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Hooker, Aoki, Palmer Run Final Races In Husky Uniforms
Release: 06/02/2001
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June 2, 2001

EUGENE, Ore.-- Washington closed out its stand at the 2001 NCAA Outdoor Track Championships by saying goodbye to two of the program's seniors and a visitor from overseas after their last runs as Huskies.

Senior Ja'Warren Hooker (Ellensburg, Wash.), Washington's lone sprint representative, made his final appearance in a Husky uniform at 6:35 p.m. Saturday finishing fifth in the 200-meter dash finals, clocking a heavily wind-aided 20.83 in the event to garner the ninth All-America title of his career.

Hooker, who ranked 11th among 200-meter runners entering the competition, ran a strongly wind-aided 20.46 to finish second in his heat to Tennessee freshman Justin Gatlin, who clocked a blistering 19.86 in the heat. He entered the finals ranked seventh overall by time.

For the last month and half, Ja'Warren Hooker, the Washington record holder in the 100, 200 and 400-meter dash events and 1998 NCAA Indoor 55-meter champion, has struggled with a tightness in his quadracep area. Until the Pac-10 Championships, May 19-20 in Berkeley, Calif., he hadn't competed hard as not to aggravate the injury. Four races into the Pac-10 meet, after the preliminary and final heats of both the 100-meter dash and 4x100-meter relay, Hooker withdrew from the competition due to the tightness to ensure he would be healthy for the NCAAs.

"The weather (rain, wind and cold) did not affect me at all," Hooker, a member of the 4x400m relay pool at the 2000 Olympic Games, said after the race Saturday evening. "I didn't get a great lane but you have to do with what you get. I tried to stick the tight corner and I was in pretty good shape then but that takes a lot of energy. I just didn't have any left the last half of the race."

On his final race for Washington: "I am just glad it's over," Hooker continued. "It has been a fun four years, but it puts a lot of strain on your body. It will be nice to be able to concentrate on running a few races every couple of weeks instead of several every week. I have not really thought about racing this summer yet, I am just trying to get ready to go after the quarter back here in Eugene in two weeks at the USA Nationals."

Also competing for Washington were senior Anna Aoki (Vancouver, Wash.) and Scottish distance transport Gillian Palmer (Helensburgh, Scotland), who finished 18th and 22nd respectively in the 5,000-meter run event with times of 16:28.63 and 16:40.76.

Aoki, who was making her final appearance for Washington, bounced back from a heat-related condition that forced her to drop out of the 10,000-meter run mid-race on Thursday night to run her second-best 5,000-meter time of the year. She entered the 5,000 as the 7th-ranked runner. Aoki , the Pac-10 champion at 10,000 meters in both 2001 and 1998, was competing in her 10th overall NCAA Championship event, including this--her fourth-straight outdoor competition as well as three each for indoor track and cross country. Her best finish at an NCAA event was ninth in the 10,000-meters at the 2000 NCAA Outdoor meet.

"I am disappointed with how I finished," Aoki said. "I thought I could come back and do well. It was a hard way to end things. You can't control certain factors of the race, so I have to try and keep a good perspective on things. I am happy overall with collegiate career. And due to the physical condition I was in I have to at least be happy I finished the race, but as a competitor you expect more of yourself."

On her plans for the future: "I am going to continue racing but I am going to take some time off," Aoki said. "I will probably start running again competitively at the end of the summer."

On her last race as a Husky: "It is starting to sink in now," Aoki continued. "It will be really tough when I go and talk to Coach (Metcalf) to realize that it (my Washington career) is over."

Palmer, who entered the race as the 17th-ranked runner, finished 22nd in the 5K in her last race in the United States as a collegian. Palmer, who claimed the Drake Relays 5,000-meter title and also helped lead the Husky cross country team to the NCAA Championships last fall is headed back to her native Scotland to continue her veterinary education at Edinburgh University and her running career. She was UW's top 1500-meter runner and ranked second among Huskies in the 3000 and 5000m. Palmer recorded her personal best mark, a 15:56 at the United Kingdom Olympic Trials in 2000. Her season-best time at Washington was an automatic qualifying 16:10.94 recorded here at Hayward Field just a few weeks ago, at the Oregon Twilight meet May 12.

"I was definitely excited to take part in this competition," Palmer said following the race. "I felt good the first half of the race and then I don't know what happened the second half. I will have to think about it some more and figure out what happened. The pace definitely increased and I think it shook me a bit but the conditions were great. I am disappointed in my results but I had a good season here. I also have a full season ahead of me in Scotland when I get back. Then I will take a break in September or so."

On her time at Washington: "I started off great during cross country season and then I got injured (a stress fracture in her foot)," Palmer said of her year. "I feel I came back well during the track season this spring. I am disappointed in my race today but I feel I have made great progress this year. Coming to Washington was definitely a life experience for me."

The Washington men finished tied for 33rd with six points between Hooker's fifth place in the 200m and David Bazzi's pair of eighth-place finishes in the 5,000 and 10,000. Tennessee captured the men's title with 50 points followed by TCU with 49 and Baylor with 36.5. The Husky women did not score any points during the four-day meet. The Pac-10 swept the women's top three spots with USC claiming the team title with 64 points, the school's first ever women's NCAA title. UCLA was the runner-up with 55 followed by Arizona in third with 44 points.

Full results from the NCAA Championships are available daily on the NCAA web site at www.ncaachampionships.com and on the Oregon web site at www.goducks.com.

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