Thursday, May 10, 2012

The busiest weekend of the outdoor track & field season is here--it's conference championship time!

Conference championships are front and center as the Pac-12, GNAC, Big Sky and the Great West hold their championship meets this weekend.

paulmerca.blogspot.com is headed to Eugene for the two-day Pacific-12 Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.

Here are some story lines to follow involving athletes from the state of Washington competing in the Pac-12s:

--Can the "Flash Man", Washington's James Alaka (left/photo by Paul Merca), repeat as conference champ at both 100 and 200 meters? The Brit has only run 10.36 and 20.89 this season, and USC sophomore Aaron Brown leads the conference at 10.09 and 20.53;

--Will Oregon's Mike Berry use home cooking and the Hayward magic to defend his conference championship? The Rainier Beach HS grad, who used last year's victory in Tuscon as a springboard to propel him all the way to a relay spot on Team USA's world championship 4 x 400 team in Daegu, will have the fans behind him, but must watch for USC's Bryshon Nellum, the current conference leader at 45.18;

--Can WSU's Joe Abbott get over the hump to win a Pac-12 title? Abbott, who won the USA junior title as a freshman in 2009 in Eugene, would like to close out his Pac-12 career by winning the crown, after finishing third last year;

--Can the Huskies' Katie Flood continue the roll that she's been on in the 1500? She'll go against Oregon's Anne Kesselring and Jordan Hasay, but the most dangerous runner in the field is Eastlake HS and Seattle Pacific alum Jessica Tebo of Colorado, arguably one of the greatest middle distance runners in NCAA Division II history. Though Tebo faded to fifth at Mt. SAC in a race won by Flood, the April race was Tebo's first since last year, after undergoing ankle surgery;

--How will the men's and women's javelin competitions play out? In the women's, we saw a preview at the UW/WSU duel with Christine Kirkwood of WSU pulling it out late over the Huskies' Brooke Pighin. Stanford's Brianna Bain is the conference leader at 171-2 (52.17m).

In the men's competition, the Huskies' Joe Zimmerman will have to contend with UCLA's Derek Eager, USC's Cooper Thompson, and Oregon's Sam Crouser.

--Can WSU's Stephan Scott-Ellis, the defending triple jump champ, find the magic and defend?  He'll have to contend with Arizona State's Chris Benard, who beat him in Seattle in February to win the MPSF title.

The University of Washington's preview is here, while Washington State's is here…

The championship meet home page for the Pac-12s are available here...

The Pac-12 start lists are available here...

Seattle University heads to Humble, Texas for the Great West Championships. The Redhawks got off to a good start Thursday, as Erik Barkhaus won the men's 10000 in 31:22.16.

SeattleU's day 1 recap is available here, along with a championship meet preview.

The Big Sky multi-events concluded Thursday in Bozeman, Montana as Eastern Washington senior Kersee Lind finished seventh with a final score of 6654 points, just off of his personal best of 6735 points.

Lind, a senior from Hermiston, Oregon, ran 15.94 in the 110 hurdles, threw the discus 96-3 (29.33m), pole vaulted 13-5 1/4 (4.10m), threw the javelin 161-6 (49.22m), and finished the day with a 4:35.11 in the 1500.

Teammate Tim Armstrong finished eighth with a final score of 6616, while the third Eagle in the competition, Warren Miller, was 11th with a final score of 6205 points.

Montana State's Jeff Mohl won the competition with a final score of 7630, with teammate Asa Staven second at 7375 points.

The Big Sky meet continues through Saturday.  The championship meet home page is available here.

The complete decathlon scores from the Big Sky are available here.

En route to Eugene, paulmerca.blogspot.com will make a stop in Monmouth, Oregon for the first day of competition at the GNAC championships, hosted by Western Oregon, as Western Washington, Central Washington, Seattle Pacific, and Saint Martin's will compete for top honors.

The Seattle Pacific women's team , currently ranked #25 in the latest USTFCCCA Division II poll, is shooting for its third straight conference title, but may face a stiff challenge from Alaska-Anchorage.

Some day 1 events we will watch include the women's pole vault, featuring Western Washington's Karis Anderson, SPU's Terra Schumacher and defending champ Kati Davis of Central; the javelin featuring national leader Brittany Aanstad of SPU; and of course, the Falcons' Ali Worthen, who won the heptathlon last week.

The GNAC release is here, which includes a link to the start lists and meet program.

It's gonna be a busy weekend, and we'll do our best to cover it all!

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