Saturday, May 29, 2010

Husky hurdler Falesha Ankton gets 12th and final spot to nationals...

AUSTIN, Texas--In a meet in which twelfth place is as good as first, University of Washington senior Falesha Ankton (left/photo by Paul Merca) earned a return trip to the NCAA outdoor track & field championships with a twelfth place finish in the second round of the NCAA West Regionals at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas.

Ankton's performance in the 100-meter hurdles was particularly memorable. The senior from Benicia, California came back for a fifth year after her 2009 season ended with her missing the finals at Pac-10s and Regionals by just one spot. She last competed at NCAAs in 2008, making the preliminary round. Ankton chose to return for a fifth year thinking she had unfinished business, and she took fifth at Pac-10s in a slight PR of 13.45 seconds.

In Friday's prelims, Ankton hit an early hurdle and had to push hard to the finish to get through the first round. Assigned to the same lane for her quarterfinal heat, Ankton didn't let the same hurdle foil her twice, as she got out extremely well and was clean over the hurdles en route to a major career-best of 13.37 seconds. However that was fourth in her heat, and only the top-three automatically advance, so Ankton had to wait to see if she would earn one of three time qualifiers.

Ankton sat on the infield of the track on a bench for discus throwers, and watched the last heat. One woman bumped her time down but it held up as the 12th-best time overall, sending her on to Eugene.

"I am on top of the world right now," said a beaming Ankton. "After last year I said I have to redeem myself. I have some unfinished business. This year it was all about outdoors. Every practice, every workout I've just been thinking about making nationals. When I crossed that finish line and I looked up and saw 13.37 I was jumping for joy because I thought even if that doesn't make it, that's a best for me and I can be happy ending my career on that note. But now I have another one and hopefully I can just keep punching the clock and keep moving."

Fellow Husky senior Katie Follett, who was battling stomach ailments all week, went to the lead from the very start and stayed there for all but the final 75-meters or so, when she clearly didn't have her usual kick but still was able to cruise in for third place in 4:19.36, which earned her a spot in third-consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships.

British freshman James Alaka punched his ticket to Eugene with a third place finish in his heat of the 200 meters, as he set a personal best of 20.71, the seventh fastest time in Husky history. Alaka earned a ticket to Eugene on Friday when he qualified in the men's 100 meters.

For Washington State, freshman high jumper Holly Parent was one of 11 women who cleared 5-feet, 11 1/4 inches (1.81m) in the high jump. Parent cleared the first four bar heights on the first attempt but needed two tries to clear a lifetime-best height of 5-11 1/4, which placed her ninth in the Regional competition. Her mark is the sixth-best high jump in WSU history (tied with Lissa Gray, 1988 in Moscow).

Big Sky hammer throw champion Nicole Luckenbach, Eastern Washington's best hope to qualify for the national championships in Eugene in two weeks, finished a disappointing 27th with a first round throw of 180-3 (54.95m).

Among notable athletes with Washington ties qualifying for the NCAA championships on the final day include former Nathan Hale HS standout Abdi Hassan of Arizona in the 1500m (8th, 3:46.76); Auburn-Riverside's Jordan McNamara of Oregon in the 5000 (6th, 14:07.14); and Bellingham's Jake Riley of Stanford in the 5000 (10th, 14:07.48).

Washington will send eleven athletes to the NCAA meet, which begins May 9th at Hayward Field, while Washington State will send six athletes to the national championships.

Complete results from the NCAA Western Regionals can be accessed here.

NOTE: The University of Washington, Washington State University, and Eastern Washington University all contributed to this report.

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