Sunday, June 28, 2009

Diana Pickler wins USA heptathlon title; Cougs' Joe Abbott victorious in junior men's 800...

EUGENE, Oregon--Former Washington State standout Diana Pickler (behind Oregon's Kalindra McFadden/photo by Paul Merca) captured her first national outdoor title in winning the seven event heptathlon competition as the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships concluded its four day run at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, with a personal best score of 6,290 points.

Pickler was thrust into the lead after event leader Hyleas Fountain, who popped a wind-aided lifetime best in the long jump of 22-9 3/4 (6.95m) failed to start the javelin.

Fountain aggravated a neck problem during the long jump that occurred in Saturday’s high jump, and withdrew from the competition before the start of the javelin.

Pickler, who entered the day in second with 3768 points, jumped a wind-aided (+4.3 meters per second) mark of 20-9 1/4 (6.33m), worth 953 points, the followed it up with a toss in the javelin of 137-6 (41.90m), and ran 2:16.99 in the 800 meter run, to score 865 points in the final event,

After the competition, Pickler, a 2008 Olympian who made her second straight world championship team, said, “This is only my fourth heptathlon this year so I definitely felt it a lot in speed and timing. But I’m just looking at the big picture really and trying to focus on what I’m trying to accomplish in the next few months.”

On the long jump, which turned out to be the key event for here, she said, "I didn’t have my best jump ever but I felt really good about it.”

After the Olympics, Pickler first moved to Austin, Texas to train, then changed coaches and moved to Manhattan, Kansas to train with sister Julie under Kansas State coach Cliff Rovelto.

Former Rainier Beach High School star Ginnie Powell made up for the disappointment of an injury riddled 2008 season as she finished second in the 100 meter hurdles, running a wind-aided 12.47 to finish behind Dawn Harper, who ran 12.36 for the win.

Entering these championships, one of the questions about Renton’s Ryan Brown (left/photo by Paul Merca)was whether or not the former Washington Husky and 2006 NCAA champion over 800 meters would be able to raise his game up to the national and international level.

After a less than stellar first two seasons as a professional, Brown answered the bell, using his trademark kick over the last 200 meters to nab the third and final spot on the plane to Berlin, clocking 1:46.92 to finish behind defending national champion Nick Symmonds from Eugene (1:45.86) and Khadevis Robinson of Los Angeles (1:45.97).

In the last 250, Brown, who was positioned on the outside in fifth, made a strong move to advance to third entering the home straight, then held off a late challenge by 2008 Olympic Trials third place finisher Christian Smith, who ran 1:46.92.

"The race was a bit slower than I thought it would be, so I was hoping to just hang on and clean up the bodies after people started dying, but I think because of the wind it didn't go out as fast as maybe people wanted it to," Brown said to media partner "I was still cleaning up bodies but it was a little easier than I thought it would be."

"I battled injuries earlier this season, and it's just been a steady climb to get back to where I think I can be. I'm there; this was a huge goal of mine since I stepped off the track in the semis of the Olympic Trials last year. I thought I could be in this position," Brown told Flotrack. "It's an honor to be on a team with (Symmonds and Robinson). Early in the season I said I want to put my name next to those two guys, because they are the standard by which we measure ourselves. And I'm right next to them right now and that's exciting."

Powell, Pickler, and Brown join fellow national champions Kara Patterson (javelin) and Brad Walker (pole vault), along with discus throwers Jarred Rome, Ian Waltz and Aretha Thurmond in the women’s discus and defending double world champion Bernard Lagat on the plane to Berlin for the IAAF World Track & Field Championships, which begin August 14th at the Olympic Stadium.

Washington State’s two-time NCAA 400 hurdles champ Jeshua Anderson finished fifth in his specialty, running 48.77. Washington’s Mel Lawrence finished fifth in the 3000 meter steeplechase, clocking 9:48.27.

Washington State freshman Joe Abbott from Reno, Nevada swept from sixth place entering the bell lap to capture the national junior title over 800 meters in a time of 1:51.54.

His original plan was to make his move with 300 to go but was trapped on the rail.
“I tried to bide my time as much as I could, but I never took the lead until the last 20 yards. A win’s a win, so I’ll take it.”

“The goal coming into this meet was to try and make the US team, because that the epitome of US track & field. Championship racing is championship racing.”

Here’s the video interview with Abottt:

Fellow Cougar teammate J Hopkins from Everett finished fourth in the finals of the 400 meter hurdles, running 51.49.

“I thought going into the race that I would feel the wind a little bit more than I did, but it wasn’t too bad. I surged, and tried to run as hard as I could, and I nicked the last hurdle, and came off a bit off balanced. I’m disappointed that I missed the podium.”

“The fact that I haven’t run since Pac-10s makes me happier that I’m even running in this meet and be able to compete against this field. It helps that two of the guys in the finals will be in the Pac-10 next year.”

Complete results from the final day of competition at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships can be accessed here.

NOTE: WSU track & field assistant media relations director Linda Chalich reported on their web site that freshman javelin thrower Courtney Kirkwood from Othello, who finished third in the junior championships with a toss of 146-9 (44.74m), has been invited to join the USA national team for the Junior Pan Am Games in Trinidad next month.

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