Sunday, February 28, 2016

Natalja Piliusina of the Brooks Beasts wins 800 at BU Last Chance meet...

BOSTON—Natalja Piliusina (left/photo by Paul Merca) of the Seattle-based Brooks Beasts won the 800 meter run at the Boston University Last Chance meet held at the campus’ Track & Tennis Center Sunday.

Piliusina, a native of Lithuania, and Oklahoma State University graduate, ran 2:02.96, to take the victory over Stephanie Brown’s 2:05.75, but was disappointed that she did not get the IAAF standard of 2:02.50.


The hashtag #armory refers to the last chance meet on March 4th at the Armory in New York, which is being billed as a last chance meet to get the standard (US athletes who finish in the top 2 at the USA championships in Portland on February 12-13th will not advance to the world championships unless they have the IAAF standard by March 7th).

Rainier Beach HS grad Michael Berry won the men’s 400 in a time of 46.09, well under the IAAF standard of 46.70.

Complete results of the Boston University Last Chance meet are available here.

WEEKEND ROUNDUP: East Wenatchee natives Tarbert and VanAssche sweep Big Sky 60 titles...

In Bozeman, Montana, East Wenatchee natives Rebecca Tarbert (above/photo courtesy EWU Athletics) and Jeremy VanAssche each won the women’s and men’s 60 meter dash titles for Eastern Washington as the Eagles wrapped up competition at the Big Sky indoor track & field championships at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the campus of Montana State University Saturday.

Tarbert won the women’s title in 7.51, slightly off of her school record time of 7.47 set in Friday’s prelims.

A few moments later, VanAssche took the men’s crown in a time of 6.77, just 2/100ths off of Johnnie Williams’ school record of 6.75 set in 1999.

The Eagle women’s team finished third with 79.5 points, one better than last year’s fourth place finish, while the men finished eighth with 40 points, as Sacramento State’s women and the Northern Arizona men’s squads took home the conference crowns.

Eastern earned four other top 3 finishes on Saturday—Katie Mahoney, who returned from anchoring the distance medley to the conference crown Friday night to take third in the mile (4:58.85); Sarah Reiter in the 3000 (2nd, 9:55.99); Dominique Butler in the triple jump (2nd, 39-0.5/11.90m); and Aaron Cunningham (3rd, 54-4.75/16.58m) in the shot put.

Spokane native Nathan Weitz, who won the 5000 on Friday night, finished third in the 3000, running 8:32.37.


In Nampa, Idaho, Seattle University’s Shaddye Melu added the 400 meter dash title to his high jump crown to highlight the Redhawks’ performance at the Western Athletic Conference championship meet.

Melu ran 48.16 to take the 400 crown in the two-section final, running in the first of two heats, as Jamarice Preston of UM-Kansas City ran 48.40 to win his section, giving Melu the overall win.

Lila Rice won the women’s mile in a personal best of 5:05.10 to give the Redhawks their only conference crown on the day.  Mandie Maddux won the pentathlon title on Thursday.

The Redhawk men’s team were fifth of five teams with 57 points, while the women’s team was fifth of seven with 64 points.  Grand Canyon University swept both titles, winning the women’s title with 253 points, and the men’s crown with 232.


NOTE:  The Big Sky Conference, Eastern Washington University, and Seattle University contributed to this report.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Andrea Geubelle announces she's back on the national scene in the triple jump at SPU Last Chance meet...

SEATTLE—Just when you thought the Dempsey Indoor was done producing fireworks after the conclusion of the MPSF Indoor meet, the Seattle Pacific University Last Chance meet produced some of its own.

Normally what’s been a meet for Division II athletes to chase marks (NCAA Division II athletes still have the automatic and provisional qualifying marks to hit to enter the NCAA championships) turned out to be a bigger deal, with several post-collegiate athletes looking to get marks good enough to compete at the USA indoor championships in Portland and/or the IAAF world indoor championships a week later.

University Place resident Andrea Geubelle (left/photo by Paul Merca) let the nation know that after a frustrating and injury filled last two seasons, that the Kansas alum is back in full force.

Geubelle set a Dempsey Indoor facility record in the triple jump on her sixth and final attempt, jumping 45-7.75 (13.91m) to easily win the competition, and erase Stanford’s Erica McLain’s 45-7.25 (13.90m) mark from 2005.  

Geubelle’s mark is the second longest jump this season by an American, behind Keturah Orji’ of Georgia’s 46-2.5 (14.08m) set earlier in the day at the Southeast Conference meet.

Other highlights:

—Harum Abda of the Nike Oregon TC Elite (1:48.53) beat Travis Burkstrand (1:48.57) and 2015 world championship competitor Cas Loxsom (1:48.77) of the Brooks Beasts in the 800; 

—In the women’s 800, Latvia’s Liga Velvere, an Idaho alum who is a volunteer coach at Washington State won in 2:03.95, over Justine Fedronic (2:04.87), as Fedronic, a Stanford alum who trains with the Beasts but is sponsored by Nike, got her USA indoor qualifier; 

—Washington State assistant coach Angela Whyte won the 60 hurdles in a time of 8.05, which could give her strong consideration to compete for Canada at the world indoors.  Whyte pulled second place finisher Maliea Luquin of Seattle Pacific to a potential spot in the NCAA D2 championship, running 8.61;

—US Olympian Jillian Camarena-Williams won the shot put with a toss of 58-6.5 (17.84m); 

—In the women’s 3000, Oregon alum Megan Patrignelli won in 9:16.06, just under the USA indoor qualifying mark of 9:17.00, while Gonzaga alum Lindsay Drake was second in 9:26.62.  In the race within the race, Saint Martin’s Shannon Porter and Central Washington’s Dani Eggleston may have punched their tickets to the nationals, running 9:38.79, and 9:39.67, respectively.


Huskies' Izaic Yorks runs historic mile at Dempsey to win MPSF title...

SEATTLE—Izaic Yorks (left/photo by Paul Merca) not only broke the Washington school record and defended his Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship in the mile—he just plain destroyed it.

Yorks ran 3:53.89 to win the mile, holding off the late charge of Stanford’s Sean McGorty, who ran 3:53.95, as both dipped under the previous facility record of 3:54.52 set five years ago by US Olympian Chris Solinsky.

Fellow Husky Blake Nelson led the field through the first two laps before yielding to Yorks.  Yorks took command until the final lap when McGorty made his challenge.  

As they came off the final turn, McGorty made a charge on the outside and appeared to nose ahead of Yorks in the last few meters, but used a well time lean to get the victory.

Yorks’ mark is the fastest collegiate time this season, and the third fastest indoor mile in NCAA history, not to mention the fastest mile run by an American in NCAA history (Kenyan Lawi Lalang of Arizona in 2014 of 3:52.88, and Great Britain’s Chris O’Hare and 3:52.98 in 2013).  To top it all off, this was a MPSF championship meet record.

“Izaic’s season has just gone, crazily enough, according to plan,” said UW head coach Greg Metcalf. “We wanted to get a DMR qualified, we wanted to get qualified in the 3k, and we wanted to take one shot at running fast in the mile, and we got a little help obviously from a teammate in Blake Nelson who did a phenomenal job of setting the table for Izaic and made his job just a little easier. I thought he could run 3:54 here, I was wrong, he ran a little faster. It turned into a phenomenal race.”

