Alaka Defends Pac-12 Sprint Title As Huskies Close Strong
May 13, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. - Husky junior James Alaka well knows the opportunities ahead of him in 2012. The sprinter from London took a big step towards those goals today at Hayward Field, as he became the first Husky ever to win back-to-back Pac-12 titles in a sprint event, defending his 200-meter dash crown in a lifetime-best time of 20.45 seconds. That also is under the `A' standard for this summer's London Olympics, the ultimate goal for Alaka.
The win by Alaka was one of eight top-three finishes on the final day of the Pac-12 Championships, as UW saw itself on the podium again and again. The Huskies had several near misses, but misses that came in school record and lifetime-best efforts, a testament to the superiority of the conference fields. When the points were all added up, the Husky men's team tied for fifth with 78 points, its best finish since 2006, and the Washington women were sixth out of 12 teams with 54 points, tying their best conference finish since 1998.
"I was incredibly proud of how both our groups competed this weekend," said Head Coach Greg Metcalf. "We challenged them before the meet not to let a piece of paper dictate what they were going to do. On paper, both of our teams were supposed to come here and be around ninth-place. This might be the best I have ever seen this conference from top to bottom, in every event, and it's something special to score at this meet and to win titles. But I liked our fire and our confidence and I think we left it out there on the track so that's all you can ask for."
Oregon won both titles in front of its hometown fans. On the men's side, the Ducks scored 140 and were followed by Arizona State with 116.5, Arizona with 94, UCLA with 86, and then Washington and Stanford even with 78. The Huskies beat out USC, Washington State, Colorado, California, and Oregon State. The Oregon women ran away with the title with 200.5 points, beating Stanford (123.5), Arizona (94.5), USC (91), Arizona State (85) and Washington (54). Behind the Huskies were Colorado, UCLA, Washington State, Utah, California, and Oregon State.
Alaka becomes the first Husky sprinter ever to win consecutive conference championships. He first went out to defend his title in 100-meter dash, and despite running a career-best 10.22 seconds, he was edged by USC's Aaron Brown, who took the title in 10.18, with Alaka taking second. Clearly upset over losing that title, Alaka came back later in the day in the 200-meters and turned the tables. Running near the outside in lane seven, Alaka, occasionally hindered by slow starts, was out extremely well, took the lead off the turn and held it all the way down the homestretch, with Brown having to settle for second this time, a tenth of a second behind Alaka.
With three individual Pac-12 titles now (winning the 100m and 200m last year), Alaka trails only Ja'Warren Hooker, who won four individual titles, two in 1998 and two in 2000. He'll next set his sights on advancing reaching his first NCAA finals in both events.
One day after J.J. Juilfs captured the title in the men's pole vault, junior Logan Miller took a shot at winning the women's event, and it took an historic performance to keep her from the title. Miller, a Reno, Nev. native, set her PR of 14-feet at Hayward earlier this season in the Pepsi Team Invite. Today she smashed the Washington school record, clearing 14-4 ½, which is also the No. 7 mark in Pac-12 history. However, Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford senior, posted the No. 3 mark in Pac-12 history, clearing 14-8 ¼ to get the victory.
Miller was rolling from the start of the day. She cleared her first four bars on first attempts, remaining tied for the lead with Stefanidi. After clearing 13-8 ½ on one try, Miller missed once at 14-0 ½ while Stefanidi was clean to take the lead by herself. Miller came right back with a first attempt clearance of 14-4 ½, breaking the former school record of 14-2 by 2005 NCAA Champion Kate Soma. But Stefanidi was over that one on one try as well. After Stefanidi cleared 14-8 ¼, Miller passed her last two attempts at that height, moving up to 15-0 ¼. For reference, the NCAA record is 15-1 ½. The dizzying height proved unattainable today, and Miller settled for the school record and second-place.
Redshirt freshman Georgia Reynolds also had a great day, PRing herself with a clearance of 13-0 ¾ to place 10th overall. That mark puts Reynolds ninth in the Husky recordbooks.
One of the biggest and best surprises of the meet came in the women's triple jump, as junior Shaniae Lakes flew to a massive school record of 43-feet, 3.25-inches to finish second, barely missing the title by exactly one inch. Lakes, seventh at this meet last year, had never before gone 42-feet in the triple, but today she hit three jumps past that mark. The Richland, Wash. native actually broke the school record on her third attempt, as she went 41-10, surpassing Tara Davis' mark of 41-7 ¾ from 1995. But the best was yet to come. She went 42-6 ¼ on her next attempt to move to second, then 42-0 ¾ on her fifth, though both were slightly wind-aided, meaning they count for the competition but not the official recordbooks. But on her last try, Lakes went out and blasted out the 43-3 ¼ mark, and the wind dropped down to legal speed, giving her the new record by more than a foot.
Lakes jumps all the way up to No. 9 in the national rankings, and she'll look to make it through NCAA Prelims for the first time in two weeks. Senior Taylor Nichols came up just a few inches shy of making the finals as well, as she had a season-best 40-3 ½ which will likely conclude her impressive UW career.
The big day for the Husky sprinters was about more than just Alaka. Senior Jordan Carlson also found herself in her first career 400-meters final as she continues the best season ever for a Husky quarter-miler. The Spokane native was hoping to pull the upset but still ran an admirable race to the line, lowering the school record for the fourth time this year to 53.03, and taking third-place overall.
