Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's the last chance to watch the Husky track team this season at home on Saturday...

The University of Washington's 2012 home track and field season ends Saturday when the Huskies play host to the UW Final Qualifier meet, one of a handful of meets approved by the NCAA as last chance opportunities to qualify for next week's NCAA championships at Jackson's Track in Nampa, just outside of Boise, Idaho.

With the new track and field facility replacing Husky Stadium under construction next to the baseball and soccer stadiums, this will be the final opportunity to watch the Husky track teams in action at home, as they will contest all of their outdoor meets this season away from campus.

The Final Qualifier is the smallest and quickest of meets on the Dempsey schedule, as teams will only send a handful of athletes with realistic chances of making it to nationals. However there will also be a large UW contingent simply using the meet as a last chance to set PRs and build momentum for outdoors, in addition to the group still looking to reach Boise. Action begins in the field and on the track at 11 a.m., and the meet should be wrapped up by 3 p.m.

While most of the Husky squad will be competing at home, the men's distance medley relay of Ryan Soberanis, Maurice McNeal, Brad Whitley, and Joey Bywater will be traveling to Notre Dame's Alex Wilson Invitational meet to try to improve on their time and make the NCAA cut as well. Notre Dame has traditionally been the place to run for DMRs on the final weekend.

The Huskies currently rank seventh nationally, but do not have the auto mark and therefore want to keep their place with a good showing. All four Huskies may also run open events, as McNeal is ranked 22nd in the 400-meters and Bywater and Soberanis are in the top-50 nationally in the mile.

Washington State is sending a small group of athletes, including 800 meter runners Joe Abbott (above/photo by Paul Merca) and Nick Smith, high jumpers Shawn Swartz and Jovan Vukicevic, and sprinter Ryan Barrett, along with volunteer coach and reigning USA and NCAA 400 hurdles champ Jeshua Anderson, who is entered in the 800, and most likely doing pace setting chores for Abbott. Gonzaga is sending a group of distance runners across the Cascades, primarily to obtain competitive experience.

Courtesy of WSU Athletics, here's a video interview with Abbott:

On the track, two of the biggest races with implications for Washington are the women's mile and 3000.

In the mile, sophomore Chelsea Orr, junior Justine Johnson, freshman Eleanor Fulton, and sophomore Mackenzie Carter will all run in the fast heat and chase the NCAA mark of 4:37.00 in a very strong field which could have Katie Flood, the national leader in both the mile and 3000, setting the pace for a few laps. The Oregon duo of Jordan Hasay and Bellingham native Becca Friday are entered, along with WSU alum Collier Lawrence, and Oregon State's Laura Carlyle.

In the 3000, the Huskies' Mel Lawrence and Christine Babcock will run against Stanford's Aisling Cuffe and Jessica Tonn, along with Loyola Marymount's Tara Erdmann.

The men's 3000 has Oregon TC/Portland standouts Evan Jager and Andrew Bumbalough entered, along with world championships marathoner and Washington alum Mike Sayenko.

Besides the men's high jump, both pole vaults will be very competitive, as the top seeds vie for those NCAA invitations.

The men's field includes Idaho's Jeremy Klas in a matchup with Husky freshman JJ Julifs, while on the women's side, Utah State's Sonia Grabowska faces the UCLA duo of Tori Anthony and Allison Koressel, NCAA Division II record holder Catherine Street of Linfield, and the Huskies' Logan Miller.

The start lists for the UW Final Qualifier are available here. Joins The Relay Network has joined forces with several national and regional track and field/running web sites to create The Relay Network.

The Relay Network is the premier network reaching track & field, cross country, and marathon communities, and presents a unique opportunity to connect their product or service to an engaged and active audience.

The network includes the popular podcast House of Run; the Track & Field Superfan, Track Focus, and Writing About Running. also wishes to thank Splitcaster for its sponsorship this week to promote their excellent and powerful race timing application for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, a new app that I had the opportunity to use at last week's MPSF Championships at the Dempsey.

Splitcaster is a brand new way to time track, running, swimming, cycling and speedskating races. With Splitcaster, you’ll not only know the times for each split you record, you’ll also know the distance and pace for those splits and the estimated finish time as the race unfolds.

You can download the Splitcaster app here.

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

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