Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sara Hall top American at World Cross; Suver, Felnagle & Dressel shine...

Sara Hall was the top American finisher in the senior women's race, placing 20th (photo by Paul Merca)

GUIYANG, China—Two weeks after running in the Los Angeles Marathon, Sara Hall (Flagstaff, Arizona) finished 20th in the eight-kilometer championship race to lead Team USA’s senior women’s squad to a fifth place finish at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships at the Quigzhen Training Base Saturday.

The Americans scored 128 points, as Ethiopia won a close battle with Kenya, by a count of 17-19.

Uganda was third with 101 points, followed by China with 122 points.

Despite rain that hit the city overnight, the conditions were fairly mild and overcast with temperatures in the mid to high 50s throughout the course of the day, with little footing issues.

Halfway through the first lap, Hall found herself in about 60th place, with reigning USA national champion Laura Thweatt (Boulder, Colorado) and Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver (Colorado Springs, Colorado) running up front in the mid 30s or so, before she started picking people off over the next three laps, crossing the line in 28:19.

Thweatt finished in 29th place in 28:49, followed by Suver in 34th place at 29:00.  Brie Felnagle (Seattle, Washington), who trains with the Brooks Beasts group, rounded out the four USA scorers in 45th place in 29:19.  

Veteran Olympian Jen Rhines (Boston, Massachusetts) was 51st in 29:39, and Elaina Balouris (Brighton, Massachusetts) finished in 64th place in 30:14.

In a battle of teenagers, 19 year old Agnes Tirop of Kenya won the senior women’s race in a time of 26:01, over 19-year old Senbere Teferi of Ethiopia, who ran 26:06.  Netsanet Gudeta of Ethiopia was third in 26:11.

For their efforts, Team USA earned $8000 for finishing fifth.


Lightning did not strike twice for Team USA in the senior men’s 11870 meter race, as the team, which finished second in the 2013 championships, finished seventh and out of the money by one place, scoring 131 points, just short of sixth-place Tanzania’s 130.

In yet another close score, Ethiopia defeated Kenya with an identical score of 20.  Under the rules, the team title went to Ethiopia when their fourth scorer, Atsedu Tsegay finished seventh, as opposed to Kenya’s fourth scorer, Philip Langat, who finished 12th.

Reigning USA national champion Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon) was the top finisher, crossing the lin in 36:45.

Ryan Vail (Portland, Oregon) was the next scorer for Team USA, finishing 34th in 37:27, followed by Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah) in 36th in 37:31, and Bobby Curtis (Rochester, Michigan) in 37th in 37:32.

Maksim Korolev (Stanford, California) was 57th in 38:27, while Andrew Colley (Lenoir, North Carolina) was 90th in 40:24.

Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamwowor won the world title in 34:52, eight seconds clear of countryman Bedan Muchiri.  Muktar Edris of Ethiopia was third in 35:06.

Bahrain was third in the team race with 54 points, followed by Eritrea with 91, Uganda with 92 for fifth, then Tanzania in sixth with 130, just ahead of Team USA.

Mt. Spokane HS senior John Dressel finished 27th in the junior men's race (photo by Paul Merca)


John Dressel (Colbert, Washington), a senior at Mt. Spokane HS, led Team USA to a sixth place finish in the junior men’s 8k race, running 25:25 to finish 27th.

USA junior champion Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah) was 29th in 25:28, followed by Cerake Geberkidane (Denver, Colorado) in 34th at 25:46, and Eric Hamer (Monument, Colorado) rounded out the four scorers in 42nd at 25:58.

Paul Roberts (Boulder, Colorado) was 59th in 26:31, and Paul Miller (Fort Collins, Colorado) was 74th in 26:57.

Yasin Haji of Ethiopia won the junior title in a time of 23:42, but Kenya won the team title with 19 points, followed by Ethiopia’s 33 points, and Eritrea’s 52 points.


The day of racing led off with the junior women’s 6k race, as Caitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado) finished 27th in 21:45 to lead the American squad to an eighth place finish, scoring 177 points.

Following Benner were Lauren Gregory (Fort Collins, Colorado) in 33rd at 22:01,  Katie Rainsberger (Colorado Springs, Colorado) in 55th at 22:49, and Valerie Constien (Edwards, Colorado) in 62nd at 22:58 to wrap up the scoring for Team USA.

