SEATTLE - A group of thirteen Huskies have made it through months of training and hard-fought qualifying rounds to earn a spot at one of the most storied events in collegiate athletics, the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The latest installment of the meet, which dates back to 1921, is set to go this Wednesday through Saturday, June 11-14, at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
Washington is guaranteed to have athletes in action on each of the four days. The meet will crown national champions in each individual event, as well as settling the NCAA team championship. After the West and East Preliminary Championships, twenty-four athletes remain in each event. The goal for every athlete will be to earn a spot on the podium, which has room for the top-eight finishers. The top eight earn points for their team, with 10 points for first, down to 1 point for eighth. The USTFCCCA also bases All-America honors off NCAA finishes, with First Team status going to 1-8, Second Team to 9-16, and honorable mention to places 17-24.
ESPN has broadcast rights for the championships, and will stream the first two days of action on ESPN3.com and Watch ESPN. Wednesday and Thursday will be shown via ESPN3, starting at 3:55 p.m. PT. Events on Friday and Saturday will be broadcast live ESPNU starting at 4:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., respectively.
Field events at Hayward Field this week are straight finals. In the horizontal jumps and throws, after three rounds, only the top nine athletes in the current standings receive an additional three attempts. Every track event from 100-meters up to the 3,000-meter steeplechase will have a semifinal round to determine the final; only the 5,000-meters and 10,000-meters are decided with just one race in Eugene.
Only four of the 13 Huskies are competing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the second straight season, with senior Megan Goethals owning the most experience, as this is her fourth straight NCAA Outdoor appearance. Senior Kayla Stueckle is making her second straight 400m hurdles appearance, junior Liberty Miller has qualified back-to-back years now in the 3,000m steeplechase, and sophomore Carson Fuller is back in the men’s javelin field. In addition to those four, junior Gianna Woodruff was a qualifier last year in the 400m hurdles but was unable to compete due to a stress fracture diagnosed after the 2013 West Prelims. Also, junior Katie Flood may have redshirted the 2013 season but she has plenty of experience at this meet, as she ran in the semis as a freshman and then won the NCAA title in 2012.
Five of the six Husky men in attendance (all but Fuller) are new faces to the NCAA Outdoor meet, although Derrick Daigre, Jax Thoirs, and Izaic Yorks all competed at the NCAA Indoor meet back in March. The 13 total entries ranks Washington fourth out of the Pac-12 Conference.
Five Huskies will compete in the first day on Wednesday. Pac-12 Champion Thoirs gets things going for the Dawgs in the pole vault at 4:00 p.m. The sophomore from Scotland has had a fantastic season and ranks fourth in the field coming in, highest among any Husky. Thoirs has repeatedly raised his own Scottish National Record in the pole vault this year, going a best of 18-4 1/2. He earned All-America First Team honors with an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor meet earlier this year.
First on the track will be another Pac-12 Champion, junior Derrick Daigre, who runs in the 800-meter semifinals at 4:30 p.m. The Kent, Wash. native has had a great last month, going under the 1:49 mark for the first time at the UW-WSU Dual, then winning the Pac-12 title wire-to-wire, and then running another big PR of 1:48.03 at West Prelims to move to No. 4 in UW history. Daigre was an All-America First Teamer this year indoors as part of the Husky DMR that placed eighth.
Next on Wednesday will be senior Kayla Stueckle and junior Gianna Woodruff in the 400m hurdles semis at 6:30 p.m. Both advanced through West Prelims with matching 57.72 second times, with Woodruff outleaning Stueckle by .004 seconds in Fayetteville. That time was a new PR for Stueckle, the Puyallup native, and equaled the PR for Woodruff. Stueckle will be aiming for her first final after going out in the semis last year. Woodruff, who was third at the Pac-12 meet this year, gets to compete at nationals for the first time after she had to scratch last year with a stress fracture after having qualified for the first time.
Also looking for her first final is junior Liberty Miller, back in the steeplechase, where she finished 20th overall in the semis a year ago. Miller runs the semis on Wednesday at 6:45. She is coming off a career-best 10:07.52 at West Prelims and was third at the Pac-12 Championships.
Thursday starts with a pair of Dawgs in the men’s 1,500-meter semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Redshirt freshman Nick Harris has been on a roll, taking fifth in the loaded Pac-12 final, then breaking the UW freshman record in the 1,500m with a time of 3:42.84 in the West Prelims first round. The Niwot, Colo. native is making his first NCAA appearance of any kind. Sophomore Izaic Yorks is looking to improve on his 2014 NCAA Indoor finish, where the Lakewood, Wash. native placed 15th in the mile semis. Yorks has excelled at both the 800m and 1,500m this year, and ran a PR of 3:42.29 in the quarterfinals in Fayetteville that ranks him fourth in school history.
