FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A pair of pole vaulters, a pair of javelin throwers, and a pair of 10k runners became the first Husky track and field athletes to secure their spots in the NCAA Championship finals today, as the West Preliminary meet got rolling at John McDonnell Field. Along with the six tickets punched, eight of the ten Dawgs running first rounds on the track moved through to the quarterfinals, moving one step away from the final site.
After a long day that saw pole vaulters Jax Thoirs and Diamara Planell Cruz punch their tickets to Eugene, and javelin throwers Quinn Hale and Carson Fuller get the job done, the last event on the track was the women’s 10,000-meters, with seniors Megan Goethals and Lindsay Flanagan giving their all for more than half an hour to finish in the top-12 and also move on to the NCAA finals.
The NCAA West Prelims bring together the top-48 athletes in every event from the western half of the country, and cut the fields down to a final 12 that will move on to the final site in Eugene, Ore. from June 11-14. The same process is playing out this weekend at the East Prelims at North Florida to make for final field sizes of 24 athletes.
The first Husky to make the cut was Thoirs, coming off his Pac-12 victory two weeks ago, and now headed to his first NCAA Outdoor Championship finals. Thoirs, the Scottish record-holder, entered the competition at 16-9 ¼, and made that on his second attempt. He then had another second-attempt make at 17-3. After a rain delay of about 45 minutes, the bar went up to 17-7 with 14 vaulters left. Thoirs was the first vaulter to make 17-7, clearing it on his first try, which all but clinched his spot in the final twelve. After a few more vaulters bowed out, it was official. Only seven vaulters made 17-7 on the day.
Junior J.J. Juilfs was looking to join Thoirs, coming off a season-best of 17-4 ½ at Pac-12s. Juilfs was easily over the first two bars of 16-3 ¼ and 16-9 ¼, but couldn’t make 17-3 despite two close final attempts. He ended up in a tie for 15th-place.
A few hours later, Planell Cruz led four Huskies into the women’s pole vault, and the reigning Pac-12 Champion did not miss a single bar as she advanced on to her first NCAA Outdoor meet, needing a make of 13-7 to get there. Sophomore Kristina Owsinski was jumping at 13-7 herself, but couldn’t quite make it. Her clearance of 13-3 came on a third attempt, so the tiebreaker pushed her to 17th overall and out of the top-12. Freshman Elizabeth Quick had a tough follow-up to her third-place Pac-12 finish, clearing 12-9 to tie for 21st. Junior Ashley Schnapp made the first bar of 12-3 ¼, but couldn’t extend her NCAA Prelim debut.
The men’s javelin competition featured some redemption, a clutch last chance throw, but also some heartbreak for the three Dawgs in the field. Junior Quinn Hale, who had fallen just shy at West Prelims the past two years, delivered a big throw of 223-4 on his third attempt to lock up his first trip to nationals.
Sophomore Carson Fuller was then sitting 13th going into his sixth and final attempt, and had to improve to make his second straight national meet. Fuller threw a fastball with the spear of 219-3 to jump safely up to eighth. Unfortunately, that pushed sophomore teammate Curtis Clauson from 12th to 13th. Clauson, who came back this year from Tommy John surgery, had been in the top-12 with his toss of 213-4 throughout the evening, but suddenly was on the outside looking in with one left. He had a strong last toss of 211-5, but it wasn’t quite enough. Still, the Huskies have an NCAA finalist in the javelin for the sixth straight year, and two in the finals for the fourth time in the last five years.
In the last race of the night, two standout seniors extended their careers with hard-earned top-12 finishes in the 10,000-meters. Megan Goethals, an eight-time All-American, will make yet another NCAA finals appearance after finishing seventh in the West in 34:17.29. It was a great bounce back effort after Goethals was just 10th in the 10k at Pac-12s when she was hampered by an illness. She’ll be joined in Eugene by Lindsay Flanagan, who came back for a fifth year of outdoor track for just this reason, to make the NCAA final for the first time. Flanagan made it with a 10th-place finish in 34:18.25.
The Huskies had four out of the 48 entries in the men’s 1,500-meters first round, and redshirt freshman Nick Harris and sophomore Izaic Yorks both moved on to Sunday’s quarterfinal, Harris in record-setting fashion. In the second of the four heats, Harris ran second behind Colorado’s Ben Saarel the entire way, until pushing for the lead in the final twenty meters and winning in 3:42.84. That was the fastest qualifying time of the day, and broke the UW freshman record, also moving Harris from tenth to fifth on the Husky top-10 list.
In the next heat, Yorks followed the blueprint of Harris, going quickly to the front and never exiting the top-five. The sophomore from Lakewood, Wash. crossed with three other runners all within a split second of each other, safely in the top-five, clocking 3:43.68. Redshirt freshman Blake Nelson was in the same heat as Yorks, but couldn’t hold the pace today and finished 10th in 3:48.98. In the last heat, sophomore Meron Simon was unable to advance, finishing 10th as well in 3:51.48.
Juniors Katie Flood and Eleanor Fulton ran in the same heat of the women’s 1,500-meters, the fourth and final one. The teammates ran quite different races but both got the desired results. Fulton led for most of the race, while Flood was up and down with the leaders. But Flood found room late to make a move and secure a second-place finish in 4:21.66, while Fulton held on for fourth in 4:21.91, both moving into the quarterfinals.