Kelsey Schrader (Fayetteville, Arkansas) was 66th in 23:06, and Shaelyn Sorensen was 68th in 23:10.

Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey led her country to a sweep of the individual medals, running 19:48, and helped her squad win the world junior title with 11 points, followed by Kenya’s 33, and Bahrain’s 52.

For more on the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, please visit


Senior Women

Sara Hall (Flagstaff, Arizona)—I’m extremely happy with how I did considering the disappointment coming off the Los Angeles Marathon.  I was surprised that I kept moving up.  The record high temperatures in Boulder and Los Angeles (at the nationals and at the marathon) helped me out with the race today.  After LA, I could barely walk, but (US senior women’s coach) James Li encouraged me to give it a day or so to see how it feels.  I thank him for encouraging me to come out here.

I’m looking forward to doing some steeples or 10k races.  I’m excited that the strength gained from the marathon is starting to translate to the shorter distances.

Senior Men

Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon)—I started out in the 20s. There would be a point when I would surge, then I would feel the effects.  This was a very tough course.  There were points in the race where I thought that I could get four or five guys, but in reality I didn’t move. It was very disappointing, but I gave it all I had.  It was a really hard race. I will have to go get the 10000m standard at the Peyton Jordan meet.

Ryan Vail (Portland, Oregon)—I just did the best that I could.  I knew that it was a tough race, and we gave it a shot.  This course was really a lot tougher than it looked.

Junior Men

Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah)—I went out way too hard and I was behind my own teammates. We started super quick & nobody slowed down.  I got hurt right before the Pan Ams & got hurt again two and a half weeks before this.  My parents questioned whether or not I should come here.  I might have run 30 miles this week, including the race.

John Dressel (Colbert, Washington)—I have to give Cerake credit for taking it out and giving us something to aim for.  I had to be patient in trying to catch people.

The experience gained here will help when I go to the University of Colorado in the fall.  It shows I still have a lot of work to do.  I gave it what I could considering it’s the world championships.

NOTE:  USA Track & Field contributed to this report.  Paul Merca is covering the world cross country championships for USATF.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Guiyang Course Preview

Ryan Vail, Maksim Korolev, Andrew Colley and Chris Derrick check out the course/Paul Merca photo

GUIYANG, China—The twenty four runners comprising Team USA visited the Quigzhen Training Base to conduct their final pre-race tuneup for Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

The runners toured the course under cloudy skies and mild temperatures, a stark contrast from the last world championship meet two years ago where a snowfall hit Bydgoszcz, Poland several days before the race.

The two-kilometer loop course features a series of turns that makes it difficult for runners to gain a consistent rhythm.  It features several small man-made hills, with a small dip of five meters at the base of the first hill before going up.

Temperatures for the races Saturday are projected to be in the mid to upper 50s, with a threat of rain, which if it happens, may play to the strengths of Team USA, particularly the senior men’s squad, who took a surprising team silver medal in Bydgoszcz.
The championships begin at noon, local time (midnight, Eastern Time) with the junior women's 6K race, followed by the junior men's 8K race at 12:30 local time (12:30 am Eastern time). 

The senior women's 8K race is set for 1:15 pm local time (1:15 am eastern time) followed by the senior men's 12K at 2:10 pm local time (2:10 am Eastern time).

Before the team toured the Quigzhen Training Base, three time USA national cross country champion Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon) was invited to speak to the international media at the traditional pre-race press conference.

Even with the absence of Ben True, who finished sixth in the senior men’s 12k race two years ago, Derrick likes Team USA’s chances to return to the podium.
“We still have Ryan Vail who was in the top 20 last time and he’s very experienced.”

“It’s going to be tough to replicate what we did last time simply because so many things went well. I think it’s rare for things to go so well two times in a row, but I think the team is still strong.”

“I’d say my confidence is pretty high. I think in Edinburgh (where he won the Great Edinburgh Cross Country Race in January) I wasn’t very fit because I had some injuries, but by the time I ran at the US Championships, I felt I was very strong and I am hoping to test myself against a very good field tomorrow.”

Following the course tour, the team selected its four team captains.

Three-time US Olympian Jen Rhines (Boston, Massachusetts), who will make her fifth appearance at the world cross country championship meet, was selected by her peers to serve as the senior women’s captain.