Yorks said afterwards, ““It didn’t register in my head exactly where I was,” he said. “To be honest, at 1,200 meters I didn’t even hear the split, so I was just trying to run fast at that point, so to go across the line and see that time was pretty cool.”

The sensational mile run came early in the final day of the MPSF Championships, which brought the Dempsey home season to a close for the Huskies. No. 1-ranked Oregon won the women’s team title with 108 points.  

Washington State reached its highest finish since 2004 as they scored 54.5 points, while the Huskies finished sixth out of 19 teams with 47.75 points. USC got the win on the men’s side, with the Huskies placing seventh with 49.5.   The Cougars were 12th with 19 points.

The Cougar women tallied 16.5 points in the women’s high jump with Kiana Davis, a junior from Longview, winning with a personal-best height of 5-feet 10 1/2 inches (1.79m). Liz Harper, the runner-up in the pentathlon Friday night and had soared to a PR high jump of 5-11 1/4 (1.81m), finished third Saturday with a leap of 5-10 1/2 (1.79m), behind Davis based on missed attempts.

Davis captured third-place with a PR leap of 41-2 1/4 (12.55m) which is 10th-best in WSU all-time records.

Other highlights:

—Washington’s Chris Williams finished second in the 60 hurdles, in a time of 7.77, after setting a school record in Friday’s prelims of 7.72, as Oregon’s Devon Allen, the 2014 NCAA & USA outdoor champ took the victory in a facility record 7.60; 

—The Huskies’ Kennadi Bouyer equaled her 7.32 school record in the 60-meter dash that she ran on Friday, taking second in the finals behind Federal Way native Hannah Cunliffe, who ran 7.21;

Dino Dodig of WSU reached a PR total and school record of 5,635 points for fourth place in the men’s heptathlon. Saturday morning he opened with a 60m hurdles time of 8.25 to move from fifth into fourth place, and then pole vaulted 15-5 (4.70m), and ran the 1000m in a PR time of 2:40.36. UCLA’s Steele Wasik won the event with 5,783 points, while Washington’s Josh Gordon of the Huskies was fifth with 5415 points, while teammate Cole Jensen was seventh with 5356 points.


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

SPU Last Chance meet has major national implications...

All of a sudden, what has traditionally been a very low-key meet featuring a bevy of Division II athletes chasing last minute qualifying marks has become a last chance meet for numerous post-collegians looking for marks to get into the USA indoor championships in Portland in two weeks.

The Seattle Pacific Last Chance meet , which will be contested at the Dempsey Indoor at the University of Washington, will have several national and international caliber athletes in the field, along with athletes from many of the Division II schools

Among those looking for marks are several members of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts, including world championships competitor Cas Loxsom (left/photo by Paul Merca), who is entered in the 800 meter run, where he’ll face Gig Harbor’s Mark Wieczorek, and the Nike Oregon TC’s Harun Abda.

US Olympian Jillian Camarena-Williams is entered in the shot put, while University Place resident resident and former USA national champ Andrea Geubelle is entered in the triple jump. There will be an international presence as well, as Latvia's Liga Velvere is in the 800, while Canada's Angela Whyte is in the 60 hurdles.


The meet starts approximately 45 minutes after the end of the MPSF indoor championship meet.

The tentative start list is available here (subject to change).

Friday, February 26, 2016

Nelson repeats as MPSF 5000m champ, while Planell Cruz takes pole vault title...

SEATTLE—Washington’s Aaron Nelson (left/photo by Paul Merca) successfully defended his Mountain Pacific Sports Federation 5000 meter title to help the Huskies to fourth place after the first day of competition in the two-day meet.

BYU leads the competition with 33 points, followed by Oregon at 28.5, then Cal at 25, and the Huskies at 24.5.  Washington State stands in 12th place at the break with 8 points.

Nelson, the school record holder in this event, ran 13:49.93, just over his season best of 13:48.41, and his personal best of 13:47.42, set at last year’s Husky Classic, to win comfortably over Rory Linkletter of BYU (13:52.74), and Spokane prep John Dressel of Colorado (13:53.77).

Pending the results of the various conference championship meets around the country, Nelson’s best this season of 13:48.41 puts him on the bubble to go to the NCAA championship meet in Birmingham, Alabama in two weeks.

Washington got some big points in the men’s pole vault, as Jax Thoirs, Chris Williams and Chase Smith finished 2-6-8.

Thoirs, the defending champion, was only able to clear 17-9.75 (5.43m) as Arizona’s Pau Tonnesen , who competed for Spain in the decathlon at last year’s world championships in Beijing, cleared three straight personal bests to win with a jump of 18-1.75 (5.53m).

In the women’s team competition, Oregon leads the way at the break with 32 points, followed by Arizona State and USC at 23. The Huskies are fourth with 21.75 points, while Washington State is seventh with 20 points.

As expected, Washington senior Diamara Planell Cruz, competing in her final home meet as a Husky, won the women’s pole vault on fewer misses with a clearance of 13-7.75 (4.16m), outlasting UCLA freshman Greta Wagner and UW teammate Liz Quick, who also cleared the same height.  Washington’s Tori Franzen was in a 4-way tie for fourth at 12-8 (3.86m).

Washington State piled up some major points in the pentathlon, as Liz Harper and reigning Pac-12 heptathlon champ Alissa Brooks-Johnson went 2-3, scoring 4146 and 4027 points, respectively, which, pending the results of conference championship meets around the country, could get both spots in the national championship meet in two weeks.

In the pentathlon, USC’s Amalie Iuel, a native of Norway, who competed at the world championships in Beijing in the 400 hurdles last year, scored a personal best and Norwegian best score of 4444 points (the mark won’t get consideration as a national record because of the oversized track).

Other highlights—

—Oregon’s Greg Skipper won the men’s weight throw with a mark of 72-6.5 (22.11m); 

—Deajah Stevens of Oregon won the women’s 200 in a meet and facility record time of 23.14.  Federal Way’s Hannah Cunliffe of Oregon, finished second in 23.24 in winning section 2, also under the meet record time of 23.40 set by Arizona’s Brianna Glenn, and the facility record of 23.44 set by Charonda Williams of Arizona State; 

—Colorado’s Mackenzie Caldwell won the women’s 5000 in 16:32.54, with WSU’s CharLee Linton third in 16:34.89, and Issaquah native Cayla Seligman of Colorado fifth in 16:35.85;

—USC’s Eric Sloan won the men’s long jump at 25-2.75 (7.69m), while teammate Margaux Jones won the women’s long jump at 20-10 (6.35m).  Washington’s Kennadi Bouyer was third at 19-7.5 (5.98m), and Kate Adler of the Huskies was eighth at 18-5,75 (5.63m).


In Bozeman, Montana, the Eastern Washington women’s team of Paula Gil-Eehevarria, Brooke Monson, Leanne Asper, and Katie Mahoney won the distance medley relay in a time of 11:51.19.

Conference leader Kaytlyn Coleman was second in the women’s weight throw, throwing 65-0.5 (19.82m), the same distance as winner Molli Detloff of North Dakota.

