Thursday, May 9, 2013

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW (part 1)--GNAC, WAC, Big Sky & start of Diamond League...

For eight of Washington's nine Division I and II schools, this weekend is conference championship weekend, with athletes looking to extend their season even further, whether it's the NCAA regionals for Division I in Austin, or the Division II national championship meet in Pueblo, Colorado.

Starting with the Division II schools, here's a quick preview:

SEATTLE PACIFIC, WESTERN WASHINGTON, CENTRAL WASHINGTON, and SAINT MARTIN'S head off to Monmouth, Oregon for the GNAC championship meet hosted by Western Oregon.

On the women's side, the Falcons go into the meet as underdogs to repeat as conference champions, as Alaska Anchorage, ranked #9 in the latest USTFCCCA computer poll, looks to unseat SPU.

Thanks to Ali Worthen (left/photo by Paul Merca)'s win in the heptathlon last week, plus points from Katy Gross in third and Maliea Luquin in sixth, the Falcons are off to a strong start, but will certainly need contributions from the multi-event trio in individual events.

Among key competitors for the Falcons include former 100/200 conference champ Kishia Mitchell, Emily Quatier in the 400, and McKayla Fricker in the 800.  Quatier won the conference title at 400 in 2010, while Fricker won the 800 last year.

Besides winning the heptathlon for the third straight year, Worthen, who attended Marshfield HS in Coos Bay, Oregon,  is a former long jump and high jump champ, winning both events in 2011.

Both Falcon relay teams look to be strong contenders for the conference title; however, SPU will have to contend with Simon Fraser, which won a great head-to-head battle in the 4 x 400 at last week's Ken Shannon Invitational in Seattle, 3:42.53 to 3:43.44.

For Western Washington, they are projected to finish in the top three, led by Amanda Overdick in the high jump; Karis Anderson in the pole vault; Emily Warman in the long jump; and, Lindsay Wells in the hammer.

In the men’s division, Western Washington will be seeking its fourth  title (2005, 10, 12) and its third in the past four years.  A year ago the Vikings cruised to a 205 to 126 1/2 victory over five-time champion Western Oregon (2002-04, 08, 11).

The Vikings have only one former champion - Tim Clendaniel in the 2011 triple jump – but have four No. 1 seeds including Jonathon Poolman in the 400, Brett Watson in the high jump, Kevin Yates in the long jump, and Ryan Macdonald in the discus.

Watson, who set a GNAC record earlier this spring in the high jump, finished second a year ago in the high jump and will try to dethrone two-time defending champion Brennan Boyes of Central Washington.

The Wildcats of Central Washington have three No. 1 seeds – Andrew Venema in the 110 hurdles, defending champion Bryan Mack in the triple jump and Quinton Agosta in the hammer, and will look for points from javelin thrower Braden Keller, who will be in a battle with Alaska-Anchorage's Cody Parker and Franz Burghagen in what may be the meet's premier field event, as those three have the four best marks in Division II.

Two time conference shot put champ Sam Washington from Saint Martin's is their best hope for winning a title in the meet.

Action begins Friday at 2 p.m. with the men’s shot put and women’s discus.  Other field event finals on Friday include the men’s discus, women’s javelin, women’s pole vault, men’s and women’s long jump and men’s high jump.

SEATTLE UNIVERSITY began competition in the WAC championship meet in Arlington, Texas Wednesday with the multi-events.

Kaytie Bateman got the Redhawks going with an eighth-place finish in the heptathlon, as she scored a personal best total of 4649 points, 607 points more than her score at last year's Great West Conference meet.

“Kaytie did an awesome job competing today. She was not where she wanted to be at the start of the day, but she kept her eyes on what was still possible. She had big personal bests in two of the three events on her way to a huge school record,” Seattle U assistant track and field coach Chad Pharis said.

Danessa Lyssy of Texas State won the heptathlon with a final score of 5522, 218 more than Zoe Meade from New Mexico State.

SeattleU's best chances of scoring in the meet in the individual events are with Zach Stanfield in the 200 & 400; Hannah Mittelstaedt in the steeple; Collin Overbay in the 1500; Matthew McClement, Erik Barkhaus, and Graham Kinzel-Grubbs in the 10000; Dylan Burnett in the javelin; and Shaddye Melu in the high jump.

Wenatchee native Hannah Kiser, competing for the University of Idaho, is one of the prohibitive favorites in the distance races.

EASTERN WASHINGTON is off to Forest Grove, Oregon for the Big Sky Championship meet hosted by Portland State University.

Their women's team is led by javelin throwers Cora Kellerman (170-0/51.81m) and Michelle Coombs (164-9/50.21m), the top two in the conference, and defending pole vault champ Keisa Monterola, who placed in last year's NCAA indoor meet, but has not come close to the form that made her the conference's top vaulter in 2012.

The Eagles are also looking for some impact points from Katie Mahoney in the steeplechase, after breaking the school record in the event at the Mt. SAC Relays, running 10:36.16.

On the men's side, Jordan Arakawa is the Eagles' big threat, as he leads the Big Sky in the hammer with a toss of 213-8 (65.13m).

Phil Puccino looks to score points in the long, triple, and high jumps, with the triple his best bet to make an impact, as he's ranked #3 in the conference at 47-11 1/4 (14.61m).  Pole vaulter Nick Stearns is ranked #3 as well with a season best of 16-6 3/4 (5.05m).

On the track, two-time Big Sky champ Brad Wall looks to claim a third title over 400 meters, with teammate Brad Michael hot on his heels.  Wall has run 47.42 this season, while Michael has run 47.69.

As the West Coast Conference does not sponsor outdoor track, GONZAGA will send a group of athletes to Willamette University in Salem, Oregon to compete in the West Coast Invitational Saturday.

On the pro circuit, UW alum and four-time US Olympian Aretha Thurmond is in Doha, Qatar for the start of the IAAF Diamond League series Friday.

She's the only American in the women's discus field that includes Olympic gold medalist Sandra Perkovic of Croatia.

In the second part of the championship preview, we will preview the Pac-12 championship meet.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of Seattle Pacific, Seattle University, the GNAC, Willamette University, Western Washington, and Eastern Washington contributed to this report.

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