Ryan Vail (Portland, Oregon) , who is making his fifth appearance at the world cross country championships (fourth as a senior) was selected as the senior men’s captain.

Elected captains of the junior men’s and women’s squads were Oklahoma State University freshman Cerake Geberkidane (Denver, Colorado), and University of Colorado freshman Kaitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado), the reigning US junior champion.

Vail, who was part of the 2013 team that won a sliver medal, said that the honor of being picked as team captain means a lot, and hopes that his experience here will rub off on some of the younger guys.

Rhines echoed the same sentiment, stating, “we have a really great group of people, and I think that everyone’s going to work hard and pull for each other.”

Benner was humbled yet thrilled to be picked as team captain, stating that the women comprising the junior team have bonded well during their stay in China.

Geberkidane gave thanks to every person who helped him get in a position to make the team, and is honored to be picked by his peers.

The four captains also gave their thoughts on the conditions of the Quigzhen Training Base course.

“This course reminds me a lot of the 2009 world championships in Amman, Jordan, with a lot of man made hills, a lot of divots”, said Vail. “It’s gonna be a dragging course.”

Rhines said that the windy course may make things difficult to find a consistent groove, but that it may work to their advantage late in the race when runners start fading from starting fast early.

Benner noted that the little trough or divot in the early part of the loop could make things interesting.
Geberkidane said that the course design “could break your momentum when you think you’ve established a rhythm. You have to be very smart about not going hard too early.”

Universal Sports will show a one-hour highlight package of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships beginning at noon, eastern time on Sunday.

For more information on the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, please visit

Paul Merca is in Guiyang as a correspondent for USA Track & Field.  This was also posted at

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Team USA Preview--IAAF World Cross Country Championships...

Chris Derrick/photo by Paul Merca
GUIYANG, China—Three-time USATF Cross Country champion Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon), who has won the last two races run this season, leads Team USA into Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships with hopes of returning the squad onto the medal podium.

Derrick finished tenth two years ago at the world cross country championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland to help Team USA earn a surprising silver team medal, the first return by an American squad to the podium since 2001 in Ostend, Belgium, and the first sliver earned since the 1984 squad turned the trick in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

He won his season opener on January 10th in Edinburgh, winning the Great Edinburgh Cross Country meet in Scotland, cruising over the 8k course in 25:31 to lead the USA to the team title.

A month later, Derrick ran away from the field to take his third national title in Boulder, Colorado, winning over the 12k distance in 36:18, 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Bobby Curtis.

Returning to the 2015 team is Ryan Vail (Portland, Oregon), who was a part of the silver-medal winning squad two years ago. Vail was fourth in Boulder, and was 17th in Bydgoszcz.Runner-up Bobby Curtis (Rochester, Michigan), and Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah) both have world cross country experience. Curtis was 37th in 2009. and 47th in 2010, while Smyth was 35th in 2009. Andrew Colley (Lenoir, North Carolina) does have world cross country experience, running as a junior in 2010, while Maksim Korolev (Stanford, California) recently won the APA Pan American Cup last month in Colombia.

The USA senior women’s squad is led by national champion Laura Thweatt (Boulder, Colorado), who pulled away from the field late to win by 41 seconds in Boulder. While Guiyang marks Thweatt’s inaugural showing at the world cross country championships, she’ll have alongside her three women who have prior experience at this meet, including runner-up Mattie Suver (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Olympian Jen Rhines (Boston, Massachusetts), who finished third at the national championships, and fifth place finisher Sara Hall. (Flagstaff, Arizona).

Suver finished 26th in Bydgoszcz two years ago, while Rhines has a career best 12th place finish in 2002 in her four appearances at the world cross country championships, and owns a team silver medal from 2002. Hall, who ran at the Los Angeles Marathon a few weeks ago, has two world cross country championships appearances in 2002 as a junior, and in 2006 in the now-defunct short cross race.

Brie Felnagle (Seattle, Washington), who is primarily a middle distance specialist, and Elaina Balouris (Brighton, Massachusetts), who is Rhines’ training partner, round out the six women representing Team USA in the senior women’s race.

The junior teams will be led by national champions Kaitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado), a freshman at the University of Colorado, and Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah), a senior at Sky View HS.

