PULLMAN, Wash. – Much like Saturday, some tremendous acrobatics in the pole vault and a gutsy all-out sprint on the track brought two more Pac-12 titles to the Husky track team today. Diamara Planell Cruz won a tense head-to-head duel in the pole vault and Derrick Daigre put everything into a wire-to-wire win in the men’s 800-meters as Pac-12s came to a close at Washington State’s Mooberry Track Complex.
The wins from Planell Cruz and Daigre, coupled with wins yesterday from Jax Thoirs in the men’s pole vault and Aaron Nelson in the steeplechase, give the Huskies their most Pac-12 titles since winning five in 2009. The last time the Husky men’s team had three different individual winners was 2006. With Planell Cruz’s women’s vault win, the Huskies swept the men’s and women’s Pac-12 pole vault titles for the first time ever; UCLA is the only other team to sweep the event, doing so twice, last in 2008.
Washington finished the day fifth on the men’s side and seventh on the women’s side, matching the same finishes as last season. Oregon won the men’s team title with 163.25 points, with USC second with 99, Arizona third with 83 points, then Arizona with 80.75, and the Huskies with 75.25, beating out Stanford, UCLA, California, Washington State, and Colorado. The Ducks also won the women’s team title with 176, followed by USC with 145, and Stanford and Arizona State tying with 75. Arizona was fifth, then UCLA, and the Huskies in seventh with 53 points. WSU, Cal, Colorado, Utah, and Oregon State rounded out the standings.
"Coming into this meet we thought we had a chance to win as many Pac-12 titles as any team in Washington history, and while we weren't able to convert every single opportunity, it is pretty special any time you can win four conference titles," said Head Coach Greg Metcalf. "Our vaulters were fantastic this weekend, sweeping the titles for the first time ever, as was our distance group. We had a number of seniors scoring for us for the final time like A.J. Maricich, Kasen Covington, Shaniae Lakes, Kayla Stueckle, Lindsay Flanagan, Brad Whitley, but a lot of youngsters stepped up for the first time as well."
The men’s 800-meters figured to be one of the marquee events of the day for the Huskies, as they put a conference-high three men into the final, with Izaic Yorks and Brad Whitley joining Daigre. Yorks, a sophomore, won the Dual Meet here at WSU two weeks ago but he got caught up a bit in the back of the pack, whereas Daigre went to the lead from the very beginning.
Daigre, the Kent, Wash. native, showed no signs of fatigue as he led heading into the final lap and only increased his pace. The lanky Husky covered huge ground with every stride, and opened a five meter lead around the final turns. Alone in first and with the finish line a hundred meters away, Daigre would not be threatened, stopping the clock in 1:49.86 ahead of UCLA’s Nick Hartle who finished in 1:50.40. Yorks settled for sixth in 1:51.56 and Whitley took seventh in 1:51.95, scoring for the first time at his final Pac-12 meet.
Daigre admitted he was practically running for his life up front. It was crazy. “I got out a little harder than I expected to and I just got stuck in the front,” he said. “I just had to run that race scared and get to the line as quick as I could. There wasn’t really any thought into it. Do anything to get to that line – that was the only strategy I had.”
It’s the first men’s 800-meter win for the Huskies since former NCAA Champion Ryan Brown won in 2007 and 2005.
“It’s a blessing,” Daigre said. “I honestly can’t believe it. I crossed the line first and I was just in disbelief that I was there. I’ve beat up my hamstring a lot over the years and had a lot of setbacks. To come out here and win a race after everything – it’s everything I’ve ever wanted. It feels awesome. I’m happy to be here.”
Saturday, sophomore Jax Thoirs won the men’s pole vault despite missing his first two tries at his first height of the day, nearly ending his day before it really began. The same fate nearly befell Planell Cruz today, as she entered the competition for the first time at 13-0 ¾ and missed two straight, before putting it together to clear on the third. It’s probably not a strategy that vault coach Pat Licari would endorse, but both Thoirs and Planell Cruz thrived after getting past that first bar.
