March 3, 2007
SEATTLE - Husky distance runners Austin Abbott, Carl Moe and Amanda Miller all earned likely NCAA Championships berths, while pole vaulters Scott Roth and McKane Lee pushed each other into the top-five of the national collegiate rankings Saturday at the UW Last Chance Qualifier at Dempsey Indoor.
One of nine NCAA-designated "last chance" meets held throughout the country this weekend, Saturday's meet provided the nation's best athletes one final opportunity to improve their marks in advance of next weekend's NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. The final list of athletes selected to compete at the national meet will be announced Monday evening on the NCAA's official website, www.ncaasports.com.
All five of the Huskies mentioned above are all but certain to see their names listed on the NCAA Championships start list Monday after each climbed into the top-15 of the national rankings with their performances Saturday.
Chief among those was the outstanding competition in the men's pole vault, where freshman Scott Roth (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay) and junior McKane Lee (Arlington, Wash./Arlington) each achieved marks among the nation's five best this year. As the meet concluded around them, turning everyone's attention to the vault, both Huskies cleared 17 feet, 9 ¾ inches on their third attempts before moving up to 18-1 ¾, where Roth earned a first-attempt clearance and Lee bowed out.
Already having earned an NCAA automatic qualifying mark earlier in the year, Roth asked that the bar be raised to 5.61 meters -- 18 feet, 5 inches -- equal to the leading performance in the NCAA this year and two inches beyond the national record for 18-year-olds of 18-3 set by Oregon's Tommy Skipper in 2004. The freshman ran through on his first attempt and narrowly missed his second, before running through again on his third.
Their clearances, however, moved Roth to No. 2 on the NCAA's descending-order list and shot Lee to No. 5 overall, guaranteeing each a trip to Fayetteville for the national meet next weekend. The marks were lifetime bests for both vaulters, with Lee -- who missed all of last season with a patella tendon injury --adding nearly five inches to his previous best performance.
"There was a time this winter when we weren't even sure that McKane was going to be able to compete indoors -- heck, he didn't even use a full approach until our last indoor meet," said fifth-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "Not only is his qualifying great for McKane, but it's going to be good for Scott, too, to have a teammate alongside him at his first national meet."
Earlier in the day, the action centered around the mid-distance events, where three Huskies punched likely tickets for nationals, and a fourth put herself in position for at-large consideration. Junior Austin Abbott (Chehalis, Wash./W.F. West) -- already an NCAA qualifier in the mile and distance medley relay -- won the 800 meters in a time of 1 minute, 49 seconds, second-fastest ever at UW and the 10th-fastest in the nation this year. Abbott also ranks 11th nationally in the mile and runs the lead leg of Washington's 10th-ranked DMR, giving the two-time All-American three entries into next week's championship meet.
The mile runs further swelled UW's qualifying numbers, with junior Carl Moe (Auburn, Wash./Auburn-Riverside) climbing to 15th nationally with a provisional-qualifying time of 4:01.33, and junior Amanda Miller (Wenatchee, Wash./Eastmont) running the nation's 17th-fastest time at 4:41.36. Sophomore Dani Schuster (Kennewick, Wash./Kamiakin), too, put herself squarely on the NCAA bubble with a 4:43.33 mile finish, good for fifth all-time at Washington and 20th in the nation this year.
"I'm really proud of these folks," Metcalf said. "We told them coming into this race, based on the other results we'd seen and what we know has happened in the past, exactly what times we thought they needed to run in order to make it to nationals, and they went out and did it. The NCAA meet takes 16-18 kids in each race, but I know that a few of the girls listed ahead of Amanda and Dani aren't going to run at nationals, so I'm pretty confident they'll get in. It'll just depend on how many the NCAA selects from this event."
The Huskies may also have earned a qualifying spot from senior Martin Bingisser (Bellevue, Wash./Interlake), whose provisional-qualifying toss of 67 feet in the weight throw was a two-foot personal best and the 18th-longest in the nation this year. Including Bingisser, Washington could have as many as 13 individuals and one relay in the NCAA Championships field announced Monday, a total which would break the team's record of 12 NCAA Indoor Championships qualifiers set two years ago.
"We might have to take a bus to nationals this year, the way things are going," Metcalf said. "Four years ago we went to the NCAA Indoor meet with four kids, now we're talking about the possibility of taking 14, and even the chance of competing for a trophy on the men's side. That's pretty exciting."
For complete results from Saturday's meet, or for the first news of the NCAA's selection announcement Monday, visit www.GoHuskies.com.