EUGENE, Ore. – The NCAA Track & Field Championships kicked off at Oregon’s Hayward Field this afternoon, and UW’s day one was led by Derrick Daigre and Liberty Miller both advancing to put themselves into the final races of the year, Daigre in the 800-meters and Miller in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Washington also had Jax Thoirs, Gianna Woodruff, and Kayla Stueckle wrap up their seasons today, each of them earning All-America Second Team honors.
When Daigre captured the Pac-12 title less than a month ago, it was a bit of a surprise, but since then he has proven repeatedly that it was no fluke. The Kent, Wash. native showed plenty of speed and determination in advancing through two rounds in Fayetteville, and ran another smart race in the semifinals today, engaging up front early on, surviving a late charge by the pack, and pushing hard to the finish. In the second of the three semifinal heats, Daigre was third after the first lap, and never fell back farther than fourth. He kicked home for second-place to secure an auto advancing spot in a time of 1:48.77.
Daigre will run in the eight-man final on Friday, at 5:15 p.m. live on ESPNU. He’s the first Husky in the men’s 800-meter final since Austin Abbott took seventh in 2008.
“This could be your last race so you just give it your all no matter what happens,” said Daigre. “I did feel like I was in control though. Being in that third spot, coming through in 52-seconds, I’m really not concerned with those kind of fast laps. So I felt that with 150, 200 to go I’d still feel pretty good, and luckily I did, and was able to pass a couple guys and get through. You work out and practice every day to get into a race like this, so I’m very excited.”
One year ago in the semifinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Liberty Miller admitted that nerves got the best of her, as she fell off the pace and finished 20th overall. Earning a return trip to the final site this year, Miller said she “knew what not to do.” What she did end up doing was running a PR for the second straight race, finishing in 10:05.40, finishing fifth in her semifinal heat to automatically advance into Friday’s final. She’ll look to become the second Husky woman to score in the event along with 2009 and 2010 scorer Mel Lawrence.
“It was pretty standard, I knew this was a tough field, but Coach’s advice before the race was all I have to do was exactly what I’ve done before,” Miller said. “If I can match that effort I’d be able to punch my ticket to the final. Last year I made it to this point and it completely overwhelmed me. But this year I just stayed relaxed and got the job done.
Late in the race, a few runners passed Miller and pushed her back to seventh, but she countered on the last lap to get back into the auto spots. “The whole time I was thinking, ‘be aware of where you are and what moves you need to make,’ said Miller. “With two laps to go I made a little move, and some girls caught me and I thought don’t freak out, stay relaxed, you still have a full lap to go and a lot of energy to burn. So that last lap I just gave it all I had to cinch that fifth spot.”
Sophomore Jax Thoirs was the first Husky in action this week, and had hopes of a podium finish in the pole vault, but after a couple early clearances the Scotland native ran into trouble at 18-0 ½. The Pac-12 Champion missed twice at 18-0 ½, and then passed his final attempt up to the next bar, 18-2 ½. He did not swing up to the bar after planting the pole and came down in frustration on the mat. Thoirs settled for 13th-place overall with a best clearance of 17-8 ½. That will earn him All-America Second Team honors to go with the First Team honors he earned indoors when he tied for eighth.
In the women’s 400-meter hurdles, the Huskies saw the outstanding career of senior Kayla Stueckle come to a close, and junior Gianna Woodruff came up just shy of a spot in the finals. Stueckle, running out of heat one in semifinal one, posted a time of 58.84 seconds to take sixth in her heat. Woodruff was in lane two in the second semifinal, and had a strong run, going 57.74 seconds, just .02 seconds off her PR, but it was just fourth in a fast heat and wound up 11th overall. Stueckle finished 16th overall so both will earn All-America Second Team distinction, a first for both.
On Thursday the Huskies will have Nick Harris, Izaic Yorks, and Katie Flood all looking to reach the finals in the 1,500-meters, then Megan Goethals and Lindsay Flanagan in the 10,000-meters final.
2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships
June 11, 2014 – Day 1 of 4
Eugene, Ore. – Hayward Field
Husky Men’s Results
800-meters (Semifinal 2 of 3): 2. Derrick Daigre, 1:48.77 (Advances to Final); Pole Vault (Final): 13. Jax Thoirs, 17-8 ½ (All-America Second Team)
Husky Women’s Results
400m Hurdles (Semifinal 1 of 3): 6. Kayla Stueckle, 58.84 (16th overall; All-America Second Team; (Semifinal 2 of 3): 4. Gianna Woodruff, 57.74 (11th overall; All-America Second Team); 3,000-meter Steeplechase (Semifinal 2 of 2): 5. Liberty Miller, 10:05.40 (Advances to Final).