Monday, June 22, 2009

Mel Lawrence named Pac-10 women's newcomer of the year...

Redshirt freshman Mel Lawrence (left/photo by Mike Scott) has been honored as the 2009 Pac-10 Track & Field Women's Newcomer of the Year, becoming the first Husky female to win any of the conference's postseason honors.

The Reno, Nevada native found her niche when she took up the steeplechase for the first time since high school at the UW-WSU dual meet in May. Lawrence crushed the school record in her first attempt, then went on to easily win the Pac-10 Championship, a first for UW in the event, breaking the meet record held by UW assistant coach Kelly Strong in 9:54.13.

After another dominant win at NCAA West Regionals, Lawrence headed to her first NCAA Outdoor Championships. She proceeded to finish third behind two seniors, one of which is the American record-holder and 2008 Olympian in the steeple, and was the only woman in the field to set a new personal-best, which she did by 12 seconds, running 9:40.98. That time crushed the Pac-10 Conference record of 9:46.43 held by former US world championship team member Lisa Aguilera.

The steeple has been a strength for Lawrence going back to her prep days. She won the 2006 U.S. Junior National Championship in the steeplechase with a meet record time of 10:15.

Lawrence also excelled at other distances, running 15:50.36 for 5,000-meters, a time that ranked in the Top-10 nationally. She also qualified for Regionals in the 1,500m with a best of 4:24.10. Her third-place NCAA finish earned her the first All-American honor of her track career, to go with the one she earned in the fall for cross country when she placed 25th overall as the third UW finisher on its NCAA Championship team.

Husky women's distance runners have now swept the Pac-10 Newcomer honors for cross country and track. Christine Babcock was named Pac-10 Cross Country Newcomer of the Year in the fall.

Next up for Lawrence is the U.S.A Track & Field Championships in Eugene, which begin this Thursday, June 25 and run through Jun 28. She will be among the top contenders, and certainly the youngest, in a group of steeplechasers looking to earn a top-three finish and make Team USA for the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

NOTE: The Pacific-10 Conference and the University of Washington contributed to this report.

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