The Eagles’ Larry Still won the men’s pole vault with a clearance of 17-0.75 (5.20m), while teammate Nick Stearns was third at 16-4.75 (5.00m).

In the men’s 5000, Spokane native Nathan Weitz of Northern Arizona took the victory in 14:42.01.

At the break, the Eastern Washington women are in fourth with 32 points, while the men are tied for seventh with 19 points.


In Nampa, Idaho, Seattle University’s Shaddye Melu successfully defended his Western Athletic Conference high jump crown, clearing 6-9.75 (2.08m).

The Redhawks’ Elena Smith was second in the 5000, running 17:39.68, while its women’s distance medley relay team took third in a time of 12:23.71.  Gus Arroyo earned a third place finish in the men’s 5000, running 15:02.56.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's championship weekend for UW, WSU, Eastern and SeattleU...

Defending MPSF 5000m champ
Aaron Nelson of Washington
(Paul Merca photo)
It’s championship weekend for four of Washington’s Division I schools, as Washington, Washington State, Eastern Washington, and SeattleU compete in their respective conference championship meets.

Close to home, Washington once again hosts the MPSF Indoor championship meet at the Dempsey Indoor, featuring all 12 Pac-12 teams, plus BYU, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Hawaii, Long Beach State, Portland, and UC Irvine. Cal State Fullerton, Hawaii, Oregon State, UC Irvine, and Utah feature women’s teams only.

In the current USTFCCCA national rankings, Oregon heads the MPSF squads, as its men are ranked No. 2 nationally and its women are ranked No. 1. The USC men rank No. 9, while the Huskies are No. 12, and Stanford ranks 19th. USC’s women are ranked 10th nationally with the Huskies also ranked 17th.

The majority of events contested at the MPSF championships have at least one athlete who is ranked in the national top ten.  National leaders competing at the MPSF include Raevyn Rogers of Oregon (w 800), Blake Haney of Oregon (m Mile),  Edward Cheserek of Oregon (m 3000/5000), the Stanford women’s distance medley; and Eric Simon of USC (m TJ).

The Huskies return three defending champions in Izaic Yorks (mile), Aaron Nelson (5000), and Jax Thoirs (pole vault), but lost Kristina Owsinski (pole vault) due to a season-ending injury at the Husky Classic two weeks ago.  Diamara Planell Cruz and Liz Quick are ranked 1-2 in the pole vault, and Anna Maxwell is the conference leader in the 3000 entering the meet.

For Washington State, their best hopes for an individual conference champ lie with Alissa Brooks-Johnson in the pentathlon and Audrey Ketcham in the high jump. The Cougars have three athletes ranked in the top five in the high jump in Brooks-Johnson, Ketcham, and Kiana Davis, while Brooks-Johnson and Liz Harper are 1-2 in the pentathlon.

Washington high school standouts Hannah Cunliffe (60m), Marcus Chambers (400) and Brooke Feldmeier (800) of Oregon are in contention to win an individual conference title.

The heat sheets for Friday and Saturday’s MPSF meet are available here, while the time schedule is available here.  Flotrack will provide live streaming coverage of the meet for those who have a Flotrack Pro subscription.

EAGLES AT BIG SKY CHAMPS

Eastern Washington heads to Bozeman, Montana for the Big Sky Indoor championship meet, hosted by Montana State Friday and Saturday, with the multi-events kicking off the meet on Thursday.  

Josie Kimes, who was among the top pentathletes in the conference entering the meet, finished a disappointing 13th with a final score of 3131 points, well below her school record mark of 3499 points set earlier this season.

Aaron Pullin, who entered the meet ranked #3 in the conference in the heptathlon, re-aggravated a hamstring injury in the first event, the 60 meter dash, and dropped out of the competition.

Three Eagles enter the meet as favorites to win conference titles—Kaytlyn Coleman (weight throw), Rebecca Tarbert (60 meters), and Jeremy VanAssche (60 meters), with NCAA cross country qualifier Sarah Reiter (3000/5000), Katie Mahoney (mile/3000), defending champ Tierra White (high jump), Dominique Butler (triple jump), both distance medley relay squads, and pole vaulters Anandae Clark and Nick Stearns strong contenders.

The regular portion of the meet begins on Friday at 10 a.m. Pacific time with field events, and running events start at 3:15 p.m. The meet concludes Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. for field events and 11:20 a.m. for running events. The meet is scheduled to conclude at approximately 3:30 p.m. 

Events are being broadcast via watchbigsky.com.  The results link is available here.

SEATTLEU AT WAC CHAMPS

In Nampa, Idaho, Mandie Maddux (above/photo courtesy WAC) won the pentathlon crown to kick off SeattleU’s participation in the Western Athletic Conference championship, scoring a school record 3508 points.

In the first event of the day, the 60 meter hurdles, Maddux ran a time of 9.36, close to her personal record in the event.

Next up, Maddux broke the six-year-old indoor school record in the high jump, and claimed first place in the event with a height of 1.67m (5’-5.75”).

Maddux claimed first place in the shot put with a throw of 11.92m (39’-1.25”), just barely breaking the indoor school record she had already set three times – twice this season alone.

She finished her day with a mark of 4.84m (15’-10.5”) in the long jump, then finished with a personal record time of 2:30.86 in the 800 meter run.

The rest of the Redhawks begin their quest to improve upon their fifth place finish at last year’s WAC championship meet on Friday.

SeattleU will be led be defending high jump champ Shaddye Melu, who will also contest the 400, where he is ranked #2 in the conference.

Gus Arroyo is entered in both the 3000 and the 5000, where he’s ranked in the top three in both events.

After winning the pentathlon, Maddux will be entered in the high jump, shot put, and 60 hurdles.


SPU HOSTS LAST CHANCE MEET AT DEMPSEY AFTER MPSF

One significant meet happening Saturday is the Seattle Pacific Last Chance meet at the Dempsey Indoor on the UW campus, immediately upon the conclusion of the MPSF meet.

With this weekend the final weekend to attain marks for the NCAA Division II championship meet in two weeks, many athletes who are on the bubble will try to improve upon their marks.

Making this meet even more interesting is that the Seattle Pacific coaching staff has received inquiries from post-collegiate athletes looking for a last chance to qualify for the USA indoor championships in Portland in two weeks, as Sunday is the last day to qualify for the nationals.

Entries and a time schedule for the meet have not been posted as of Thursday night.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Seattle University, Eastern Washington, and Washington State contributed to this report.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Falcons move up ten spots in latest USTFCCCA Division II computer rankings...

Sprinters Kyra Brannan & Jalen Tims were key contributors
to SPU's second place finish in the GNAC championships
last weekend (Paul Merca photo)
NEW ORLEANS—After a strong second place finish at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship meet in Nampa, Idaho last weekend, the Seattle Pacific women’s squad moved ten spots in the latest USTFCCCA Division II computer rankings released Tuesday to #13 in the nation.

The top five Division II women’s squads in the country are Hillsdale (Michigan), Grand Valley State (Michigan), Pittsburg State (Kansas), Lewis (Illinois), and Alaska Anchorage.