After winning the national junior title, Mantz traveled to Barranquilla, Colombia on February 22nd and finished second at the APA Pan American Cross Country Cup, while Benner won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation 5000m indoor title on February 27th.

Here are the rosters for the two junior squads:

Team USA women’s junior roster: Kaitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado), Valerie Constien (Edwards, Colorado), Lauren Gregory (Fort Collins, Colorado), Katie Rainsberger (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Kelsey Schrader (Fayetteville, Arkansas), Shaelyn Sorensen (Lake Elmo, Minnesota).

Team USA men’s junior roster: Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah), Cerake Geberkidane (Denver, Colorado), John Dressel (Colbert, Washington), Eric Hamer (Monument, Colorado), Paul Miller (Fort Collins, Colorado), Paul Roberts (Boulder, Colorado).

The coaching staff for Team USA are: James Li (senior women’s coach), Thom Hunt (senior men’s coach), Carmen Ayala-Troncoso (junior women’s coach), and Ed Eyestone (junior men’s coach).

At the last world cross country championships two years ago, the USA senior men’s team earned a silver medal. The USA senior women’s team finished fourth, and the junior women were sixth. Team USA’s junior men were fourth.

NOTE: This report was originally published on the USA Track & Field web site.  Paul Merca is serving as a correspondent for USA Track & Field in Guiyang, China.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ni Hao from Guiyang!

(Photo by Paul Merca)
GUIYANG, China—Ni Hao!

After a 25 hour adventure starting from my house in Seattle, I am finally here in Guiyang to cover the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

My trip from Seattle started with a 12 1/2 hour plane ride to Shanghai.  Upon landing in Shanghai and going through customs, it was another 3 hour flight to Guiyang.

We were delayed leaving the Guiyang airport to our hotel, because the volunteers insisted that the Tanzanian team was supposed to be on our Air China flight.  A Ugandan journalist who so happened to be on our flight told the volunteers that there was no way the Tanzanian team were on the flight, because, “There were only two black people on the plane.”

After some deliberation, we left the Guiyang airport around 1:15 am, and after dropping off the others at their hotel, I managed to get checked into the Jinyang Hotel and in my room by 2:15 am.

An interesting observation—about the time we were waiting for our bus, the Japanese team (above/photo by Paul Merca) rolled in, with nearly every athlete wearing a surgical mask.  Robert Johnson of and I looked at each other, and shook our heads, then he made a reference to Galen Rupp, who several years ago, ran a race in Eugene wearing a mask.

It’s noon here in Guiyang, and I’m just getting my bearings together.  Looking forward to getting some interviews in today.

Monday, March 23, 2015

An administrative note from your publisher (or off to the world cross country championships I go)...

As I’ve already posted on my Facebook page and on this blog’s Facebook page, I will be heading to Guiyang, China to cover the IAAF World Cross Country Championships starting on Tuesday, the 24th.

My niece Krista Merca (above) will be managing the content of the blog while I’m away.  

This is a new challenge for me, as I’m going to a country that has restrictions on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even blogspot, of which this blog falls under.

We will do our best to update the site, given the restrictions I’m faced with.  We may or may not be able to post recaps of meets involving the state’s Division I and II schools from China—I will encourage you to visit the track and field web sites of our state’s colleges and universities while I’m away.  Additionally, results will be posted at

One last thing—I will be writing updates for USA Track & Field while in Guiyang, China at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, so I strongly suggest visiting for more information about Team USA at the championships, including the three athletes with Washington connections on the squad—Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver, Tacoma resident Brie Felnagle, and Mt. Spokane HS senior John Dressel.

See you on the other side of the world!

Cougs continue LA swing & compete at Jim Bush Team Invite hosted by UCLA...

LOS ANGELES—The UCLA track & field team will host Washington State and Long Beach State Tuesday in the inaugural Jim Bush Team Invitational meet Tuesday at Drake Stadium on the UCLA campus.

Washington State returns to Drake Stadium for the second consecutive season, and are led by reigning Pac-12 champs CJ Allen in the 400 hurdles, and Charlotte Muschamp in the high jump. 

The two teams will be meeting for the fifth time on the women’s side as UCLA holds a 3-1 all-time advantage and for the ninth time for men. The Cougars downed the Bruins, 87-75, in the women’s competition and 85-78 in the men’s meet last season.