Right behind the two men will be junior Katie Flood in the women’s 1,500m semis at 4:45. Flood makes her first NCAA appearance on the track since winning the national title in Iowa two years ago. Although not ranked among the favorites based only on season-best time, Flood is coming off a season-best at West Prelims, running 4:17.76, and will look to peak in Oregon and use her experience to her advantage. The Des Moines, Iowa native hopes to add to her collection of five All-America honors.
Thursday night will run long, that is with the women’s 10,000-meters final, which features two seniors who have logged more miles than any other Huskies making their last appearance together on the track. Eight-time All-American Megan Goethals has scored 19 points at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in her career, owning a second-place, fifth-place, and sixth-place finish in the 5,000-meters and a fourth-place 10,000-meters finish. Goethals dealt with an illness that affected her at Pac-12s, as she finished just 10th in the 10k, but she bounced back to take seventh in Fayetteville and close her UW track career back at nationals. Lindsay Flanagan, a fifth-year senior from Roselle, Illinois, gets to make her NCAA track debut in her final race as a Husky. Goethals and Flanagan rank first and third in UW history in the 10k.
Moving to Friday, focus will be back on the pole vault runway, as Pac-12 Champion Diamara Planell Cruz looks to score for the Dawgs. The native of Puerto Rico, and national record-holder, comes in ranked seventh among the field, but has looked on the verge of raising her 14-0 1/2 career-best much higher. Planell Cruz is the first Husky women’s Pac-12 pole vault champ since Kate Soma, the last Husky to win the NCAA title back in 2005. The junior college transfer just missed the podium indoors, as she finished ninth at the national meet, so she’ll be looking to improve upon that performance this week.
Should the Huskies advance, Friday will also feature the finals of the 400m hurdles, the 800-meters, and the women’s steeplechase.
The last Dawgs to greet the Hayward crowd will be men’s javelin throwers Quinn Hale and Carson Fuller at 12:35 p.m. After two solid seasons that ended disappointingly short of nationals, Hale has enjoyed a breakout junior campaign and now will look to earn All-America honors and score some points for UW. The Tacoma product was the Pac-12 runner-up this year and finished fourth at West Prelims. Fuller, the only NCAA returner on the men’s side, will be motivated to improve on his NCAA finish as a freshman, when he struggled to place 22nd overall. The sophomore from Spokane has been much more consistent this season, taking fourth at the Pac-12 meet along the way. He needed some final throw heroics to make it to Eugene, improving from 13th to eighth on his final attempt in Fayetteville, so that should give him some confidence when the pressure’s on this week.
Saturday will also feature the finals of the men’s and women’s 1,500-meter runs, with Harris, Yorks, and Flood hoping to be in the mix.
HOW WE GOT HERE: Athletes reached the final site by qualifying through the preliminary rounds, held at two different locations. The western half of the country was in Fayetteville, Ark. for the West Prelims on May 29-31, and the eastern half met in Jacksonville, Florida. There are no set NCAA qualifying standards anymore; athletes will qualify for the prelims by ranking in the top 48 in their event in their respective region. For relay teams it was the top 24. The top-12 finishers from each regional meet then advanced to Eugene. Therefore most events featured initial fields of 96 athletes over the two sites, that were whittled down to 24 that advanced to Oregon.
EVENT SCHEDULE: Following is the schedule in Eugene for the Husky athletes competing in the NCAA Championships. All times are Pacific.
Wednesday, June 11
4:00 p.m. - Men’s Pole Vault; Finals - Jax Thoirs
4:30 p.m. - Men’s 800-Meters; Semifinals - Derrick Daigre
6:30 p.m. - Women’s 400m Hurdles; Semifinals - Kayla Stueckle and Gianna Woodruff
6:45 p.m. - Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase; Semifinals - Liberty Miller
Thursday, June 12
4:30 p.m. - Men’s 1,500-Meters; Semifinals - Nick Harris and Izaic Yorks
4:45 p.m. - Women’s 1,500-Meters; Semifinals - Katie Flood
7:15 p.m. - Women’s 10,000-Meters; Finals - Lindsay Flanagan and Megan Goethals
Friday, June 13
3:15 p.m. - Women’s Pole Vault; Finals - Diamara Planell Cruz
4:41 p.m. - Women’s 400m Hurdles; Finals - Kayla Stueckle and Gianna Woodruff
5:15 p.m. - Men’s 800-Meters; Finals - Derrick Daigre
5:35 p.m. - Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase; Finals - Liberty Miller
Saturday, June 14
12:35 p.m. - Men’s Javelin; Finals - Carson Fuller and Quinn Hale
2:18 p.m. - Men’s 1,500-Meters; Finals - Nick Harris and Izaic Yorks
2:29 p.m. - Women’s 1,500-Meters; Finals - Katie Flood