Expanded MPSF Championships Grow In Prestige
Feb. 22, 2012
ON THE TRACK: Championship action returns to the Dempsey Indoor this weekend as Washington hosts the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships for the ninth straight year. The meet, which runs this Friday and Saturday, is the only scored competition of the Dempsey season, serving as the indoor conference championships for the top teams on the West Coast. This is also the final tune-up for many athletes on their way to the NCAA Indoor Championships, which are just two weeks away, and a great chance for athletes still on the bubble to earn those NCAA qualifying marks, as the intensity ratchets up with titles on the line.
This year the MPSF will be opening its doors for three more teams, enhancing the quality of the fields and the prestige of the meet once again. The MPSF Championships include every Pac-12 team which sponsors indoor track and field, including Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, and for the first time this year that includes Colorado men's and women's teams and the Utah women's team. Also joining the fray for the first time this year is BYU out of the West Coast Conference. Three Big West Conference teams also are in the fold: Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State bring men's and women's squads, and UC Irvine brings their women's team. All told that's 14 women's teams and 12 men's teams set to compete. Whereas most meets in the Dempsey often feature just a handful of athletes from each team, the MPSF stands out with the participants bringing complete teams limited to 27 athletes per team per gender.
Friday afternoon's action kicks off with the men's weight throw at 12:30 p.m., while the first track race will be the women's pentathlon 60m hurdles. The pentathlon will finish all five events on Friday, while the men's heptathlon gets through four of seven events. Winners will also be crowned on day one in the women's weight throw, men's long jump, men's pole vault, and women's long jump in the field. On the track Friday the 5,000-meters, distance medley relays, and 200-meter dashes will go final, and the prelims for the 60-meter dashes and hurdles will be run.
Saturday begins at 10:30 a.m. with the men's shot put and men's high jump. Both triple jumps, the women's pole vault, women's shot and women's high jump will also go Saturday, while the track will be busy with finals in the 60-meter events, the 400-meters, 800-meters, mile runs, 3,000-meter runs, and the 4x400-meter relays to cap things off by 3 p.m.
The current USTFCCCA Top-25 national rankings reflect the strength of the expanding MPSF. The Oregon women are the top-ranked team in the country and the defending NCAA Indoor Champions. Newcomers BYU are ranked 14th on the women's side, followed by No. 16 Arizona, No. 18 Stanford, No. 19 California, and the Huskies at No. 23. Five more men's teams are ranked: No. 6 Arizona, No. 7 Arizona State, No. 12 Stanford, No. 16 BYU, and No. 19 Oregon.
Several MPSF athletes have made major headlines already this indoor season. Miles Batty of BYU set the new collegiate mile record earlier this year, running 3:54.54. And Arizona's Lawi Lalang, the NCAA cross country champion, set the NCAA indoor 5,000-meter record, clocking 13:08.28. Several women out of the MPSF are currently leading the NCAA in their respective event, or in the case of UW's Katie Flood, events. Flood leads the NCAA in the mile and the 3,000-meters, though look for her to concentrate on the DMR this weekend. Oregon's English Gardner boasts the top 60m dash time nationally of 7.17 seconds. Nachelle Mackie of BYU leads at 800-meters (2:03.56), and Deborah Maier of Cal ran the nation's top 5,000-meter time of 15:29.24 two weeks ago in the Dempsey. Arizona's Brigetta Barrett, the Dempsey record-holder in the high jump, leads the NCAA at a ridiculous 6-5 1/2. Last but not least, Oregon's Brianne Theisen is the defending NCAA pentathlon champ, and has the top mark this year. She won't be in the full pentathlon, but is entered in several different events.
All told, 16 men's athletes and 16 more women's athletes out of the MPSF have already hit NCAA Auto marks and guaranteed themselves a spot in the NCAA Indoor meet two weeks from now.
Standard championship meet scoring is in place at MPSFs, with eight places scoring in each event. First place nets 10 points, second earns eight, then 6-5-4-3-2-1 from third through eighth.
PURPLE AND GOLD PERSPECTIVE: The Dawgs will see how they function as a true team for the first time this weekend, trimming the roster down to 27 men and 27 women to create the best oppotunities to score points, while a number of Huskies will entertain the goal of earning an NCAA Indoor bid.
Looking first at the men, junior James Alaka will be among the favorites in the 60-meter dash, joined by senior Ryan Hamilton and sophomore Matt Anthony getting his first conference competition. Hamilton and Anthony will both also run the 200-meter dash. At 400-meters, sophomore Maurice McNeal is entered in the top flight, which could be very fast and give the Federal Way native a good shot at lowering his 47.29 PR which currently ranks 36th nationally. The men's 4x4 of Sam Rucker, Dan Sanders, Alaka and McNeal has the third-best seed time coming in and will be in the top flight. Junior Shayne Moore has scored in the 60m hurdles before and will look to grab some points there once again.
