Friday, April 27, 2012

It's Rivalry Saturday: Dawgs and Cougs go at it at Mooberry Track!

From looking at the listing of places on the blog's Feedjit live traffic feed, I've noticed a lot of hits from Eastern Washington and Idaho, which must mean that everyone's looking for my annual dope sheet of Saturday's UW/WSU dual track & field meet at Mooberry Track on the campus of Washington State University.

In an era where schools prefer to attend multi school invitational meets which more often than not are non scoring, and the sports information offices of those schools crank out garbage press releases that usually begin something like, "Name of school earned ten automatic qualifiers for next month's conference championships at the Podunk Invitational, hosted by Joe Blow University, ad nauseum…", both the University of Washington and Washington State University still feel that the dual meet between the two schools means something to its athletes, coaches, and its fan base.

From a personal standpoint, the UW/WSU dual meet that I attended in 1975 at Husky Stadium as a sophomore at Franklin High School still remains one of the most vivid memories, which included this taunt by Washington's Billy Hicks (left/photo courtesy Seattle Times) of the Cougars' Gary Minor in the 220.

The WSU women's team has defeated Washington in 10 of the past 11 years, with UW winning in 2009 with a score of 81 2/3 to WSU's 81 1/3. Overall UW women leads the series 20-16.

In contrast, the men's dual meet history is not as clear-cut, as according to WSU records, the Cougars and Huskies have met 100 times already with WSU leading the series 62-37-1. The WSU records include two quad meets also scored as duals and two UW wins in 1945.

Washington records list WSU leading the series 60-35-1, 2012 will either be the 101st meeting of the men's teams or the 97th meeting.

Last year, the Washington men took the victory by a 83-80 margin, while the WSU women prevailed 92-71 over the Huskies, despite Washington capturing individual wins in 10 of 19 events.

Washington's release is here (which has a link to the heat sheets), while Washington State's release is here. 

Before I post my prediction, I've enlisted the services of one of the biggest proponents of collegiate scoring meets, Jesse Squire from Ohio, who writes the very informative track & field blog, "Track & Field Superfan", a blog that any fan of the professional and collegiate track & field game should read and bookmark.

Based on the entries posted for Saturday's meet, here's his take:

Women:  Washington 86, Washington 77
Keys to victory: javelin, 400, 400 hurdles, 800 and relays

I have Washington winning four out of these six events.  That makes this meet closer than it looks, because even one loss could turn the tables.

Appropriately for a Washington-Washington State dual, the most hotly contested field event is going to be the javelin.  I have UW's Amanda Petersen winning and WSU going 2-3, but it could come out very differently.  Points are also up for grabs in the 400, a battle between UW's Jordan Carlson and WSU's Shawna Fermin; the 400 hurdles, which I rate as a complete toss-up, and the 800, which looks like a UW sweep on paper but is an event that always seems to come with surprises. 

So many points are on the line in the relays that they are important by themselves. WSU is the strong favorite in the 4x100, but bad exchanges can always turn the tables. UW looks like the better 4x400 team, but who wins that race is often dependent on which team has more athletes ready to run hard at the end of the meet.

Men: Washington State 87, Washington 76
Keys to victory: high jump, 400, 1500 and relays

The high jump is always a hard-to-predict event, and this one is a toss-up between UW's AJ Maricich and Chase Walker and WSU's Michael Bolligar.  The 400 is also likely to be a hard-fought race between UW's Maurice McNeal and WSU's Brandon Dawson.  Dual-meet 1500 races can be completely up for grabs if the race goes out slow and many athletes are still in it at the bell.  And, of course, so many points are at stake in the relays that they're always a very important thing.

My take:

In the women's meet, I have the Huskies winning by a narrow 84-79 margin. The key to a Washington victory are the four field events that kick off the meet at 11 am--pole vault, long jump, javelin and hammer.

Anything less than a 20-16 margin score by the Huskies before the first running event starts could mean it's gonna be a long day, even with their stud distance runners.

The two races on the track that I'd pay attention to are the 400 and 800. Jesse alluded to the Carlson/Fermin matchup which could be huge, but I'm going to take it one step further and key on the 800 as well.

Pac-10 finalist Courtney Zalud of the Cougs is the favorite on paper, but quite honestly hasn't been impressive so far this outdoor season. Spokane native Baylee Mires, who will certainly have friends and family making the drive to Pullman, may be poised to take the victory.

In the men's meet, I have the Cougs winning by a bigger margin than Jesse, going 95-68 over the Dawgs.

WSU All American Stephan Scott-Ellis will be a key early on, as I have the Cougs sweeping the Huskies in the long jump at 12:30 pm.

Last year, I picked Andrew Gonzales of the Cougs to win the steeple, but he ended up getting beat by the Huskies' Mike Miller. I have Gonzales winning, but Miller could make things interesting again.

I'm in agreement with Jesse that the distance races could be pivotal, especially if they become tactical affairs. Don't be surprised if one of the second-line guys on either team is sacrificed to disturb any team tactics.

Below is my dope sheet, which you can print and take with you to the meet, or use as a paper airplane afterwards.

uw_wsu 2012 will be on site with coverage of the meet, and hopefully will provide live tweets with the hashtag #uwwsudual.

NOTE:  Special thanks to Jesse Squire for taking the time to dope this meet!

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