Planell Cruz then cleared the next three heights all on first attempts, making it over 13-4 ½, then 13-6 ½, and 13-8 ½ on first tries. But UCLA’s Nathasha Kolbo kept answering with makes on her first attempts as well, so the lead kept changing hands as Kolbo held the tiebreak edge, but Planell Cruz would go first at each bar. After Planell Cruz made 13-8 ½, Kolbo missed twice, and was one more miss away from the day being over. But the UCLA senior made it over on her third try, wobbling the bar but leaving it. Now at 13-10 ½, Planell Cruz opened with a miss, and Kolbo took the lead back with a first attempt make. That forced Planell Cruz to pass up to the next bar, 14-0 ½, half an inch higher than her career-best. She missed her first try, leaving her one more attempt. With the Pac-12 title on the line, Planell Cruz came through, clearing the bar and celebrating on the way down. Kolbo finally was unable to answer. Planell Cruz had the bar put up to 14-5 ¼ to try for another big PR and a school record, but wouldn’t clear it today. She did however set the Mooberry Track record with her winning height.
“It was a really good field,” said Planell Cruz after the win. “Coming in, we were all really close. It was really all about the makes. Towards the end, me and Natasha were going back and forth. I’d make one and she’d miss, then I’d miss it and she’d make it. We did that for about three bars. It was really a good competition. It kept me on my toes.”
It wasn’t all about Planell Cruz in the vault, however, as freshman Elizabeth Quick came up with a huge performance to take third-place behind Kolbo. Quick was the only other vaulter to make it over 13-4 ½, which she did on her third attempt, setting a new PR in the process. Quick goes to 10th on the school’s top-10 list. Sophomore Kristina Owsinski, third at the meet last year, had a couple near misses that cost her as she finished ninth with a best of 12-6 ¾.
The flurry of field event activity coinciding with the women’s vault included the men’s triple and high jump competitions. Senior Kasen Covington was looking to defend his Pac-12 triple jump title, and he had an opening jump of 50-9 ¼ that led the competition into the third round. But he was passed during the final three jumps, and would need a PR to get back in front. On his fifth jump, Covington went a wind-aided 50-10, but had to settle for fourth, just a centimeter out of third-place.
On the other side of the track, another senior, A.J. Maricich, was fighting for more Pac-12 points. The Spokane native got a key third-attempt clearance at 6-feet, 11-inches, to move up to fourth-place, where he would finish after missing at 7-1. Maricich added five more points to the team score, going with a second-place finish he posted in 2012.
The top finisher on the track on the women’s side today was junior Gianna Woodruff in the 400-meter hurdles. Woodruff had the middle of the track after posting the top time in the prelims, and was neck and neck with USC’s Jaide Stepter around the final turn, but Stepter and an Arizona runner each had late pushes to pull away, Stepter winning in 56.99, with Woodruff taking third in 58.42. Senior Kayla Stueckle, bothered this week by a foot issue, finished eighth in 59.62 seconds.
Nick Harris turned in one of the biggest performances of the day in the men’s 1,500-meter final. Harris, the redshirt freshman from Niwot, Colo., had earned the 12th and final spot yesterday for the final, and heading into the bell lap Harris remained 11th in the field. But with 150-meters to go, Harris turned out to have a lot more speed left than many of the runners in front of him, and he motored past several men and leaned across the line to wind up fifth overall in 3:44.31. Harris pumped his fist as he finished, having locked up four team points.
All told, between Harris, the three 800-meter scorers, and Aaron Nelson in the steeple, the Husky distance group combined for 29 points this weekend.
Right before Harris’ run was the women’s 1,500-meter final featuring Katie Flood and Eleanor Fulton. The race unfolded with Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe and Arizona State’s defending champ Shelby Houlihan breaking away on the first lap, and Flood led the chase pack for a couple laps. Fulton settled in the back of the pack. The chase pack wasn’t able to ever reel in the two leaders, and Flood gave up a couple spots over the last 200 meters but held on for fifth in 4:22.55. Fulton moved up late but just missed scoring, taking ninth in 4:27.47.
Flood returned to the track later in the day for the 5,000-meters final, and ended up besting her earlier finish, as she worked her way up through the pack to earn a fourth-place finish in 16:22.34 in just the second 5k of her career. Freshman Katie Knight got on the board in her Pac-12 debut, as she finished seventh in 16:38.51, after leading several of the early laps.
