Soaring Scott Roth, Brad Walker Lead "Awesome" Huskies Weekend At U.S. Championships
June 23, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Scott Roth calls this weekend "an opportunity of a lifetime."
Brad Walker says this "is pretty much why we do what we do, to have this opportunity. It's a big deal."
"It" is the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., specifically the pole vault competition. Walker and Roth have the first and second-best marks in the country this year. They are the top two competitors vying for three spots on the national team that will compete in the IAAF World Championships in August in Korea.
And they are both Huskies.
"It is awesome to have Huskies in the mix," UW jumps and vault coach Pat Licari said, like a proud papa, before departing for Eugene on Thursday.
How awesome? Washington track has never had two of its own competing at worlds in the same event.
The chance for UW history begins Saturday at noon at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. That's when Walker -- the 2007 world champion and four-time All-American plus two-time Pac-10 champion while at UW through 2004 -- will join Roth in soaring upside down off a stick in the nation's showcase event for track and field.
Walker, who turned 30 on Tuesday, is the American record holder in the pole vault. He qualified for the world championships at this meet in 2009 but could not compete due to injury. Last week he passed Roth for the top mark in the U.S. in 2011 with a jump of 19 feet, 2 inches.
He tutored Roth briefly at UW, when the latter was the nation's top-ranked freshman in 2007.
"I remember he gave me some advice, some seeds of wisdom," Roth said over the telephone this week following a morning workout at UW. "He gave me some training advice a few times at practice. I really appreciated that."
Roth won his third NCAA championship two weeks ago as a Huskies senior. He is one of the few in the nation recently to go 8 for 8 in qualifying for NCAA indoor and outdoor championships during a collegiate career. He sliced through strong winds in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 8 to become the first Husky since 1979 to win multiple NCAA titles in the same year.
Roth is on a quest to clear 19 feet, his goal for the last few years as a Husky and the milestone past which pole vaulters are considered essentially Olympian. Clearing 19 in Eugene would likely have him bound for Daegu, Korea, for the world championships that begin August 27, given Walker doesn't think one will need to go that high to qualify for the U.S. team Saturday.
"Well, I've been the only person this year to jump 19 in the U.S.," Walker, who won U.S. titles in 2005, 2007, and 2009, said Tuesday by phone from his training home in San Diego. "I do think if you want to be on that team you've got to be prepared to jump 18-8.
"This year, the field feels to me to be not as strong."
That open door of opportunity has Roth pumped. So does being on the same stage with the nation's professional track elite.
"Oh, there is excitement for sure," Roth said. "You are out there and you are jumping with guys you've seen on TV, legends of our sport, essentially. A lot of those guys, I've looked up to.
"I still do that thing of, `I'm really here!' It's awesome."
Roth is one of four Huskies from this season's team who will be competing this weekend at the U.S. championships. Amanda Peterson, the school record holder in the javelin, will join men's javelin thrower Joe Zimmerman and 400-meter runner Maurice McNeal in the senior competition. McNeal was to run Thursday. In all, 16 members of the Husky family will be competing over four days. The senior and junior championships are being held together in Eugene. Seven Huskies will be in the junior division. That includes two current Dawgs coming off their freshmen seasons: Kayla Stueckle (400-meter hurdles) and Kasen Covington (triple jump). Five more future Huskies, recruits set to start their Washington careers in the fall, will compete in the junior division of these U.S. championships. Walker will be vaulting inside the same Hayward Field stadium in which he soared to the American record of 19 feet, 9.75 inches in June 2008.
This time, he hopes to be making the national team alongside a former protégé.
"Scott's a great kid. Super humble and a great athlete," Walker said.
"Hopefully we can send a couple of Huskies to the world championships."