The Pac-12 Networks will broadcast part of the Jim Bush Team Invitational beginning at 4pm, pacific in a 2 1/2 hour window, with Jim Watson calling the action, along with analysts Tom Feuer and Lewis Johnson, and field reporter Jill Savage.  The Cougars will also appear on the Pac-12 Networks live on May 2nd when they travel to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies.

UCLA’s release is available here, which includes a link to the time schedule, live results, and a meet program.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of Washington State and UCLA contributed to this report.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

WEEKEND RECAP: Dawgs win women's team title at Baldy Castillo Invite in Tempe, plus highlights...

Washington's Haley Jacobson hands off to Kennadi Bouyer
(photo courtesy University of Washington)
In Tempe, Arizona, the Washington women won the team title at the Baldy Castillo Invitational at Sun Angel Stadium Saturday, featuring squads from Texas A&M, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Illinois, and several smaller schools.

Washington won the women’s team title with 110 points, with Texas A&M second with 99 and Oklahoma third with 98. Texas A&M rolled to the men’s team title with 187 points, with UW fifth with 59.

Event winners for the women included Kimberly Stueckle (13.55w) in the 100m hurdles, Kristina Owsinski (14-1.25/4.30m) in the pole vault, and Kennadi Bouyer (19-5.5/5.93m) in the long jump. Gianna Woodruff (58.62 400H), Haley Jacobson (11.77 100m), the 4x100m relay team of Jacobson, Bouyer, Woodruff & Sierra Peterson (45.22), and Alanna Coker (39-10.5/12.15m TJ) all had second-place finishes for the women as well.

The 4x100m relay team’s time of 45.22 is the third fastest in school history, and the best mark by a Husky quartet since 1985.

NCAA indoor All-American Jax Thoirs got the Huskies’ lone win in the men’s meet in the pole vault, clearing 17-4.5 (5.30m), to outlast teammate Chris Williams, who cleared the same height, but needed an extra attempt.

In Los Angeles, a limited number of athletes from Washington State competed at the USC Trojan Invitational at Loker Stadium Saturday.

Bradly Stevens threw a lifetime-best in the javelin of 219-feet 10 inches (67.01m) for fourth place. Sam Ferenchak took sixth place with a toss of 207-0 (63.09m) while Kyle Stevens, Bradly’s older brother, opened the season with a toss of 205-4 (62.60m).

In the women’s javelin, Celena Ward was the runner-up in the competition with a toss of 150-1 (45.74m) while Kelsie Taylor finished third with a throw of 141-9 (43.22m).

On the track, Andrea Smith ran the 100m hurdles in a time of 14.64 seconds, just 3/100s second off her lifetime-best time, for seventh place. The WSU men’s 4x100m relay of Kyle Farmer, Terrance Chambers, Zach Smith and Lucas Sealby finished fourth with a time of 41.35. The women’s 4x100m relay of Candice McFarland, Danielle Darden, Dominique Keel and Bria’una Watley finished fourth in a time of 45.77.

The Cougars will compete Tuesday at the Jim Bush Collegiate meet hosted by UCLA, which will be telecast live on the Pac-12 Network.

In Tuscon, Arizona, Washington State alum Jeshua Anderson opened up his 2015 campaign by winning the 400 hurdles at the Willie Williams Classic, hosted by the University of Arizona, in a time of 49.96.

In Gresham, Oregon, Western Washington’s Katie Reichert continued her winning ways in the javelin, as she won with a toss of 152-3 (46.41m) at the Rose City Preview meet at Mt. Hood Community College.  

Reichert is one of women so far this season to own an automatic qualifying mark for May’s NCAA Division II championships, as she threw 159-2 (48.51m) two weeks ago at the Puget Sound 5-way meet in Tacoma.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of Washington, Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State, and the USTFCCCA/TFRRS contributed to this report.

Zag distance runners, Eagle jumpers have strong early season showing at Buc Scoring Invite...

SPOKANE—Gonzaga’s distance runners and Eastern Washington’s jumpers were the highlights of Friday’s Buc Scoring Invitational meet hosted by Whitworth University.

Maggie Jones (above/photo courtesy Gonzaga University) broke the stadium record in the women’s 1500, running 4:35.25, the third fastest time in school history.

The Zags’ Willie Milam won both the 800 and 1500, running 1:53.25, and 3:50.81, with Milam leading four Bulldogs in succession across the line.