The Falcons and GNAC team champion Alaska Anchorage are the only two teams from the GNAC ranked in the national top 25.  Alaska Anchorage’s mens’ team is ranked #12 in the latest edition of the national team computer rankings.

The National Team Computer Rankings are complied by a mathematical formula based on national descending order lists. The purpose and methodology of the rankings is to create an index that showcases the teams that have the best potential of achieving the top spots in the national team race. Rankings points do not equate with NCAA Championships team points.

Seattle Pacific hosts the SPU Last Chance Meet Saturday at the Dempsey Indoor on the campus of the University of Washington following the conclusion of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation meet.


NOTE:  The USTFCCCA contributed to this report.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Dawgs jump seven spots to #12 in USTFCCCA Division I computer rankings...

The UW team of Jacopo Spano, Izaic Yorks, Colby Gilbert
& Blake Nelson set a school record of 9:27.19 in the
distance medley relay last Saturday (UW Athletics photo)
NEW ORLEANS—The USTFCCCA’s national Division I rankings has the University of Washington’s men’s squad ranked #12 in the country, and its women’s squad #17, in its latest edition, released Monday.

The Husky men’s squad, bolstered by a school record 9:27.19 in the distance medley relay at the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame last Saturday, leapfrogged seven spots from its #19 position in last week’s computer rankings.

The nation’s top five men’s teams are Arkansas, Oregon, LSU, Tennessee, and Texas A&M.

Other teams from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation that are ranked in the top 25 include USC at #9, and #19 Stanford.

With Eleanor Fulton the only Husky woman competing last week, Washington dropped three spots in the national computer rankings to 17 from its previous spot at #14.

The top five women’s teams are Oregon, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas & Texas.

USC is the only other MPSF school ranked in the top 25 at #10.

The National Team Computer Rankings are complied by a mathematical formula based on national descending order lists. The purpose and methodology of the rankings is to create an index that showcases the teams that have the best potential of achieving the top spots in the national team race. Rankings points do not equate with NCAA Championships team points.

The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships are Friday and Saturday at the Dempsey Indoor on the campus of the University of Washington.


NOTE:  The USTFCCCA contributed to this report.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Winger, Taiwo, Heath, Anderson & Henry receive USATF Foundation grants...

INDIANAPOLIS—Five athletes with ties to the state of Washington were recently named by the USA Track & Field Foundation as recipients of the foundation’s Elite Athlete Development grants.

The five athletes named by the foundation are Kara Winger, Jeremy Taiwo (left/photo by Paul Merca), Garrett Heath, Jeshua Anderson, and Britney Henry.

Vancouver native Winger, who made the finals in the javelin at last year’s world championships in Beijing, received a $5000 Stephen Schwarzman Grant in recognition for her success at the international level and for having excellent potential to be a medal contender at the Rio Summer Games.

Receiving a $5000 Elite Athlete Development grant from the foundation are world championship decathlon team member and University of Washington alum Jeremy Taiwo and last year’s USA fourth place finisher in the 5000, Garrett Heath of the Seattle-based Brooks Beasts.

Jeshua Anderson (400 hurdles), a Washington State alum who made the finals at the USA championships last year, received a $3000 grant.

Hammer thrower Britney Henry, a native of Spokane, was one of three women in her event to receive a $10000 grant as part of the foundation’s Adopt an Athlete program.

In a release from the foundation, director Mark Quinn said, “This is a tremendous group of athletes, all of whom have achieved success in both their professional and personal lives. A few of them won medals at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, and several others were very close. Even with their records of achievement, funding for these and other elite level track & field athletes in the U.S. is difficult to sustain. The stakes are the highest in an Olympic year, and we hope that these grants will help all of them continue to train and perform at a high level.”

The Foundation provides assistance to athletes that meet its grant application criteria, including income thresholds and performance standards.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dawgs set school DMR record at Notre Dame, plus action at Millrose, Glasgow & GNAC champs...

SOUTH BEND, Indiana—Washington’s distance medley relay team of Blake Nelson, Jacopo Spano, Izaic Yorks and Colby Gilbert broke the school record of 9:31.68 Saturday in finishing second behind Oklahoma State at the Alex Wilson Invitational at the Loftus Sports Center on the campus of Notre Dame University.

Nelson (left/photo by Paul Merca), who narrowly missed becoming the seventh Husky to break 4 minutes in the mile at last week’s Husky Classic, led off with an unofficial split of 2:55.1, which put Washington in fourth place against a loaded field that included Michigan, Oklahoma, UCLA, and host Notre Dame.

Spano’s 46.0 carry put Washington into third place before giving the baton to Yorks for the 800 leg. Yorks, who set the UW school record at 800 meters of 1:47.89 at the UW Invitational last month, got the Huskies into the lead with a 1:47.6 carry, before giving the baton to Gilbert.

Gilbert led for most of the final leg, until the last lap and a half when Notre Dame’s Christopher Marco and Oklahoma’s Jacob Burcham charged to the front.  Gilbert ran beside Oklahoma State’s Joshua Thompson going into the bell, and overtook Marco at the bell. Thompson shot past Gilbert and jumped past Burcham with less than 200 meters to go.

As they headed down the final straight, Gilbert swung to the outside, passing a fading Burcham, but Thompson got enough of a lead to give Oklahoma State the win in a track record 9:26.60 to the Huskies’ 9:27.19.

Gilbert’s unofficial split on the 1600 carry was 3:58.2.

UW head coach Greg Metcalf said afterwards, “The DMR just gets tougher and tougher to make every year, and we knew we would need a school record to get to nationals, and the men were confident that they could get it done, and they ran fantastic.”

“We had three different teams place fifth in the DMR just ten years ago and they never broke 9:35, so to run 9:27, one of the ten fastest times in NCAA history, is pretty incredible.”

Washington’s time is the eighth fastest in collegiate history, while Oklahoma State is tied for third all-time.

Eleanor Fulton finished second in the women’s mile, running a personal best 4:37.26. Fulton’s mark is the third fastest indoors in school history behind Katie Flood’s 4:28.48 and Katie Follett’s 4:34.98.

2014 Pac-12 800 meter champion Derrick Daigre was 10th overall in the men’s 800, running a time of 1:52.80.

The ESPN3 coverage of the Alex Wilson Invitational can be watched here (may need an ESPN log-in from your cable provider).


THE PRO RUNDOWN FROM NEW YORK & GLASGOW...

In New York, Garrett Heath of the Brooks Beasts ran near the front early, but finished sixth in the Wanamaker Mile at the NYRR Millrose Games at the Armory Saturday.

Heath finished in 3:55.10, as Matthew Centrowitz of the Nike Oregon Project won a tight battle with New Zealand’s Nick Willis, 3:50.63 to 3:51.06.

Seattle’s Phoebe Wright, who trains with the Beasts, finished sixth in the 800 meters.

Wright ran 2:03.97, as Ajee’ Wilson won in a world and US leading time of 2:00.09.

In the women’s Wanamaker Mile, Washington alum Katie Mackey of the Brooks Beasts was seventh in 4:28.84, one spot ahead of Camas’ Alexa Efraimson, who ran 4:28.91.  Shannon Rowbury of the Nike Oregon Project won in 4:24.39.

