Javelin thrower Rob Minnitti, seen competing for Team USA at the IAAF World Cup in Athens last year, is one of 16 athletes with ties to the University of Washington competing at the AT&T USA Outdoor Championships (Paul Merca photo)
release courtesy of Brian Beaky, University of Washington Athletic Communications
SEATTLE--The buildup to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, begins in earnest this week as three-time USA Track and Field champions Brad Walker and Aretha (Hill) Thurmond lead 16 current or former Washington track and field athletes to the 2007 AT&T USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, beginning Thursday at IUPUI's Michael Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis.
The list of Huskies competing includes seven Pac-10 champions, three NCAA champions, two USA Track and Field champions and one world championships gold medalist.
The top three finishers in each senior national event who have met IAAF qualifying standards will compete for the United States at the 2007 IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships, August 25-September 2 in Osaka, Japan, while the top two finishers in each junior event will qualify to compete for Team USA at July‚s Pan-American Junior Athletics Championships in Brazil.
The world's top-ranked vaulter in 2007, and one of just 12 vaulters in world history to top the elite six-meter mark, Spokane native Walker enters this week's meet seeking his fourth-career U.S. national pole vault title. The 2004 Washington graduate and two-time NCAA indoor champion swept U.S. indoor and outdoor titles in 2005, and was the indoor champ in 2006. Walker, who still trains at UW's Dempsey Indoor, also won the gold medal at the 2006 IAAF Indoor World Championships in Moscow, Russia, and was the silver medalist at the 2005 world outdoor meet in Helsinki.
Thurmond, too, returns to defend her 2006 U.S. outdoor title, less than three weeks after giving birth to her first child, a boy. A 1994 graduate of Renton (Wash.) High School and 1998 UW alum, Thurmond has been America's pre-eminent women's discus competitor for the last decade, winning U.S. titles in 2003, 2004 and 2006, and earning top-five finishes at the USA Championships every year since 1996. A two-time U.S. Olympian who works currently as the director of UW‚s Big W Alumni Club, Thurmond captained the U.S. team at the 2005 world outdoor championships and the 2006 IAAF World Cup, but has been unable to compete thus far in 2007 while pregnant.
Walker and Thurmond are among nine former Huskies in this week's national championships, including three who concluded their collegiate careers earlier this month with All-America performances at the 2007 NCAA Championships in Sacramento.
Included among that group are two of the most decorated athletes in UW track and field history, including two-time NCAA champion and nine-time All-American Ryan Brown, and six-time All-American Ashley Lodree. Both will begin their post-collegiate careers this week, with Brown competing in the event where he has dominated the college track landscape over the past 12 months, the 800 meters, and Lodree entered in her featured event, the 100-meter hurdles.
Also among the group of nine former Huskies entered in this week's meet are All-America javelin throwers Rob Minnitti and Justin St. Clair, 2005 NCAA champion and five-time All-American pole vaulter Kate Soma, two-time All-American hammer thrower Martin Bingisser, and discus star Will Conwell, who boasts the nation's sixth-best mark in 2007.
In addition, two of Washington‚s assistant coaches -- distance coach Kelly Strong and throws coach Reedus Thurmond --will lace up the shoes this weekend, as will five returning members of the UW track and field team.
Strong is one of America‚s top steeplers, boasting the nation‚s seventh-fastest mark all-time in the event, while Thurmond ˆ husband to Aretha and father to the couple‚s infant son -- was a three-time collegiate All-American at Auburn, and competed in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Representing the 2007-08 Husky track and field squad will be five-time All-American senior-to-be Norris Frederick (long jump), two-time All-Americans Amanda Miller (1,500 meters) and Carl Moe (steeplechase), and sophomores-to-be Cameron Elisara (shot put) and Scott Roth (pole vault). All but Elisara and Roth will compete at the senior national level, with the latter duo joining the nation's top under-20 athletes in the junior national event.
Track fans will be privileged to a record amount of television coverage of this year's meet, with at least some portion of each of the final three day‚s events to be broadcast live on either ESPN2 (June 22 & 23, 5-6 p.m. PDT) or NBC (June 23, 11-1 p.m. PDT & June 24, 10-12 p.m. PDT), potentially including all or some of the competition by Walker, Brown, Frederick, Lodree, Soma, Miller, Conwell, Moe and Reedus Thurmond. For start times and channels in your area, check your local TV listings.
Complete recaps will be posted to GoHuskies.com at the conclusion of each day's events. For more information on this or any other USA Track and Field event, visit www.usatf.org.
2007 AT&T USA National Track and Field Championships
June 21-24, Michael Carroll Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
Name Event Date Time (PDT)
Martin Bingisser Hammer Fri., June 22 3:00 p.m.
Ryan Brown 800m Run Thurs., June 21 3:05 p.m. (Prelim)
Fri., June 22 5:30 p.m. (Semi)
Sun., June 24 12:00 p.m. (Final)
Will Conwell Discus Sun., June 24 10:20 a.m.
Cameron Elisara* Shot Put Thurs., June 21 10:30 a.m.
Norris Frederick Long Jump Fri., June 22 4:00 p.m.
Ashley Lodree 100m Hurdles Fri., June 22 2:45 p.m. (Prelim)
Sat., June 23 11:40 a.m. (Semi)
Sat., June 23 12:52 p.m. (Final)
Amanda Miller** 1,500m Run Thurs., June 21 3:50 p.m. (Prelim)
Sat., June 23 12:26 p.m. (Final)
Rob Minnitti Javelin Thurs., June 21 5:00 p.m.
Carl Moe Steeplechase Fri., June 22 2:15 p.m. (Prelim)
Sun., June 24 11:05 a.m. (Final)
Scott Roth* Pole Vault Thurs., June 21 3:15 p.m.
Kate Soma Pole Vault Sun., June 24 10:00 a.m.
Justin St. Clair Javelin Thurs., June 21 5:00 p.m.
Kelly Strong Steeplechase Thurs., June 21 2:15 p.m. (Prelim)
Sat., June 23 3:50 p.m. (Final)
Aretha Thurmond Discus Fri., June 22 2:00 p.m.
Reedus Thurmond Discus Sun., June 24 10:20 a.m.
Brad Walker Pole Vault Fri., June 22 3:45 p.m.
* - Indicates Junior National Championships competitor.
** - Entry is provisional.