discus as UW's top healthy returnee in both events. Junior transfer Arlecier West (Kent, Wash./Kent-Meridian/Highline CC) will provide depth in the hammer and disc, while freshman Sheree Ellis (Kent, Wash./Kentridge) will anchor the shot.
"We're thin for sure, but there's promise," the coach says. "Carin and Arlecier are both making strides, and Sheree is looking like she could be one of the top young throwers in the nation."
With an unprecedented wealth of returning Pac-10 scorers, five proven NCAA Championships competitors, and a recruiting class boasting stars in every event, the expectation is for 2005 to be one of the finest seasons in recent history at UW
Metcalf knows, however, that success is not built on talent alone.
"I've worked around a lot of great athletes over the years, and the one consistent factor I see in their success is that they never, ever, lose sight of their goals," he says. "Every workout is done with the same intensity, whether its the first day of the season or the NCAA final. Right now, I see that same consistency from this group, and that has me super-excited. They should be fun to watch."