Friday, May 24, 2013

Ali Worthen wins NCAA D2 heptathlon title, while SPU teammate Katy Gross finishes sixth...

Seattle Pacific teammates Katy Gross (l) and Ali Worthen
are flanked by Falcon head coach Karl Lerum
(photo courtesy Seattle Pacific)
PUEBLO, Colorado--You knew that both seniors Ali Worthen and Katy Gross from Seattle Pacific were going to make their charge up the ladder in day two of the heptathlon competition at the NCAA Division II track & field championships at the Neta & Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.

After Thursday's first four events, Worthen sat in third place at 3226 points, while Gross was in 13th at 2927.

Each won an event Friday, and both ended up on the podium, as Worthen, the season long event leader, ended her Falcon career as the NCAA national champion with a final score of 5340 points, while Gross moved all the way up to sixth place with a final score of 4986 points.

In the opening long jump, Worthen, the reigning GNAC long jump champ, stretched the tape out to 18-7 3/4 (5.68m) to garner 753 points and win the event, while Gross came through with a jump of 18-7 (5.66m) to finish second, and score 747 points.

Gross's jump moved her into tenth, while Worthen moved to second, and cut first day leader Jesseka Raymond of Acadamy of Art's lead down to 16 points after the fifth event.

As expected, Gross, who will compete in Saturday's javelin competition, won that event with a throw of 135-10 (41.41m) for 694 points. Worthen finished eighth with a throw of 111-5 (33.97m) and got 552 points.

With the 800 remaining, Raymond led with 4536, followed by Worthen at 4531, and Zoe Sharplin of Central Missouri third at 4528.

All Worthen, who had a PR of 2:17.77, had to do was beat both of them by half a second or more, and the title would be hers.

She did that with room to spare, finishing third overall in 2:21.06. Sharplin was 11th in 2:34.85, and Raymond took 12th at 2:35.13. Worthen was in the upper pack early, coming through the 400 meters in seventh. Heading up the backstretch, she picked one runner, then another, then reeled in two more coming around the curve. Raymond and Sharplin, meanwhile, were well back from start to finish.

Gross was 13th in 2:36.15, but that still was more than enough to give her a spot on the podium.

“I felt confident that I could run about a solid 2:20,” said Worthen, who got this redshirt year because she missed all but two meets of her sophomore season in 2010 with an injury. “But I struggled today and yesterday, so anything can happen. The other athletes had been doing so good and been showing big PRs, so it wasn't impossible for them to run right next to me. So I had to go out and run as hard as I could and hope I ran hard enough. Karl (SPU head coach Lerum) had a really good plan for me to run it, I ran it that way, and it worked.”

“It was so perfect , really, to end this way, because I feel like the last five years have been a struggle,” the native of Coos Bay, Oregon, said after mounting the top step of the awards podium and accepting the first-place trophy. “It has always come down to the last event.”

Courtesy of Seattle Pacific University, here's a video interview with Worthen:

The Falcon 4 x 400 meter relay team qualified for Saturday's finals, as Kishia Mitchell, Emily Quatier, McKayla Fricker, and Jasmine Johnson ran 3:45.11, in finishing fifth in their heat.

Fricker surprisingly did not qualify for the finals in the 800, as she ran 2:11.86, while Quatier ran 2:17.06 in her heat.

Besides Gross in the javelin and the Falcon 4x4,  Bethany Drake of Western Washington will be in the women's javelin, while Central Washington's Tayler Fettig goes in the women' high jump. Wildcat teammates Braden Keller (javelin) and Bryan Mack (triple jump) will also compete in their events on the meet's final day.

NOTE:  The sports information office at Seattle Pacific contributed to this report.

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