The first track event of the day for UW was the women’s 400-meter hurdles. Gianna Woodruff and Kayla Stueckle, both final-twelve advancers last season, are looking to repeat that performance. Running in the second of six heats, Woodruff took second to automatically advance in 58.44 seconds. In the fourth heat, the senior Stueckle also got an auto qualifying spot, finishing third in 58.90. They’ll be back on the track tomorrow at 5:45 p.m. Pacific for the quarterfinal round.
Pac-12 Champion Derrick Daigre won his third-straight 800-meter run today, as he claimed the first of six heats in a time of 1:49.18. Daigre also won his prelim at Pac-12s before coming out ahead of the pack in the conference finals. He’ll be joined in the quarterfinals by senior Brad Whitley, who extended his collegiate career once again with a strong run in heat five. Whitley crossed fourth in 1:50.26, one spot short of auto advancement, but his time would earn one of the six time qualifiers to put Whitley one round from NCAAs.
The day’s first competitor was freshman javelin thrower Ashley Alexander. She scored at the Pac-12 meet two weeks ago with a toss of 148-7, but the Monroe, Wash. native was unable to line one up today, throwing a best of 134-2 to finish 43rd overall in the field.
Husky Athlete Quotes
Jax Thoirs, on advancing in the pole vault: I wasn’t jumping my best, but the goal was obviously just to qualify, so I’m happy I did that. It was a long day. The last height was probably the hardest for me. I had decent conditions up until that last height so it was just trying to get myself going for it but luckily I jumped it fine and that was it.
Nick Harris, on winning his 1,500m heat and setting the freshman record: It was good, it went totally smooth. That was the exact same race as my Pac-12 race, I was trailing the same guy, Ben Saarel, who took it out, and I just chilled behind him. It definitely gives me confidence going into Sunday. I didn’t think it was going to go that fast, and every heat was that pace, but it’s really exciting to come and PR and make the finals, especially at the end of the year when it really matters. I think it’s probably going to take the same thing (on Sunday). In every race there’s always a few good guys but in the next round everyone is going to be great, so it’s just who has it on that day, but I think Izaic and I will have a shot.
Quinn Hale, on making his first NCAA Championships: It’s just a huge weight lifted off my back. For two years I’ve struggled at the Regional meet and coming in my goal was just to come in and get a mark out there, and I did it so it just feels amazing to know that I’m finally going to an NCAA Championship and hopefully going there to score for the Dawgs.
Hale, on Clauson just missing the final site: Really proud of what Curtis has done this year as far as coming back, I know he may not have always thrown as far as he wanted or placed as high as he wanted. But I was really proud of the way he battled today and made it out of the second flight. It sucks leaving a Dawg at home, but I know he’s going to bounce back tremendously. He’ll be back stronger than ever next year and make it to that NCAA meet as well.
Carson Fuller, on his final throw improvement: I struggled a little bit early, and I was coming back to T.J. and asking what I should improve on. After the first flight I just focused on speed, and the last throw I just gave it all I had. I hadnothing to lose. Hit some good positions and barely squeaked by there.
2014 NCAA West Preliminary Championships
May 29, 2014 – Day 1 of 3
Fayetteville, Ark. – John McDonnell Field
Husky Men’s Results
800m (Heat 1 of 6): 1. Derrick Daigre, 1:49.18 (Advances to Quarterfinals); (Heat 5 of 6): 4. Brad Whitley, 1:50.26 (Advances to Quarterfinals); 1,500m (Heat 2 of 4): 1. Nick Harris, 3:42.84 (Advances to Quarterfinals); (Heat 3 of 4): 4. Izaic Yorks, 3:43.68 (Advances to Quarterfinals); 10. Blake Nelson, 3:48.98 (does not advance); (Heat 4 of 4): 10. Meron Simon, 3:51.48 (does not advance); Pole Vault (Top-12 to Eugene): 3 (tie). Jax Thoirs, 17-7; 15 (tie). J.J. Juilfs, 16-9 ¼; Javelin (Top-12 to Eugene): 4. Quinn Hale, 223-4; 8. Carson Fuller, 219-3; 13. Curtis Clauson, 213-4.
Husky Women’s Results
1,500m (Heat 4 of 4): 2. Katie Flood, 4:21.66 (Advances to Quarterfinals); 4. Eleanor Fulton, 4:21.91 (Advances to Quarterfinals); 10,000m (Top-12 to Eugene): 7. Megan Goethals, 34:17.29; 10. Lindsay Flanagan, 34:18.25; 400m Hurdles (Heat 2 of 6): 2. Gianna Woodruff, 58.44 (Advances to Quartefinals); (Heat 4 of 6): 3. Kayla Stueckle, 58.90 (Advances to Quarterfinals); Pole Vault (Top-12 to Eugene): 1 (tie). Diamara Planell Cruz, 13-7; 17 (tie). Kristina Owsinski, 13-3; 21 (tie). Elizabeth Quick, 12-9; 36 (tie). Ashley Schnapp, 12-3 ¼; Javelin (Top-12 to Eugene): 43. Ashley Alexander, 134-2.
Advancing to Eugene:
Jax Thoirs, So., Pole Vault
Diamara Planell Cruz, Jr., Pole Vault
Quinn Hale, Jr., Javelin
Carson Fuller, So., Javelin
Megan Goethals, Sr., 10,000m
Lindsay Flanagan, Sr., 10,000m