Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cougars and Huskies split the annual dual meet in debut of Husky Track...

SEATTLE--As expected, the University of Washington and Washington split in the annual dual meet to open the new Husky Track next to the soccer stadium on the northeast end of the campus.

What no one expected was that it was the Washington State women that took the victory and that the Washington men would win decisively.

The Washington State women prevailed over the Huskies 86-77, while the Husky men took the victory over their cross state rivals 91-72.

For Washington State, Shawna Fermin (left/photo courtesy Washington State University) played a major role, anchoring the Cougs to the win in the 4 x 100 relay, as the team of Cindy Robinson, Dominique Keel, Christiana Ekelem, and Fermin ran 45.45 to the Huskies' 46.36, an event on our dope sheet we projected Washington to win.

As expected, Fermin led a 1-2-3 Cougar sweep of the 400, as she ran 55.01, with Bree Winfrey second at 55.79, and 57.19 for Briauna Watley in third.

With 18 of 19 events scored and the score 81-77 in favor of the Cougs, the meet came down to a winner-take-all 4 x 400 meter relay, and the chance for the Huskies to christen the new track and allow the numerous Washington track and field alums who came from all over the country to see the Dawgs sweep both meets, as moments before the women's 4 x 4, the Husky men clinched the team victory with Tyler King and Aaron Nelson's 2-3 finish in the 3000, an event the Cougars were expected to sweep.

In the 4 x 4, 400 hurdles winner Kayla Stueckle of Washington and Bree Winfrey  were slightly even as they made the first exchange.

800 meter winner Baylee Mires then opened up a lead on the second leg for Washington over Christiana Ekelem of the Cougs, while Krista Armstead of Washington maintained the lead in her leg against WSU's Dominique Keel.

In the final leg, it appeared that Husky anchor Gianna Woodruff, who earlier finished second to Stueckle in the 400 hurdles, had enough of a lead to possibly hold off Fermin, but Fermin, who was second in last year's Pac-12 meet at 400 meters, made a charge entering the top of the final turn, and extended her lead over the final straightway, to lead the Cougars to a 3:42.99 to 3:44.98 win.

"I'm very proud of the Cougar women and a great competitive effort today," Cougar Head Coach Rick Sloan said. "They kept their focus and closed the deal. The Huskies did a nice job of competing but I was proud of the way our women responded to the challenge. We thought the women's team win would go down to the 4x4 race and we were right. Shawna did a great job being very competitive and mature throughout the whole meet."

If there was a duo that Sloan needed to thank to get the Cougs in a position to steal the win, it was distance runners Ruby Roberts, and Caroline Austin.

In what was probably one of the biggest momentum switches of the meet, Roberts, the junior from Kingston, ran a tactically smart race and stole the race from Megan Goethals in the 1500, running 4:20.18 to Goethals' 4:20.38, with the Dawgs' Maddie Meyers fourth in 4:32.57 in an event the Huskies were expected to sweep.

Austin and Zalud did what they were supposed to do in their races against the Huskies' strength, and that was to split their first two scorers.  In the opening running event of the meet, Austin ran 10:09.55 for second behind meet record holder Mel Lawrence's 10:08.52, just off the meet record time of 10:07.52 set in 2009.

In the men's competition, the Dawgs needed to get off to a good start early, and they got the job done in the meet's opening event, the men's hammer, as Robert Henderson won the men's hammer throw with a toss of 175-1 (53.36m), then Aaron Nelson won the steeple over defending champ Andrew Gonzales of WSU, 9:02.48 to 9:02.53.

Three events were turning points for the Dawgs--the 110 hurdles, shot put, and 800.

Freshman Chris Williams (above on right/photo courtesy University of Washington) won the race in 14.36, followed by teammate Shayne Moore in 14.52.

What no one expected was that Howard Lao snuck ahead of the Cougars' Ramsey Hopkins, a Pac-12 scorer last year to take third in 14.63 to Hopkins' 14.72 to complete the Husky sweep.

In the shot put, contested in the anonymity of the east end of Husky Track while the running events were going on, the Cougar faithful erupted when John Fullington passed sophomore Danny Shelton on his final throw to take the lead with a toss of 50-8 3/4 (15.46m). But UW's two-sport star responded to the pressure on his ensuing sixth and final throw, surpassing Fullington's mark by more than two feet to win at 53-1 ½ (16.19m), and share some leaping chest bumps with his teammates.

In the 800, Derrick Daigre, who UW coach Greg Metcalf intended to redshirt this season, changed Metcalf's mind after a strong second place finish at last week's Oregon Relays, finishing behind US Olympian Andrew Wheating.

Daigre, who no one outside of the team thought would be a factor, came up big as he made a late break for home with about 150 meters to go, and held off pre-meet favorite Jesse Jorgensen to take the win in 1:50.14. to 1:50.16.

One of the most impressive individual performance on the men's side came from Jax Thoirs in the pole vault as he cleared a personal best 17-7 1/4 (5.37m).

Washington State was expected to sweep the penultimate running event, the men's 3000, but didn't get the job done, as the Huskies' Tyler King  (8:15.97) and Aaron Nelson (8:17.47) went 2-3 behind the Cougs' Todd Wakefield (8:14.79).

Wakefield was a double winner for the Cougs, as the Australian import won the 1500 earlier in the day, running 3:47.52, to the 3:49.12 of Washington's Joey Bywater, and exacting revenge on Bywater, who beat him a few weeks earlier at the Pepsi Team Invitational in Eugene.

In recapping the day, Husky coach Metcalf said, "I've been to a lot of these dual meets over the years, but this was by far my favorite one."  

"To see so many alums and fans out here today in this new intimate setting, it just feels like a very special place already. It's a venue our kids can be proud of and call their own, and our alumni can look at and know they helped build the program and get excited about the direction it's heading."

Washington and Washington State will send competitors to Los Angeles for next week's Pac-12 Multi-Events Championships at USC, while the rest of the UW team competes in the final home meet, the Ken Shannon Invitational.

Washington State will be across the border in Moscow, Idaho for the Vandal Jamboree, at the University of Idaho.

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

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