Rainier Beach HS grad Ginnie Crawford was seventh in the 60 hurdles in 8.22, as Janay DeLoach won in 7.85.


In Glasgow, Scotland, Cas Loxsom of the Brooks Beasts finished eighth in a season best 1:50.68 in the 800 meters at the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix at the Emirates Arena.

Poland’s Adam Kszczot won the race in 1:46.23.

Gig Harbor’s Mark Wieczorek was the pace setter in the men’s 1500 won by Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider in 3:34.94.


FALCON WOMEN FINISH SECOND AT GNAC INDOORS

In Nampa, Idaho, Seattle Pacific’s women’ squad finished second at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference indoor championships at Jackson’s Track at the Ford Idaho Center.

Team champion Alaska Anchorage scored 164 points to outdistance the Falcons’ 136 points.  Western Washington was fourth with 64.5 points, while Central Washington was sixth with 59, and Saint Martin’s ninth with 25 points.

SPU’s Jahzelle Ambus won both the 200 and 400 meter dashes, leading a 1-2 Falcon finish in the 400 with teammate Jalen Tims, running 54.87 to Tims’ 55.21.

In the 200, Ambus outran defending champion Jamie Ashcroft of Alaska Anchorage, to win in 24.35 to Ashcroft’s 24.37.

Ambus’ marks will, in all probability, assure her of a spot in the NCAA Division II championship meet in Pittsburg, Kansas March 11-12.

In the race of the meet, Central Washington’s Mariah Vongsaveng won the 60 hurdles title in a photo finish time of 8.713 to UAA’s Rosie Smith (8.714) and SPU’s Maliea Luquin (8.717).  The meet was delayed by 10 minutes as the finish line crew reviewed frame by frame the three bodies crossing the finish line to determine the winner.

Western Washington’s Jasmine McMullin set a meet record in winning the triple jump with a third round leap of 40-1.25 (12.22m).

Like their female counterparts, Alaska Anchorage won yet another GNAC indoor title, scoring 164 points to easily outdistance second place Western Oregon’s 93 points.

Western Washington was third with 92 points.  Central Washington was sixth with 63 points, while Saint Martin’s was ninth with 24 points, and Seattle Pacific tenth with 12.

Central Washington’s Kent McKinney won the 60 dash in 6.91, while Western’s Travis Milbrandt won the 60 hurdles in 8.09.  

Mikel Smith of Saint Martin’s won the high jump with a leap of 6-9 (2.06m), while Luke Plummer of Central Washington won the triple jump at 49-2.25 (14.99m).

Seattle Pacific hosts the SPU Final Qualifier meet next Saturday at the Dempsey Indoor on the campus of the University of Washington following the conclusion of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation meet.


NOTE:  The University of Washington, the New York Road Runners, Seattle Pacific University, and the Great Northwest Athletic Conference contributed to this report.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Efraimson, Mackey, Heath and Masters entered in Saturday's Wanamaker Mile at Millrose...

NEW YORK—Four athletes with Washington ties are entered in the prestigious Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in New York at the Armory.

Garrett Heath of the Brooks Beasts is in the Wanamaker Mile, along with teammate Riley Masters.

In the women’s Wanamaker Mile, Katie Mackey of the Brooks Beasts is entered, as is Camas’ Alexa Efraimson (left/photo by Paul Merca).

In other events on the Millrose docket, Rainier Beach HS grad Ginnie Crawford is entered in the women’s 60 meter hurdles, while Seattle resident Phoebe Wright is in the women’s 800.

The complete start list for the Millrose Games is available here.  The meet will be streamed on USATF.tv from 9 am-1pm, before moving to the NBC Sports Network from 1-3 pm.

FALCONS A SOLID SECOND AFTER DAY 1 OF GNAC INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS

In Nampa, Idaho, Seattle Pacific’s women’s squad is in a solid position to challenge conference favorite Alaska Anchorage for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference team title after the first day of competition at Jacksons Track at the Ford Idaho Center.

The Falcons scored 50 points, 14 behind first day leader Alaska Anchorage, with Western Washington in third at 39.5 points.  Central Washington stands fifth with 25, and Saint Martin’s is seventh with 17 points.

SPU got their first title of the day from pole vaulter Michaella Kahns, who won the event with a clearance of 11-6.25 (3.51m), the same height as Central Washington’s McKenna Emmert. Kanhs took the title based on a first attempt make at that height, while Emmert needed three tries.

Also earning a top-3 finish for the Falcons was Geneva Lehnert in the high jump, clearing 5-7.25 (1.71m) to take third, with Western Washington’s Miranda Osadchey second with the same height.

Kyra Brannan took third in the long jump with a mark of 18-3 (5.56m), and Maliea Luquin was third in the pentathlon with 3468 points.

The Vikings earned a top three finish in the distance medley relay (3rd, 12:11.69).  Central also got a top three finish in the distance medley relay (2nd, 12:08.56), while Saint Martin’s got a second place finish from Kirby Neale in the weight throw (51-8.75/15.76m) and a third place finish from 1Shannon Porter in the 5000 (17:15.87).

After day 1 in the men’s competition, Western Washington stands second with 31 points, eight points behind Alaska Anchorage’s 39 points.  Central Washington is in fifth with 14 points, while Seattle Pacific stands seventh with 9 points, and Saint Martin’s is tenth with 3 points.

In first day finals, Nate Van Tuinen of the Vikings finished second in the long jump at 23-2.75 (7.08m), just one place ahead of Central’s Luke Plummer (22-11.75/6.99m).

In the weight throw, Armando Tafoya of Central was second with a toss of 56-7 (17.24m).

The meet resumes Saturday.  Day 1 results are available here.

NOTE:  The Great Northwest Athletic Conference contributed to this report.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Seattle Pacific set for showdown with Alaska Anchorage at GNAC Indoor Champs...

It’s championship week for Washington’s four Division II schools, as Western Washington, Seattle Pacific, Saint Martin’s, and Central Washington head to Nampa, Idaho to compete in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference title meet at Jackson’s Indoor Center beginning on Friday, and concluding Saturday.

On the women’s side, the two schools who have won the conference title—Seattle Pacific and Alaska Anchorage—are the heavy favorites to win it, as they are the #5 and #23 ranked teams in NCAA Division II.

The Falcons will be led into Idaho by defending 5000m champ Anna Patti (left/photo by Paul Merca), who will drop down to the 3000.  SPU will have in their arsenal conference leaders Jahzelle Ambus (400m), Lynelle Decker (800), and Michaella Kahns (pole vault).

Western Washington will be led by co-conference leader in the pole vault Anna Paradee, and defending triple jump champ Jasmine McMullin.

Saint Martin’s best hope lies with distance runner Shannon Porter, who has set school records this year in both the 3000 (9:51.99) and the 5000 (16:57.09).

Central Washington’s hopes lie with Dani Eggleston in the 3000, Mariah Vongsaveng in the 60 hurdles, and McKenna Emmert in the pole vault.

The Alaska Anchorage men’s squad, ranked #10 in the USTFCCCA national poll are clearly the team to beat this weekend, with a bevy of top talent in the distances, and multi-events.

