SACRAMENTO-–They were the only two NCAA Division II athletes in the meet. But by the time the heptathlon was finished on Friday, Seattle Pacific seniors Ali Worthen (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Katy Gross left a whole bunch of Division I competitors behind them.
Worthen gradually stretched out her first-day lead on the way to a personal-best winning total of 5,492 points, and Gross came up big in the last two events to claim third place with her own PR total of 4,919 in the MONDO Mid-Major Challenge at Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State University campus.
Worthen, the graduate of Coos Bay's Marshfield HS, who already was the D-2 national leader with her winning score of 5,243 at the Chico Multi-Event Classic on Feb. 28-March 1, now is atop the list by an even wider margin.
“The great thing about having a meet like Chico so early is you're really able to see what needs work,” said Worthen, whose previous PR was 5,297 in last year's NCAA third place finish. “After Chico, we were thinking javelin, hurdles, and I have to sprint faster. So this last month, we've been focusing on those events that I was struggling with at Chico – and those were events that I aced.”
Everett native Gross, competing in her first heptathlon of the year, moved up to No. 5 on the national list. Her score easily exceeded the NCAA provisional qualifying standard of 4,400 points, and isn't far from the automatic qualifying total of 5,069.
“My PR coming in was 4,799, and I was just hoping to get 4,800 or higher,” Gross said. “I came in feeling like I was ready, and was just toning up some of my events. I felt like I got a solid meet all the way through, and I ended well with the javelin and the 800. For sure, the hurdles race (on Thursday) and having a good PR to start things off always boosts my confidence.
After setting three personal bests and tying another one on Thursday, Worthen came up with two more PRs on Friday. She threw the javelin 118 feet, 2 inches (36.03m) to finish second behind Gross' winning toss of 134-4 (40.95m). Worthen's mark beat her previous best of 116-0, set at the 2012 NCAAs.
She then broke the 2:20 mark for the first time in the meet-ending 800-meter run, coming across the line second in 2:18.07. That was nearly three seconds faster than her 2:20.78 at Chico last month.
Worthen was the winner in Friday's long jump, going 18-7 ¼ (5.67m).
Gross won the javelin with an NCAA provisional-qualifying mark of 134-4. That was good for 686 points and pushed her up to third overall.
The metric measurement of 40.95 meters for her javelin toss put Gross onto the NCAA list.
That left the 800 – definitely not her favorite event of the seven. But Gross came up with the best run of her career, finishing in 2:34.47. That was nearly three seconds faster than her old PR of 2:37.20, set at the NCAAs in 2011.
NOTE: The sports information office of Seattle Pacific University contributed to this report.