Senior Shaniae Lakes was back at Pac-12s for the first time since her runner-up finish two years ago, and turned in another solid effort today in the triple jump. Lakes fouled her first attempt but then jumped 40-11 ¾ to move up amongst the leaders. She then had an improvement on her fifth attempt, going a wind-legal season-best 41-5 ¾, but wound up two centimeters short of third-place, taking fourth. Jaleecia Roland also made the final but finished ninth for the second year in a row, one spot shy of scoring, with a best of 38-10 ¼.
Sophomore Chris Williams, who has been looking to recapture his hurdling form all season, took a big step closer to that today in the finals, as he ran a season-best 14.25 seconds to finish fifth overall, after coming into the meet ranked just 12th on the performance list.
The first track finals on the day were the 4x100-meter relays, and the Husky men’s and women’s teams posted matching seventh-place finishes to pick up a couple points apiece. For the men, Williams to Quadelle Satterwhite, then Lucas Strong to Travis Marshall added up to 41.78 seconds. The women ran with Haley Jacobson, Kayla Stueckle, Kimberly Stueckle, and Gianna Woodruff to post a time of 46.25 seconds.
In early throws competition this afternoon, freshman Dan Boyden was just a few inches off his season-best in the discus, throwing 164-7 to finish 11th. Sophomore Bev Coleman wrapped up her season in the women’s hammer throw, finishing 15th at 158-1.
2014 Pac-12 Track & Field Championships
May 18, 2014 – Day 2 of 2
Pullman, Wash. – Mooberry Field
Men’s Team Standings: 1. Oregon 163.25; 2. USC 99; 3. Arizona 83; 4. Arizona State 80.75; 5. Washington 75.25; 6. Stanford 71; 7. UCLA 68.25; 8. California 67; 9. Washington State 66.5; 10. Colorado 44.
Women’s Team Standings: 1. Oregon 176; 2. USC 145; 3. Arizona State 75; 3. Stanford 75; 5. Arizona 74; 6. UCLA 68; 7. Washington 53; 8. Washington State 46.5; 9. California 44.5; 10. Colorado 33; 11. Utah 23; 12. Oregon State 2.
Sunday’s Husky Top-Eight Finishers
1. Derrick Daigre, 800m, 1:49.86 (Pac-12 Champion)
4. A.J. Maricich, High Jump, 6-11
4. Kasen Covington, Triple Jump, 50-10
5. Nick Harris, 1500m, 3:44.31
5. Chris Williams, 110m Hurdles, 14.25
6. Izaic Yorks, 800m, 1:51.56
7. Brad Whitley, 800m, 1:51.95
7. Williams/Satterwhite/Strong/Marshall, 4x100m Relay, 41.78
1. Diamara Planell Cruz, Pole Vault, 14-0 ½ (Pac-12 Champion)
3. Gianna Woodruff, 400m Hurdles, 58.42
3. Elizabeth Quick, Pole Vault, 13-4 ½
4. Katie Flood, 5000m, 16:22.34
4. Shaniae Lakes, Triple Jump, 41-5 ¾
5. Katie Flood, 1500m, 4:22.55
7. Katie Knight, 5000m, 16:38.51
7. Jacobson/Ka. Stueckle/Ki. Stueckle/Woodruff, 4x100m Relay, 46.25
8. Kayla Stueckle, 400m Hurdles, 59.62
Saturday’s Husky Top-Eight Finishers
1. Aaron Nelson, 3,000m Steeplechase, 8:49.09 (Pac-12 Champion)
1. Jax Thoirs, Pole Vault, 18-0 ½ (Pac-12 Champion)
2. Quinn Hale, Javelin, 231-6
4. Carson Fuller, Javelin, 221-10
5. J.J. Juilfs, Pole Vault, 17-4 ½
7. Curtis Clauson, Javelin, 214-2
8 (tie). Chris Williams, Pole Vault, 16-2 ¾
8. Brian Hutchison, Shot Put, 53-11 ¼
3. Liberty Miller, Steeplechase, 10:18.56
4. Lindsay Flanagan, 10,000m, 34:47.32
8. Ashley Alexander, Javelin, 148-7