Western Washington is led by defending 60 hurdles champ Travis Milbrandt, along with 5000m runner Isaac Derline, and thrower Brandon Pless.

Central Washington will have to depend on points from two-time defending triple jump champion Luke Plummer, and short sprinter Kent McKinney, who leads the conference in the 60 meter dash going into this weekend.

Mikel Smith of Saint Martin’s is the current conference leader in the high jump at 6-10.75 (2.10m), while Latrelle Swayne is ranked #2 in the 60 dash.

It may be a long meet for Seattle Pacific, with hurdler/long jumper Peyton Harris and distance runner Turner Wiley the best shots for a podium finish.



NOTE:  The Great Northwest Athletic Conference contributed to this report.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Michael Berry takes second in 300m at New Balance indoor grand prix...

ROXBURY, MA.—Rainier Beach HS graduate Michael Berry (left/photo by Paul Merca) finished second in the 300 meter dash at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix meet Sunday at the Reggie Lewis Center in the Boston suburb.

Berry, who attended the University of Oregon, then trained in Seattle last year before moving to Orlando, Florida, finished in a time of 33.13, as Vernon Norwood took the victory in 32.70.

Camas HS grad Alexa Efraimson finished seventh in the featured New Balance women’s 1500 meter race in 4:12.06, as Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum won in a world leading time of 4:01.86.

Gig Harbor’s Mark Wieczorek served as the pace setter in the men’s 1000 meters, won by two-time US Olympian Andrew Wheating in 2:18.68.

A postscript on the marathon trials from Jake Riley...

Bellingham native Jake Riley (left/photo by Mike Scott) finished 15th at Saturday's US Olympic Team Trials-Marathon in Los Angeles,

The Sehome High School graduate admitted he had a bit of a rough day, knowing that the heat of Los Angeles was going to factor into the results.

The 2006 Washington state 2A cross country champ was kind enough to send paulmerca.blogspot.com his thoughts on his race a day afterwards.

“Like everyone else going in we knew the heat was going to throw off the pacing plan we had. Bobby Curtis and I had been training to run 4:58s together, but after talking with coach (Keith & Kevin Hanson of the Hanson's/Brooks Distance Project in Rochester, Michigan, where he currently lives), we decided to slow that down to 5:05s. I did pretty good with it too, I felt under control and pretty strong through 20 or so, just off the back of the lead pack.”

“I was definitely feeling tired but you also expect that at that point in the race. The original plan was to really try and reel people in the last 6 miles, but around mile 21 the wheels just completely fell off and it just became a matter of getting to the finish line by any means. It's not like I was alone either, as slow as I must have been running I was still only passed by 2 people on that last lap."

The Stanford grad concluded, “It was just a tough day. I'm definitely disappointed with my finish, going in I thought I had really good shot at top ten, maybe even top five or the team if some things went my way and some other people had it rough. Sometimes leave your control though so I can't be too mad because I don't like I could have done much different to change the outcome. Now I'm going to take 2 weeks off, then start getting ready for the track trials.”

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Puyallup native David Elliott breaks 4 minutes in mile to win top section at Husky Classic...

SEATTLE—The distance races and field events were the stars of Saturday’s Husky Classic at the Dempsey Indoor on the campus of the University of Washington.

In the men’s mile, Puyallup native David Elliott (left/photo by Paul Merca) of Boise State became the 100th different performer to break 4 minutes in the mile since the Dempsey opened its doors to track and field athletes, winning the fast section in 3:57.38, leading five men across the line.

The previous heat saw Travis Burkstrand of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts win in 3:59.69 to become the 98th man to crack four minutes, with Oregon’s Connor Winter right behind in 3:59.76, while Washington’s Blake Nelson fell short in his bid to become the seventh Husky to break 4 minutes, running 4:00.68 to take fifth in the heat.

Natalja Piliusina of the Brooks Beasts continued her winning ways, winning the women’s mile in 4:35.31.

In the women’s 3000, freshman sensation Allie Ostrander of Boise State ran 8:54.37 to hold off a charge from Canada’s Gabriela Stafford, who ran 8:54.87.  2012 US Olympian Shalaya Kipp was third in 9:00.92, followed by UW alum Mel Lawrence in 9:03.22.

Izaic Yorks of Washington moved to #6 on the NCAA performance list as he finished second in the men’s 3000 in 7:50.20 to Stanford freshman Grant Fisher, who ran 7:50.06.  Fisher, however, competed in the meet as an unattached athlete.  The Huskies’ Colby Gilbert finished fourth in 7:50.96.

The women’s 800 saw Oregon’s Annie LeBlanc win in 2:03.84, ahead of her teammate and Olympia native Brooke Feldmeier, who ran 2:03.99, which puts the Oregon duo #5 & #6 on the current NCAA Division I performance list.

On the field, Washington’s Diamara Planell Cruz led a 1-2-3 Husky finish in the women’s pole vault, clearing a Puerto Rican national record and UW school record 14-5.25 (4.40m), with Liz Quick scoring a major personal best with a jump of 14-3.25 (4.35m). Had Quick made the next height with Planell Cruz, the mark would have given her a berth in this July’s US Olympic Trials in Eugene.

Two time MPSF champ Kristina Owsinski finished third with a best of 14-1.24 (4.30m), but may have suffered a season-ending injury to her right Achilles tendon during her attempt at 14-3.25.

In the men’s shot put, Texas’ Ryan Crouser spun his way to a throw of 69-9.75 (21.28m), the furthest throw in the collegiate ranks so far this season, and the second furthest throw in the world this year.

University Place native Andrea Geubelle won both the women’s long and triple jumps, taking the long jump at 21-5.25 (6.53m), and the triple jump at 44-0 (13.41m), both of which are season bests for her.


Track and field action resumes at the Dempsey Sunday beginning at 8:30 am with the UW Indoor Open meet.

BELLINGHAM’S JAKE RILEY & UW GRAD LINDSAY FLANAGAN TOP WASHINGTON FINISHERS AT US OLYMPIC MARATHON TRIALS

In Los Angeles, Galen Rupp of the Nike Oregon Project won his marathon debut on a warm morning, running 2:11:13, to defeat 2004 Athens Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi by 67 seconds at the US Olympic Marathon Trials.

BYU alum Jared Ward nabbed the final spot on the men’s team to Rio, running 2:13:00.

In the women’s race, it was a 1-2 finish for Arizona State alums Amy (Hastings) Cragg and Desiree (Davila) Linden took the first two spots, running 2:28:27, with Linden 33 seconds back.

2008 Olympic 10000m bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan hung on to take third in 2:29:26.

Bellingham native Jake Riley was the top men’s finisher with ties to Washington state, finishing 15th in 2:18:30.  

Washington State grad Drew Polley was 51st in 2:27:32, while Lakes HS grad Joe Gray was 75th in 2:31:20, just one place and 15 seconds ahead of Bellingham native Chris Kwiatkowski.

The leading woman with Washington ties was University of Washington alum Lindsay Flanagan, as the 2015 Pan Am Games silver medalist was 14th in 2:39:49.

