Friday, May 12, 2017

Conference championship weekend awaits Washington's eight Division I/II schools...

It’s championship week for eight of the nine NCAA Division I and II schools in the state of Washington and here is a short preview of what to expect (Gonzaga is in the West Coast Conference, which does not sponsor a championship in track; they will send a select group of athletes to Saturday’s Portland Twilight meet at Lewis & Clark College, primarily against post-collegiate athletes):


GREAT NORTHWEST ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (Monmouth, Oregon)

Western Washington, Central Washington, Saint Martin’s, and Seattle Pacific head down to Monmouth, Oregon for the GNAC championship meet Friday and Saturday on the campus of Western Oregon University.

In the women’s team competition, Seattle Pacific goes in as a slight favorite to win yet another conference title, led by freshman Scout Cai (left/photo by Paul Merca) who won the heptathlon title last week.

Cai is entered in the high jump, pole vault and javelin. The Falcons are also looking for big points from Kyra Brannan in the long jump and sprints; Geneva Lehnert in the high jump; Mary Charleson in the 5000; Lani Taylor in the 100, and Sammi Markham in the shot put and javelin.

Western Washington will be led by Olympic Trials qualifier and former NCAA D2 javelin champ Bethany Drake, who has yet to win a GNAC title in her final opportunity this weekend.  She will be joined by a trio of defending champions: pole vault champ Anna Paradee, triple jump champ Jasmine McMullin, and discus thrower Megan Mortensen.

Central Washington will look for points from long hurdlers Emily Bland and Ali Anderson, and from 100 meter hurdler Mariyah Vongsaveng.  McKenna Emmert looks for a top-3 finish in the pole vault, while the Wildcats look for podium finishes from Angelique Whistocken in the javelin, and Alexa Shindruck in the 5000 and 10000.

Saint Martin’s returns defending hammer champion Kirby Neale, and a pair of potential national championship qualifiers in the javelin in Jona Spiller and Deanna Avalos.

On the men’s side, Western Washington will look for big points from their field event specialists, namely from Brandon Pless in the shot put and hammer; Gordie Kordas in the pole vault; Mark Seely in the triple jump; and, Alex Barry in the javelin.

Western’s best chances on the track lie with Andrew Wise in the steeplechase, and Cody McCranie in the 800 and 1500.

Central Washington will lean on thrower Armando Tafoya in the hammer, shot and discus.  Tafoya goes into the championships with the leading mark in the hammer at 193-3 (58.91m).

The Wildcats also look for podium finishes from Kyler Ooley in the sprints, Kodiak Landis in the long jump, and Trevaughn Scott in the 400 hurdles.

Though he’s won both the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships in the high jump, Mikel Smith of Saint Martin’s has never won a GNAC outdoor title. The Saints are also looking for points in the hammer from Kauanoe Vanderpoel and Mitch Wilkens, who are ranked second and third in the conference in that event.

The link to live results from the GNAC is available here; the GNAC’s meet preview is available here, along with other related links.

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (Edinburg, Texas)

Seattle University heads to Edinburg for Friday and Saturday’s Western Athletic Conference championship meet on the campus of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The Redhawks got off to a good start in the heptathlon, with Mandie Maddux winning her second straight title Thursday, as she scored 4999 points, missing 5000 meters by 2/100ths of a second in the final event, the 800.  In the 800, she ran a huge personal best of 2:26.27.

They also got a second place finish Thursday night from Olivia Stein in the women’s 10000, as she ran 37:31.40.  In the men’s 10000, Tyler Flannery finished eighth in 33:14.69.

Jacques Hebert goes into the meet as the defending champion in the men’s 1500.  Matt Seidel, who was second in the 10000 last year, finished a disappointing tenth Thursday in 33:38.87.  Seidel finished second in last year’s meet in the 5000 as well.

Lila Rice, who was third in the 1500 last year, looks to move up another step or two on the podium in that event.

The link to results from the WAC championships are available here.

