Miller Vaults To Nationals As Licari Listens In
May 27, 2011
NCAA WEST PRELIMINARIES
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EUGENE, Ore. - With her coach in another state tending to an ailing spouse, sophomore Logan Miller relied on a support system of fellow vaulters and did her coach proud, clearing three consecutive personal-bests in the pole vault to become the first Husky woman to advance to next month's NCAA finals. Miller's inspiring day was the highlight for the Dawgs on the second day of the NCAA West Preliminary Championships at Oregon's Hayward Field.
Miller's coach, assistant Pat Licari, left Eugene early this morning to return to Seattle to be with his wife Jean who was undergoing heart surgery after a blood clot was discovered last week. Jean Licari entered surgery at 1 p.m. today and Miller was set to compete starting at 4 p.m. Fellow Husky pole vaulters Scott Roth and Robby Fegles were on the phone with Licari and relaying messages to Miller throughout the competition, with former UW vaulter Andrea Peterson also on-hand to lend support. By the end of the evening, Jean was reported to be in stable condition.
"Pat told me last night that he wouldn't be here, and that made me a little nervous, but luckily I had Scott, and Robby who were great coaches and I trust them a lot, so it worked out really well and we all had the same game plan," said Miller. "It made me a little more proud of myself and even more confident to do it without Pat here. It will be really exciting to go to nationals."
Entering the day, Miller's career-best outdoor clearance was 13-0 ¾. But her day almost ended right after it began, as Miller missed her first two attempts at 12-1 ½ but with her season flashing before her eyes she cleared on her third attempt. After getting over 12-7 ½ on her second try, Miller really got into the mix with a first attempt make at 13-1 ½, a new outdoor best. Still, a big field remained, and it was clear that Miller would have to make another bar to move on.
On try number two at 13-3 ½, Miller went up and got around the bar clean for another career-best. That put her in position to advance, but she decided to cinch it up by once again raising her own personal bar. Miller cleared 13-5 ¼ on her very first try, then waited as the rest of the competition dropped off.
The only disappointment on the day was that she could not continue up to another height as the event ended once twelve athletes remained. As it is, Miller now is tied for fifth on UW's all-time Top-10 list, and is the first women's vaulter to make the national meet since Andrea Peterson in 2009, who had a similar streak of personal-bests at Regionals to get a surprise NCAA bid herself.
"It was a little unexpected," she said of all her PRs. "I started out really rough; I almost no-heighted. But the one that got me really pumped up was making 13-1 on my first try. Then 13-3 got me even more pumped up, and then making 13-5 on my first try, I don't know how that happened!"
It helped to have Roth, a two-time NCAA Indoor Champion, to step in and help coach. Roth, who advanced to NCAAs himself on Friday, spoke about the nerves of being a substitute coach with so much on the line for his teammate, and how the day played out.
"Myself and Robby and Andrea we would sort of talk things out and figure what Logan needed to do and we'd be on the phone with Pat and he'd back us up. But I thought Logan really had a shot at this so that made me a little nervous about it," Roth said. "But with pole vault, there is some subjectivity to it, but there are also just right things to do usually. Of course really it was all Logan. It was awesome how she just toughed it out out there in some rough conditions. We as coaches then felt like we kind of did our job too. It was really fun."
Freshman Maurice McNeal did not have his best day but it was good enough to advance the Federal Way product on to the finale site. Running out of the first of three quarterfinal heats, McNeal was towards the back halfway through the race but could see the field in front of him. He accelerated through the final two turns and came home in fourth, just missing the auto qualifying spot, but his time of 46.44 would wind up earning one of three time qualifiers.
"I've been doing that a lot where I come out hard but then back off on the backstretch, then people start pulling away from me and I turn it on in the last 200. It's not the race I wanted to run, but I got through," said McNeal. "I feel like I'm missing something that I did at Pac-10s but I didn't do here, but I'm happy and thankful and so, so blessed that I made it through."
Shortly thereafter, sophomore James Alaka was not as fortunate after one of his slowest 100-meter dash times over the past two seasons. Alaka ran 10.60, slower than his prelim time yesterday, and was sixth in the first heat. After the next two heats were done, Alaka ended up missing the final qualifying spot by .05 seconds.
Alaka would come back and rebound later in the afternoon, as he moved on through the first round of the 200-meter dash. He'll have another shot to make it to Iowa in Saturday's 200-meter quarterfinals, as well as on UW's 4x100-meter relay.
Junior Elisa Bryant was the first Husky out to the stadium in the women's hammer throw. She was in the first of three flights of sixteen athletes, and she was second through the first flight with a seasonal-best of 181-10. But the mark would not hold up for the finals, as she wound up 23rd overall, despite being one of the last qualifiers. Bryant will still have the discus on Saturday.
Fellow junior hammer thrower Angus Taylor was agonizingly short of the final on the men's side. The top-16 throwers earned three more attempts, but Taylor wound up 17th by just one inch, throwing a best of 197-4.
A pair of Huskies were looking to surprise in the women's triple jump. Both sophomore Shaniae Lakes and junior Taylor Nichols had their best jumps on their final attempts, but they weren't enough to make the final. Lakes went 40-3 ½ to place 20th overall while Nichols' best mark was 39-0 ¼ for 32nd-place.
In his first NCAA competition, freshman A.J. Maricich out of Spokane cleared 6-7 in the high jump on his second attempt but he missed three tries at 6-9 to wrap up his rookie campaign.
The last Husky in action on the second day was sophomore Michael Miller Jr., making his NCAA debut in the steeplechase. Miller placed 11th in the second heat in a time of 9:14.58.
Events for UW on Saturday will be the men's 4x1 relay, the 200m quarterfinal for Alaka, men's and women's discus throws, the men's triple jump, three Huskies in the 1,500-meter quarters, and three more in the 5,000-meter semis.
NCAA Track & Field Championships - West Preliminaries