Carlson's third-place finish was matched by sophomore Maurice McNeal in the men's race. McNeal, the Federal Way product, had surgery to repair a sports hernia earlier this season and it wasn't clear if he would return. But after more than a month off, McNeal was back two weeks ago for the UW-WSU Dual meet. Fast forward to today, and McNeal was on the podium, running a season-best 46.59 to finish third, improving on his fifth-place finish from a year ago.
"Maurice McNeal was put back together in the last few weeks and Jordan Carlson has overcome huge amounts of adversity, but what they both have in common is incredible competitiveness and a desire to beat people to the line," said Metcalf. "And then James coming back with a PR to win the 200-meters was just fantastic."
The records for Miller and Lakes were just as exciting for Metcalf. "Logan Miller, if you're jumping at 15-feet in the pole vault, that means something special is happening, it took an amazing effort to beat her. Then Shaniae just obliterated our triple jump record. I looked at her after five rounds and said, `are you having fun?' and she said yeah so I said, `well then go jump 43-feet and win this thing!' and she just about did it."
McNeal and Alaka also ran in both relay finals today. The 4x100m relay final kicked things off this afternoon, with senior Sam Rucker, Alaka, McNeal, and senior Ryan Hamilton taking fourth in 40.43 seconds. Wrapping things up in the 4x4, it was Rucker, McNeal, and Alaka again, plus senior Miles Timpe, who anchored UW to fifth in a season-best 3:10.36.
Senior Angus Taylor scored once again in the hammer throw, placing fifth to match his career-best finish. Taylor was seventh heading into his sixth and final attempt, but he sent the last one 193-feet, 8-inches. Taylor came back and just missed the final in the discus, finishing 10th in 156-6. Junior Conner Larned was 11th at 151-0.
In the women's high jump, senior Kelly McNamee put points up for the first time since 2009, as she placed seventh with a clearance of 5-6 ½. McNamee had three good attempts at 5-8 ½ but just dislodged the bar each time.
One of the most dramatic races of the day was the women's 1,500-meter final, where sophomore Katie Flood was looking to unseat defending champion Jordan Hasay of Oregon. Flood led most of the race, and a group of Flood, Hasay, and Colorado's Jessica Tebo (former SPU runner Jessica Pixler) broke away before the final lap. The three changed leads back and forth on the final lap, but it was Hasay that had enough left to hold on and defend her title in 4:13.28, with Flood taking second in 4:13.80 and Tebo third in 4:15.06. Redshirt freshman Chelsea Orr came in eighth-place to add a point in her first conference meet.
The final podium finish of the day came from sophomore All-American Megan Goethals at 5,000-meters. Goethals led several early laps but dropped back to fourth with a couple laps to go. The Rochester, Mich. standout dug down as she always does and closed with a great push, making up a 30 meter gap on Arizona's Elvin Kibet, and passing her to finish third in 16:19.00, one year after her second-place finish. Also scoring for the Dawgs was junior Christine Babcock, who ran her first ever 5k on the track, and placed seventh in a time of 16:29.82. It's the first time Babcock has competed at the conference meet since her freshman year in 2009, when she was third at 800-meters. Phoebe Merritt also placed 21st overall in her first conference run.
Sophomore Kayla Stueckle concluded a great weekend with a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles. The Puyallup native ran the two best times of her career this weekend, going 58.52 in the prelims yesterday and then running 58.83 to score today. Stueckle looked poised to drop another PR today, as she was in the mix with 200-meters to go, but a stumble over one hurdle cost her a few precious tenths. She'll look to rectify that in two weeks in Austin for Prelims.
Stueckle was also part of both relays today. The women's 4x1 got a point with an eighth-place finish in 46.13. Freshman Haley Jacobson led off, passed to freshman Gianna Woodruff, then Stueckle went to senior Bianca Greene, anchoring the relay for likely the final time. The women's 4x4 relay of Michelle Fero, Stueckle, Woodruff, and Carlson was ninth in 3:43.77.
Junior Joey Bywater ran in the 1,500-meters final for the third time, but was unable to crack the top-eight, as he did not have enough left in the tank during the final 150 meters, settling for 11th in 3:51.17. Freshman Tyler King also battled the heat in his first Pac-12 appearance, taking 28th overall in the 5,000-meters.
In the men's triple jump, sophomore Kasen Covington had a solid mark of 49-3 ½ on his third attempt, but that just missed the final as 50-feet was needed to earn three more jumps. Covington settled for 11th, and Julian Bardwell took 17th at 46-8 ¾.
Elisa Bryant has scored a number of points at this meet over the years for the Dawgs, but it wasn't to be today, as she missed the discus final by one spot, placing 10th with a best of 151-3. Sophomore Shelby Williams also set a PR in the discus of 121-10, placing 14th.
The Huskies will now see how the final marks shake out and learn who makes the cut for the NCAA Preliminaries, which take the top-48 athletes in the western half of the U.S. in every event and put them in Austin, Texas in two weeks for the right to move on to the finals in June in Des Moines, Iowa.
Washington Track & Field
Day Two of Two
Husky Men's Point Scorers (Top-Eight)
Husky Women's Point Scorers (Top-Eight)