Gonzaga took the first three spots in the 3000 steeple, led by Nick Roche’s 9:19.37.

After redshirting during the indoor season, Eastern’s Nick Stearns won the pole vault with a leap of 15-11 (4.85m).

Eastern athletes were victorious in the women’s high jump, pole vault, long jump, and triple jump, despite holding out many of their front line athletes.

In Tempe, Arizona, Washington’s Katie Knight finished third in the 1500 meters at the Baldy Castillo Invitational hosted by Arizona State University.

Knight, who did not run cross country and indoor track due to injury, ran 4:26.21.

Johnathan Stevens of the Huskies was third in the men’s 1500 in 3:44.87.

The bulk of the meet continues Saturday.  Arizona State will offer a free live stream of the meet here.  Live results are available here.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of Arizona State University, Whitworth University, Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington University contributed to this report.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

All nine Washington Division I/II schools in action this weekend as outdoor season begins...

Just as quickly as the indoor track & field season has concluded, Washington’s Division I schools are making the transition to the outdoors, with all five schools in action this weekend.

Gonzaga and Eastern Washington got things started Thursday at the Buc Scoring Invitational meet hosted by Whitworth University in Spokane.  Shelby Mills (above/photo courtesy Gonzaga University) of the Zags won the women’s 5000 in 17:21.20, while Danny Lunder led a 1-2-3-4 Gonzaga finish in the men’s 5000, winning in 14:58.52.

The bulk of the competition at the Buc Scoring Invitational continues Friday on the campus of Whitworth University.

Washington State travels to Los Angeles for a pair of meets, starting with the USC Trojan Invitational March 20-21st at Loker Stadium/Cromwell Field on the campus of the University of Southern California.  Three days later, the Cougars will head across town to UCLA to compete in the Jim Bush Collegiate Invitational against Long Beach State and the host Bruins at Drake Stadium, which will also host the Pac-12 championships in May.

The Jim Bush Collegiate Invitational will be telecast Tuesday by the Pac-12 network live beginning at 4 pm.

Only one week after seeing their athletes compete at the NCAA indoor track & field championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Washington Huskies will open up the outdoor season in Tempe, Arizona at the Baldy Castillo Invitational against a field that includes the host Sun Devils, along with Texas A&M, Illinois, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, New Mexico, and others.

The majority of the meet takes place Saturday, with the hammer throws and the 1500 meters contested Friday night.  Host Arizona State will provide a free live stream of the meet on its web site.

Finally, Seattle University opens its outdoor season in Gresham, Oregon at the Rose City Preview meet at Mount Hood Community College, co-hosted by Portland State University, Mt. Hood CC & the University of Portland.  Western Washington and Seattle Pacific will also have athletes competing in that meet.

This meet takes the place of the Oregon Preview meet in Eugene, which the University of Oregon previously hosted.

Saint Martin’s will compete at the Lewis & Clark Invitational in Portland, while Central Washington travels to Hermiston, Oregon for the Eastern Oregon University team challenge meet.

Monday, March 16, 2015

With one year to go, Portland reveals world indoor championships plans...

PORTLAND, Oregon—Portland mayor Charlie Hales, along with a group of speakers, including TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna and USA Track & Field Public Affairs Officer Jill Geer, spoke to members of the media Monday at a press gathering signifying one year out to the start of the 2016 IAAF world indoor track & field championships that will be contested at the Oregon Convention Center on March 18-20th.

The world championships will be held in the United States for only the second time in history, with Indianapolis hosting the inaugural indoor world championships in 1987.

The first official renderings of the banked track facility (above/rendering courtesy Portland 2016/TrackTown USA) and the 7000 seat arena that will be built inside the Convention Center were also revealed at the event.

Organizers also announced that a men’s and women’s pole vault festival will be held the day before at the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers.  A full lineup of high school pole vault events will precede the World Indoor Championship competition, which could potentially give this event the feel of the annual Pole Vault Summit held every January in Reno, Nevada.

Attending the event were several athletes and coaches from the Nike Oregon Project, the Bowerman Track Club, and Oregon TC Elite, including Galen Rupp, Mary Cain, Alberto Salazar, Jerry Schumacher, Ryan Hill, German Fernandez, Ben Blankenship, and Nike sprinter Ryan Bailey.