In a Facebook message to paulmerca.blogspot.com after the race, Flanagan said, "It was a very tough day but I'm grateful for the experience. You never know what will happen in the marathon and I learned a lot about the distance and myself along the way."

Club Northwest’s Emma Polley was 39th in 2:45:03, followed by Sequin HS alum Stephanie Dinius in 45th at 2:46:26.  Spokane’s Rachel Jaten was 48th in 2:46:35, and Seattle’s Sarah Robinson was 95th in 2:54:23.  Seattle Pacific alum Ruth Perkins was 120th in 2:59:58 to round out the Washington contingent.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Suver finishes sixth in the elite section of the women's 5000 at Husky Classic...

SEATTLE—Newly minted national cross country champion Mattie Suver (left/photo by Paul Merca) led for most of the way in the top section of the women’s 5000 meter run before being overtaken as day one of the Husky Classic concluded at the Dempsey Indoor on the University of Washington campus.

Suver, the Eastern Washington alum, who won the USA cross country title in Bend, Oregon last Saturday, did most of the leading for the first four kilometers of the race, before five collegians, led by winner Chelsea Blaase of Tennessee, swept past her over the final laps of the race.

Blaase took the victory in 15:43.81, as Suver finished sixth in a time of 15:50.73, earning a qualifying mark for next month’s USA indoor championships in Portland in the 3000 should she opt to compete at the nationals.

In the race, Gig Harbor freshman Brenna Peloquin of Boise State finished 14th in 16:13.61, just ahead of the Huskies’ Charlotte Prouse.

In section 2 of the women’s 5000, Gonzaga’s Shelby Mills finished fourth in 16:25.35, a new school record.

In other events, Oregon’s Edward Cheserek patiently waited through the first 4000 meters before powering away to victory in the men’s 5000, running 13:35.86, the fastest time in the world at that distance so far this season.

Washington’s Aaron Nelson missed his own school record in the race, as he finished ninth in a time of 13:48.41, .99 seconds short of the mark he set a year ago in winning the MPSF title.

A very spirited battle between GNAC rivals Seattle Pacific, Alaska Anchorage, and Simon Fraser in the women’s distance medley relay, with Alaska Anchorage winning in 11:39.44, to SPU’s 11:42.34, with Simon Fraser third in 11:44.39.  UAA’s mark is the second fastest in Division II, while the Falcons sit at #3 in Division II, with SFU at number 5.

On the field, former Long Beach State standout Colin Dunbar won the men’s weight throw with a toss of 75-2.75 (22.93m), the second longest throw in the US going into this weekend.

The Husky Classic resumes Saturday.  Day 1 results are available here.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Husky Classic promises hot distance races as athletes jockey for NCAA indoor berths...

With conference championships upcoming in the next two weeks, all nine of this state’s Division I and II schools will see action in Seattle at the two-day Husky Classic that starts Friday at the Dempsey Indoor, and at Sunday’s UW Open meet.

Washington State is the only school this weekend splitting its squad, opting to send its sprinters and a handful of jumpers to Albuquerque, New Mexico for Friday and Saturday’s Don Kirby Elite meet.

While the Husky Classic doesn’t have quite the pro presence it’s had in past years, the meet promises to have some star power, particularly in the distance races, as the top collegians start jockeying for top-16 spots for the NCAA indoor championships next month in Birmingham, Alabama.

Friday night’s 5000 meter races feature Oregon’s Edward Cheserek (left/photo by Paul Merca), the two-time NCAA cross country champ against a field that includes the Huskies’ Aaron Nelson; Colorado’s Pierce Murphy, Morgan Pearson and Ammar Moussa; NCAA D2 cross country champ Alfred Chelanga of Shorter; and Oregon’s Jake Leingang.  Washington’s Fred Huxham and WSU’s John Whelan hope that the field will tow them towards a fast time.

The women’s 5000 is just as loaded, led by Boise State freshman Brenna Peloquin from Gig Harbor, who was ninth at the NCAA cross country meet last fall.  

Also in the field is the newly minted USA cross country champ and Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver, who has opted to skip the US Olympic Marathon Trials to concentrate on the track.

In addition, at least nine NCAA cross country All-Americans are in the field.  Kaylee Flanagan is the top Husky entered in the race.

Saturday, at least five men with seed times under 3:58 are entered in the men’s mile, including world championships qualifier Cas Loxsom of the Brooks Beasts, who is moving up in distance from the 800 this week.  Portland’s Woody Kincaid, perhaps the hottest collegian so far this indoor season, is also entered.

Washington’s Maddie Meyers is in a loaded women’ 3000, that’s led by another freshman phenom, Allie Ostrander from Boise State.  There are a host of NCAA All-Americans in the field, along with Olympian Shalaya Kipp, Washington alum Mel Lawrence, and Hannah Fields of the Brooks Beasts.

Just as loaded is the men’s 3000, led by Canada’s Taylor Milne, Chris Winter & Luc Bruchet, along with the Huskies’ Colby Gilbert, and Dorian Ulrey & Matt Hillenbrand of the Brooks Beasts.  Gonzaga’s Troy Fraley is also in the field, as well as Puyallup's David Elliott of Boise State, as they look to get a mark good enough to go to the NCAA indoor championships.

2012 Olympic 100 meter finalist Ryan Bailey leads the field in the men’s 60 meter dash. 2014 NCAA and USA 110 hurdles champ Devon Allen is entered in the men’s 60 hurdles.

The men’s and women’s pole vaults, featuring Washington’s Jax Thoirs & Texas’ Reese Watson, and the Dawgs’ Kristina Owsinski and Diamara Planell Cruz going against Texas’ Kaitlin Petrillose, with former Pac-12 champ Kristine Felix of WSU thrown in the mix are the must-see events on the Dempsey infield.

Other field events to watch include the women’s long & triple jumps, as University Place resident and former NCAA champ Andrea Geubelle attempts a one-day double for the first time since battling injuries over the last few years; the women’s shot put featuring Oregon’s Brittany Mann; the women’s weight throw led by Eastern Washington’s Kaytlyn Coleman; and, the men’s shot put led by Oregon prep standout Ryan Crouser, who attends Texas.



EFRAIMSON AND WIECZOREK HEAD TO NEW BALANCE GP MEET 

Camas’ Alexa Efraimson is entered in the 1500 meters at Sunday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix In Roxbury, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.

Also entered in the meet is Gig Harbor’s Mark Wieczorek in the men’s 1000.

The start lists for Sunday’s New Balance Grand Prix is available here (click on the event name).  The meet will be shown on the NBC Sports Network from 1-3pm.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Going on a limb to pick the US Olympic marathon team...

Bellingham's Jake Riley
(Paul Merca photo)
There is and always will be a special place in my heart for the US Olympic Marathon Trials, which happens this Saturday on a loop course through the streets of Los Angeles. 

The 1984 women’s marathon trials in Olympia kicked off my career in the sports media business. I was the assistant media relations director for the Olympia organizing committee. One of my main duties was compiling, writing and editing the bios of the leading contenders, as well as to coordinate statistical information with our television partner, ABC Sports.

Just as it was 32 years ago, the Trials are a celebration of what’s good about the sport for the runners in the field. They get to line up with the best in the United States. With a combined field of 373 men and women entered for Saturday’s race, they are the best of the elite marathoners in the country.

