Thursday, February 23, 2012

Washington and Washington State set to battle at the Dempsey in MPSF Championships...

It's conference time this weekend, as Washington State heads to Seattle for the MPSF Championships hosted by the University of Washington on Friday and Saturday at the Dempsey Indoor Facility, with Friday action getting under way at 12:30 with the men's weight throw finals, and Saturday starting at 10:30 am with the heptathlon 60 hurdles.

As the Pac-12 does not sponsor indoor track, the MPSF meet include every Pac-12 team which sponsors indoor track and field, including Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, and for the first time this year that includes Colorado men's and women's teams and the Utah women's team.

Also joining the fray for the first time this year is BYU out of the West Coast Conference. Three Big West Conference teams also are in the fold: Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State bring men's and women's squads, and UC Irvine brings their women's team.

All told that's 14 women's teams and 12 men's teams set to compete. Whereas most meets in the Dempsey often feature just a handful of athletes from each team, the MPSF stands out with the participants bringing complete teams limited to 27 athletes per team per gender.

The Oregon Women are the defending back-to-back MPSF Champions, while the Stanford Men claimed the 2011 Championship. Arizona brought home the runner-up in each gender last year, while the UCLA Men and Stanford Women earned the bronze.

Naturally, the distance races will be the highlight of the meet. On the women's side, athletes from the conference own every current number one NCAA ranking,

In the women’s 800-meter run, BYU junior Nachelle Mackie owns the top NCAA automatic qualifying time of 2:03.56. Only .23 seconds off that pace is fellow Cougar Katie Palmer, who ranks tied for second nationally. Both times were established in New York on Feb. 3.

The NCAA’s top mile (4:28.48) and 3,000-meter run (8:55.31) was run by the Huskies' Katie Flood.

Oregon junior Anne Kesselring carries the third fastest mile (4:32.61), as does California senior Chelsea Reilly in the 3,000-meter (9:00.86).

Finally, four of the nation’s top-six, and six of the top-10 in the 5,000-meter, hail from the MPSF.

This group is led by top-ranked Cal junior Deborah Meier (15:29.24), followed by No. 4 Oregon junior Jordan Hasay (15:45.54) and No. 5 Stanford sophomore Kathy Kroeger (15:46.26).

The three biggest names in the men's distances are the Arizona duo of Lawi Lalang (above/photo by Paul Merca) and Stephen Sambu, and Stanford's Chris Derrick.  Lalang set the collegiate record in the 5000 of 13:08.28 in New York, a race in which Sambu and Derrick all ducked under the Olympic "A" standard.  Also not to be overlooked is BYU's Miles Batty, the collegiate indoor record holder in the mile at 3:54.54.

Other athletes to watch:

--Oregon's Brianne Theisen, who is entered in several individual events, is the collegiate record holder in the pentathlon. She gives Oregon plenty of point potential;

--Arizona's Brigetta Barrett in the high jump, who is currently tied for #2 in the world this season;

--Oregon sprinters English Gardner and Michael Berry. Gardner is the conference leader in the 60 and 200 at 7.19 and 23.41, while Berry, the Seattle native who owns a world championship gold medal from Daegu in the 4 x 4, is the reigning Pac-10 champ at 400m and looks to unseat Stanford's Amaechi Morton, the defending MPSF indoor champ in the 400;

--Bryan McBride of Arizona State in the high jump, who has jumped 7-5 this season, will be in a battle with Arizona's defending champ Edgar Rivera-Morales and Nick Ross, the Pac-10 outdoor champ;

--UCLA's defending champ Michael Woepse and BYU's Victor Weirich, both of whom have jumped 18-5 in the pole vault this season;

--Arizona's Julie Labonte, the most dominant shot putter in the MPSF and the Pac-10 last year;

--Stephan Scott-Ellis of Washington State in both the long and triple jumps. He's the conference leader in the long jump at 24-8.5, and is the reigning Pac-10 champ in the triple jump.

The MPSF release can be read here. Washington's release is available here, while Washington State's release is here.

NOTE: The University of Washington, Washington State University and the MPSF contributed to this report.

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