In conjunction with the event, Geer also announced that the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held at the Oregon Convention Center on March 11-12. That also coincides with the NCAA indoor track & field championships in Birmingham, Alabama the same weekend, which could force some collegians to make a choice between competing for their school or trying to make a national team.

“TrackTown USA and the city of Portland are looking forward to an amazing two weeks of indoor track and field,” TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna said. “Portland is a beautiful and vibrant city, and Oregon is a state that loves sport, and our citizens will provide a warm and welcoming environment for both meets.”

NOTE:  USA Track & Field and TrackTown USA contributed to this report.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Planell Cruz sets new Puerto Rican national record in finishing fourth for UW; Donigian misses 60 title by hair...

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas—University of Washington pole vaulter Diamara Planell Cruz (above/photo courtesy University of Washington) scored a personal best and upped her Puerto Rican national record with a fourth place finish at the NCAA Division I indoor track & field championships at the Randal Tyson Center, hosted by the University of Arkansas.

With training partner Kristina Owsinski competing alongside in the field of 16 athletes, the duo opened with first attempt makes at the opening height of 13-5.25 (4.10m).  Both needed two tries at the next height of 13-9.25 (4.20m).

Owsinski was eliminated at the next height of 14-1.25 (4.30m), giving her a tie for ninth place, while Planell Cruz needed a third attempt to clear.

The reigning Pac-12 champ’s confidence skyrocketed after a first attempt make at a personal best 14-3.25 (4.35m), before she was eliminated at 14-5.25 (4.40m).

Arkansas’ Sandi Morris took the victory, tying the meet record of 15-1 (4.60m), in a competition that saw the defending champ Kaitlin Petrillose of Texas and the collegiate record holder Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin both failing to clear their opening heights.

“I felt really good from the start, I was going over high bungees in warm-ups, so it felt like everything was on,” said Planell Cruz. “I just had to keep my groove going and keep that rhythm along through the meet … I never like third attempts, nobody ever does, but this year I’m trying not to let third attempts get to me. You’ve just got to commit to the jump and I think that’s what saved me, I just committed to the jump.”

In other action involving Washington based athletes, Stanford’s Darian Brooks of Seattle finished 12th in the triple jump with a best of 51-5.5 (15.68m).  The Huskies’ Colby Gilbert was 13th in the men’s 3000 in 8:06.60, while Maddie Meyers was 14th in the women’s 3000 in 9:33.65.

Host Arkansas won the women’s team title with 63 points, while Oregon took the men’s team title by a convincing 74-50 margin over runner-up Florida.

In Birmingham, Alabama, Western Washington’s Alex Donigian’s (left/photo courtesy Western Washington University) attempt to win the school’s first national title at 60 meters came up 1/1000th of a second short, as he finished second to Lamar Hargrove in 6.717 to his 6.718, though the official results will credit both with 6.72 at the NCAA Division II championships.

In fact, the third through fifth place finishers were credited with 6.73 in what perhaps was the closest finish in the Division II finals.

In other results from the meet, Central Washington’s Luke Plummer was eighth in the triple jump with a best of 48-10.25 (14.89m).  Western’s Katelyn Steen was tenth in the women’s 3000 in 9:42.68, while Central’s Tayler Fettig mustered a 12th place finish in the women’s high jump at 5-6 (1.68m).

In the NCAA Division III championship meet at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the University of Puget Sound’s Allanah Whitehall was fifth in the women’s 60 dash finals in a time of 7.7.1

Roosevelt HS grad Lucy Cheadle, competing for Washington University of St. Louis, was sixth in the women’s 3000, running 9:51.75.

NOTE:  The sports information departments of Western Washington University and the University of Washington contributed to this report.

Thoirs takes fourth in pole vault at NCAA indoors; Husky DMR earns fifth after early mishap...

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas--Pole vaulter Jax Thoirs (left/photo by Paul Merca) of the University of Washington scored a fourth place finish, and the Husky distance medley relay team of Baylee Mires, Gianna Woodruff, Eleanor Fulton, and Maddie Meyers, who entered as the final team in the national championship meet, earned a fifth place finish at the NCAA Division I indoor track & field championships hosted by the University of Arkansas.