But the very harsh reality is, of that field of runners, only about 10 to 15 men and women have a realistic shot at qualifying or being in the mix to make the team.

The Trials are the ultimate sudden-death race: top 3 and you’re on the plane to the Olympics in Rio, though places 4 through 10 will walk away with prize money for their efforts (the top 3 get $80, 65 & 55k, while places 4-10 get $25, 20, 15, 13, 11, 9 & 7k).  Those who make the team will have the opportunity to earn bonus monies from their sponsors, as well as getting into the mix for appearance monies from race directors for whatever races they choose to run in, simply because they’ve earned the title of US Olympian.

Saturday’s race is expected to be warm, with temperatures in the low to mid-80s, which will be a factor, especially for those who haven’t done any heat training in the weeks leading up to the race.

Athletes with Washington ties who have declared their intent to run Saturday include: Bellingham native Jake Riley (2:13:16); WSU grad & Club Northwest’s Drew Polley (2:17:23); Western Washington grad Bennett Grimes (2:18:47); Lakes HS grad & Club Northwest’s Joe Gray (63:42 1/2 marathon); and, Bellingham native Chris Kwiatkowski (64:11 1/2 marathon).

On the women’s side, runners with Washington ties include: UW alum Lindsay Flanagan, the silver medalist at last summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto (2:33:12); Tori Tyler, who ran at UW before transferring (2:38:48); Seattle Pacific alum & Club Northwest’s Ruth Perkins (2:40:04); Club Northwest’s Emma Polley (2:42:07); Spokane residents Victoria Russell (2:42:20) and Rachel Jaten (2:42.29); Seattle’s Sarah Robinson (2:42:36); and Sequim HS grad Stephanie Dinius (73:28 1/2 marathon).

Qualifying for the Trials but opting not to run for various reasons include Washington alums Jake Schmidt and Mike Sayenko; Western Washington alum Sarah Crouch, and Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver, who won the USA cross country title last weekend, and is entered in the 5000 at this weekend’s Husky Classic.

The Polleys have blogged about their preparations for Saturday's race:  Drew's post is available here, while Emma's is here.  Ruth Perkins' blog is available here.


MEN:  GALEN RUPP, MEB KEFLEZIGHI, LUKE PUSKEDRA

Though he hasn’t run a marathon in his career, you can never count out a guy like Galen Rupp (left/photo by Paul Merca) who has an Olympic medal in the 10000.  He knows what it takes to run in a championship race, and even though he qualified for the Trials late, there’s no way his coach Alberto Salazar (who I hope knows a thing or two about the marathon) would enter him if he didn’t have a legitimate chance to make the team.  Having said that, if he is out of contention, I can see Alberto telling him to drop out and pick another battle to fight, namely next month’s USA indoor nationals in Portland.

As long as the pace stays reasonable, there’s a good chance that the wily veteran Meb Keflezighi will find a way to finish in the top three.  There’s no need to try and win this race—after all, third is just as good as first.

My heart tells me to go with Dathan Ritzenhein, who was fourth at the Trials in Houston four years ago, but I’m going with Oregon alum Luke Puskedra, based on his performance in last October’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, where he ran 2:10:24.  I think Puskedra’s got the most up-side of the top contenders in the field who have run at least 2:10.

WOMEN:  SHALANE FLANAGAN, DES LINDEN, AMY CRAGG

With 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor declaring earlier Wednesday that she was injured and wouldn’t participate in Saturday’s race, Shalane Flanagan (left/photo by Paul Merca), Desiree Linden, and Amy Cragg are in my opinion, head and shoulders above any of the other women in the field.

Though Flanagan had some minor injury issues in the buildup to the Trials in the form of a stress reaction in her foot, she is probably the safest bet to make the team, and has the fastest time of the field, a 2:21:14 from the 2014 Berlin Marathon.  

Likewise, Linden, who has been relatively quiet since finishing fourth at last year’s Boston Marathon in 2:25:39, is just as safe a bet to make this team, assuming she hasn’t had any injuries that her camp’s kept quiet about.  The Arizona State alum knows how to run in the heat.

Cragg, who was fourth at the Trials in 2012 and has a PR of 2:27:03, made the move from Rhode Island to Oregon and the Bowerman Track Club to train with Flanagan.  Cragg, who also is an Arizona State alum like Linden, has experience running in the heat, which could factor into Saturday’s results.

The one runner who could upset the apple cart is Flanagan’s former training partner and two-time Olympian Kara Goucher. The veteran reunited with her college coach Mark Wetmore and has the confidence associated with two half-marathon wins during the Trials build-up—a 1:11:13 at Big Sur in November, and a 1:11:10 in San Antonio in December.

NBC Sports (KING 5 in Seattle) will offer live coverage of the US Olympic Marathon Trials, as well as coverage on nbcsports.com. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

WEEKEND ROUNDUP: Brooks-Johnson wins Cougar Invite pentathlon; Suver wins USATF XC crown...

In Pullman, multi-event specialist Alissa Brooks-Johnson (above/photo courtesy WSU Athletics) of Washington State won the pentathlon at the Cougar Indoor on Friday, scoring a personal best 4101 points.

Brooks-Johnson, the reigning Pac-12 heptathlon champ, got her day started with a personal best of 8.81 in the 60 hurdles, and a PR in the high jump of 5-9.25 (1.76m).

She followed up with two more personal bests in the shot put of 39-8.2.5 (12.10m) and a long jump of 18-4.5 (5.60m), before ending the day with a 2:19.80 mark in the 800m.

The mark currently puts Brooks-Johnson at #13 on the NCAA Division I performance list this season, and #1 in the MPSF.

Teammate Liz Harper finished second with a final score of 3920, the fourth best all-time score in school history.

CJ Allen of the Cougars won the 60 hurdles in Saturday’s main portion of the meet to highlight WSU performances, setting a personal best of 8.14 to lead a 1-2-3 sweep of the event.

Sprinter Dominique Keel led four Cougs across the line in the women’s 60, winning that event in a season best 7.59.


In Bozeman on Friday, the Eastern Washington men’s and women’s teams got a preview of the venue in which they’ll contest the Big Sky indoor championships in a few weeks, competing in a four-way meet with Montana, Sacramento State and host Montana State.

Kaytlyn Coleman of the Eagles continued her tear, winning the weight throw with a toss of 66-5.75 (20.26m), a mark that ranks her #18 in the country.

Coleman also won the shot put with a toss of 47-9 (14.55m).

Teammate Rebecca Tarbert won both the 60 and the 200, running 7.58, and 25.11.


In Bend, Oregon, Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver won her first national title, capturing the USA Track & Field national cross country crown at River’s Edge Golf Course.

Suver, who is entered in next week's US Olympic Team Trials-Marathon in Los Angeles, covered the 10k distance in 36:38, pulling away from the field with one mile to go, defeating 2014 national champ Amy Van Alstine by a seven second margin.

Washington State alum Collier Lawrence finished sixth in 38:14.

The USATF release is available here; complete results were not posted as of 10pm Saturday evening.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of Washington State University, Eastern Washington, and USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

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