BIG SKY CONFERENCE (Sacramento, California)

Eastern Washington University heads to Sacramento’s Hornet Stadium on the campus of Sacramento State University for the Big Sky Conference championships Friday and Saturday.

The multi-events portion of the meet concluded Thursday, and the Eagles’ Kendra Hamm finished seventh with a school record 4857 points.

Hamm started the day by long jumping 18-6.5 (5.65m), then threw the javelin 92-0 (28.04m).  She finished the day with a 2:21.22 800 meter run.

Teammate Dominique Butler was 15th with a two-day score of 4302 points. Elizabeth Venzon led a 1-2 Sacramento State finish with a score of 5322 points.

The Eagles return one defending champ on the men’s side in 100 meter man Jeremy VanAssche.  They also could get big points in the long jump from reigning indoor champ Keshun McGee and 2015 indoor champ Trenton Osborn.

On the women’s side, the Eagles will be led by indoor champs Tierra White in the high jump and Rebecca Tarbert in the 100.

The Eagles are also looking for big points from pole vaulters Erin Clark and Elizabeth Prouty, and from 2015 NCAA cross country qualifier Sarah Reiter in the 5000 and 10000, even though the senior has been fighting injuries over the last few months.


PAC-12 CONFERENCE (Eugene, Oregon)

Washington and Washington State head down Interstate 5 to Historic Hayward Field Saturday and Sunday on the campus of the University of Oregon for the Pac-12 championship meet.

Oregon State was originally scheduled to host the meet at the Whyte Track & Field Center, but with the seating and press box area still not complete, the main portion of the meet was moved down the road from Corvallis to Eugene. The Beavers did host the conference multi-events championship last week.

For the first time, the final day of the Pac-12 championship meet will be aired live on the Pac-12 Network Sunday (Comcast Seattle channel 628) starting at 3 pm, with Paul Sunderland (play x play), Tom Feuer & Jordan Kent (analysts), and Jill Savage (reporter) calling the action.

Both the Husky men and women look to finish in the top half of the conference, while the Cougars aim to improve their placing from last year’s meet in Seattle.

On the women’s side, the Cougars have started out well, with Alissa Brooks-Johnson winning her second heptathlon title last week.

Washington State’s lone returning defending champion from last year is CJ Allen in the 400 hurdles, where he looks to win his third career Pac-12 title. Besides Brooks-Johnson, the only other Cougar on the squad that’s won a conference title is pole vaulter Kristine Felix, who won in 2013 at USC.

The Huskies return Liz Quick (left/photo by Paul Merca) in the pole vault, along with 2015 vault champ Kristina Owsinski.  The duo are tied for the conference lead with a mark of 14-3.25 (4.35m).

2016 10000m champ Katie Knight will not defend, as she will only run the 5000. The Dawgs will be without the defending men’s 5000m champion Colby Gilbert, who is out with an injury.

Amy-Eloise Neale, the reigning Pac-12 cross country champion, has a legitimate shot at winning both the 1500 and 5000, as she goes into the meet ranked number one in the conference.  In a possible preview of the 1500 at last week’s Oregon Twilight, she beat #2 ranked Katie Rainsberger of Oregon, 4:11.02 to 4:11.53, in a race won by Canadian Olympian Sheila Reid.

Washington State’s Brock Eager has led the conference in the hammer from the start of the season, and is favored in that event.

Among Washingtonians who could contend for titles this weekend include Tacoma’s Marcus Chambers of Oregon in the 400; Olympia’s Brooke Feldmeier of Oregon in the 800; Cobert's John Dressel of Colorado in the 5000; and Newport resident Aaron Castle of Arizona in the shot put. Federal Way's Hannah Cunliffe of Oregon, the NCAA champ in the 60, has only run relay legs this season, but is listed an an entry on the Ducks' 4x100 team, as well as in the 100 and 200. She is the defending conference champion in both dashes.

The Pac-12’s meet preview is available here, while the link to live results is here.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, Seattle University, Eastern Washington University, the University of Washington, Washington State University, the Pac-12 Conference, the Big Sky Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference contributed to this report.

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