Theirs, the Scottish national record holder in this event, started with a first attempt make at 17-0.75 (5.20m), then succeeded with first attempt clearances at the next two heights jumped, 17-4.5 (5.30m), and 17-8.5 (5.40m).

After a first attempt miss at 18-0.5 (5.50m), he cleared the bar on his next jump, before passing to 18-4.5 (5.60m).  After two misses at 18-4.5 and realizing that a make wouldn’t make a difference in the final placing with four jumpers remaining in the competition, Thoirs elected to pass for an all-or-nothing jump at a lifetime best 18-6.5 (5.65m).

Though he didn’t make the height, he was pleased with his fourth place finish at 18-0.5, noting that his first attempt makes at the lower heights gave him confidence as the competition wore on.

“As soon as I got over that 18-foot bar I was happy because I’d never jumped 18-feet at nationals before so that was good. But I just know I could have jumped higher so it’s still a little bit disappointing, but I’ll head into outdoors still hungry.”

In one of the best battles in NCAA indoor track & field history, Akron’s Shawn Barber won the national title with a new collegiate and meet record of 19-4.75 (5.91m), with Tennessee’s Jake Blankenship drawing the distinction of clearing 19-feet and losing with a best of 19-0.25 (5.80m).

UW redshirt frosh Lev Marcus failed to clear the opening height of 17-0.75.

The women's distance medley relay saw leadoff runner Baylee Mires lose a shoe after one lap of her six-lap leg, but managed to hang on to seventh place entering the first exchange to Gianna Woodruff, running 3:25.45.

Woodruff then ran a 55.53 400m split to keep the Huskies in the seven spot despite chaos at the exchange, in which the Dawgs nearly lost the stick.  Eleanor Fulton managed to hang on to the baton on the exchange, and ran a 2:08.58 800 leg to keep Washington in seventh going into the final exchange.

On that final exchange, anchor Maddie Meyers ran a 4:38.94 leg to win a three team battle between Washington, New Mexico and Georgetown for the fifth spot, as Arkansas won in 10:51.89 to the delight of the home crowd at the Randal Tyson Center.

The Huskies finished in a time of 11:08.50.

In other finals action, Tacoma native Marcus Chambers of Oregon ran a 46.82 400 split to help the Ducks take the national title in the distance medley relay, as they ran 9:30.53, capped by Edward Cheserek’s 3:57.68 1600m anchor leg.

In the 5000m finals, Washington’s Aaron Nelson finished 12th in 14:13.90, as Oregon’s Eric Jenkins won in 13:48.36.  Kirkland native Tansey Lystad was 14th in the women’s race in 16:19.50, as Providence’s Emily Sisson won in 15:32.15.

Qualifying action saw Federal Way native Hannah Cunliffe finish sixth in her heat of the 60 in 7.37.

Neither Eleanor Fulton (4:43.78) nor Izaic Yorks of the Huskies (4:01.84) made it out of the semis in the mile.

In Birmingham, Alabama, Western Washington’s Katelyn Steen finished fourth in the women’s 5000 meter run, clocking 16:54.31 at the NCAA Division II championship meet.

Amy Cymerman of Grand Valley State took the national title in 16:34.13.

Saint Martin’s Mikel Smith finished in a 5-way tie for fifth in the high jump.

Smith cleared a best of 6-9.5 (2.07m), as Isaac Jean-Paul of Lewis won with a mark of 7-3 (2.21m).

The Seattle Pacific quartet of Jessica Rawlins, Becca Houk, Lynette Decker and Anna Patti ran a season best of 11:47.68 to finish ninth, 1/100th of a second away from a spot on the podium.

Hillsdale took the national title in 11:25.61, with GNAC rival Alaska Anchorage taking eighth in 11:47.67.

In qualifying action, Western’s Alex Donigian made the finals of the men’s 60 meter dash, running 6.76 to finish second in his semifinal.

SPU’s Lynette Decker failed to advance out of the semis in the 800, running 2;13.68 in finishing sixth in her heat.

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Allanah Whitehall of the University of Puget Sound advanced to the finals in the women’s 60 dash, running 7.64 to finish second in her heat.

Roosevelt HS alum Lucy Cheadle of Washington University in St. Louis was 13th in the women’s 5000, running 16:52.60.

NOTE:  The University of Washington, along with the USTFCCCA and the NCAA contributed to this report.

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