Second year Dawgs Kyle Blume and Sean Krinik will make their MPSF debuts at 800-meters, having both progressed well so far this season. Junior Brad Whitley could also surprise in the second heat and make a push for points. The loaded men's mile will feature senior Ryan Soberanis, coming off a time of 4:02.32 that ranks seventh in school history, as well as freshman Meron Simon and junior Michael Miller in the fast heat.
Rob Webster Jr. will be one to watch at 5,000-meters, as he looks to score points while chasing the 14-minute mark. As usual there will likely be a lot of crossover between the 5k and the 3,000-meters, along with scratches depending on how runners recover and how the meet plays out. But expect Joey Bywater to run his first 3k of the season in the top heat, while Webster Jr. could double back. Sophomore Aaron Beattie and freshman Tyler King will run at 3k, and sophomore Bryan Tibaduiza is entered in both the 3k and 5k. In the DMR, Soberanis, McNeal, Whitley, and Bywater will try to cut some time off UW's season-best, which ranks 10th nationally but will likely need to improve to make the NCAA cut.
In the vertical jumps, sophomore A.J. Maricich has had a very consistent season, and matched his PR of 6-11 1/2 last time out which would certainly score if he can clear it again this week. Also coming off a big PR is senior vaulter Robby Fegles, who broke 17-feet for the first time at the Husky Classic. He and freshman J.J. Juilfs, who ranks 17th nationally, give the Dawgs a great one-two combo in the vault. Long and triple jumps will be handled by Julian Bardwell, Kasen Covington, and Clayton Johnson. Covington and Johnson were sixth and seventh, respectively, in the triple jump last year.
Senior Angus Taylor is seeded fourth in the men's weight throw while junior Conner Larned scored a sixth-place finish in the weight a year ago. Taylor has already PR'd by a foot this year, going 61-2 3/4. Freshman Danny Shelton gets his first taste of championship action in the men's shot put.
The women's sprinters will be focused in the quarter mile, with senior Jordan Carlson taking another run at the school record that she is .04 seconds away from. Sophomore Kayla Stueckle ran a PR two weeks ago and Gianna Woodruff and Alisha Oden will also run the 400m in their first MPSF meets. That quartet will also make up UW's 4x4 at the end of the meet, entered in the top heat.
At 800-meters, freshman Baylee Mires has already run the No. 6 time in school history at 2:09.57. Running in the second-fastest heat, Mires will need a great run to earn points as the top flight is very talented, led by defending NCAA Champion Lacey Bleazard and current NCAA leder Nachelle Mackie, both of BYU. Junior Laura Schmitt will also run in the second heat.
On paper, the distance race of the weekend will be the top flight of the women's 3,000-meters. The credentials of the athletes entered are too long to list, but Washington's Katie Flood, Megan Goethals, Christine Babcock, Chelsea Orr, and Liberty Miller are all on the entry list. Flood currently leads the NCAA in the 3k, while Goethals is the defending MPSF Champ at the distance, and Babcock ranks 26th nationally with her 9:17.42 set two weeks back. The rest of the field has Cal's Deborah Maier, the NCAA leader in the 5k, and Oregon's Jordan Hasay, who just happens to be the defending NCAA 3k Champ, plus five more women who have run under 9:20 this year. Stepping up to the 5k, junior Lindsay Flanagan enters with the third-best seed time after clocking a 16:14.92 time at the Husky Classic, the fourth-best time in school history. Also look for All-American senior Mel Lawrence to step back on the track for the first time this year.
Junior Justine Johnson leads the way in the mile run, where she'll be joined in the top heat by freshman Eleanor Fulton and sophomore Mackenzie Carter. Johnson was fifth in the mile a year ago. Freshman Erin Johnson should also run near the front of the pack in the first heat. UW's distance medley relay, which will be chasing the NCAA Auto mark this week, will go with Chelsea Orr, Jordan Carlson, Baylee Mires, and Katie Flood anchoring for the first time this season.
All-American junior Logan Miller will be vaulting for both points and a PR that would get her closer to Nationals. Kelly McNamee and Caroline Soules are set to go in the high jump as well. McNamee tied for third in the high jump in 2011. The triple jump was one of UW's best events last year, as Taylor Nichols earned a runner-up finish and Shaniae Lakes was seventh. Both will vie for the MPSF title on Saturday and Alana Alexander could also jump into the mix.
Highlighting the throws is senior Elisa Bryant, who has the No. 2 weight throw mark in the conference this year. Bryant has never finished worst than fifth in her three previous MPSF Championships, and another season best could get her into the NCAA conversation. In the women's shot put, multi-event athletes Roland and Williams will come back to throw a second time.