Thursday, April 30, 2009

Memories of the UW/WSU dual track & field meet (part 3--The participants speak out)...

One of my first memories of how heated the rivalry between Washington and Washington State is came during my sophomore year at Franklin High School in Seattle when we got free tickets to watch the 1975 edition of the UW/WSU track meet at Husky Stadium.

On a cold, grey Seattle day, we watched the Dawgs and Cougs go at it on the old blacktop track that surrounded Husky Stadium. As the meet progressed, you could see that emotions on both sides, particularly among the sprinters were running high, as there was quite a bit of woofing going on between both teams.

It all came to a head in the 440 featuring Billy Hicks, who would later anchor Washington’s mile relay team to a national championship. Hicks apparently took exception to something one of WSU’s runners said, then proceeded to win the race.

Before crossing the line, Hicks proceeded to turn around and wag his finger at the WSU runners a la Dikembe Mutombo, as if to say “Not in my house!” A Seattle Times photographer captured that moment and it was published in the paper the following day.

The following are memories shared by a number of former athletes from both schools about their experiences competing in this meet, in response to our post on Facebook.

Other than correcting minor grammatical errors, very little editing was thanks all for sharing their thoughts. Special thanks go to Linda Chalich at Washington State & Mike Bruscas from the University of Washington, as well as to all the athletes who responded.

Who from the current teams will create new memories to pass on to future Cougars and Huskies on Saturday? We will find out!

KATE (SOMA) CONWELL, UW (2005 NCAA pole vault champion)

This was always my worst meet of the year so I'm not sure I have any good year, (discus thrower) Will (Conwell) even broke up with me on the bus ride on the way home from the meet. :( Ouch, and that was the same weekend I got my first speeding ticket on the way to catch the bus over to Pullman, followed by a no height at the meet.

BILL AYEARS, WSU (1988 team captain)

In the 1988 meet in Pullman, Julio Richburg (UW) got a rolling start in the 100m and he has never been in that position. A little dog felt the heat of a BIG FAST COUGAR running him down like a National Geographic mommmment (spelling for emphasis). He has never ran that fast and been that scared and lose that badly.

E. GARRY HILL, WSU (current editor, Track & Field News)

My memories of the WSU/UW duals are fond indeed. Why wouldn't they be? In my era the pendulum had swung mightily to our side of the state and we were eating the Huskies alive.

In the one year I managed to eke out a varsity letter, 1968, I remember doing a dopesheet before the meet and calculated that we could win the meet with only 6 (!) guys.

Of course when two of the guys were World Record-caliber people like (distance runner) Gerry Lindgren and (discus thrower) John Van Reenen, there were a lot of guaranteed points…points they'd still get today.

And on a cool windy day in Pullman we instead used a full team and clubbed them 107-38.

CHRISTIAN BELZ, UW (Two-time Swiss Olympian)

It was very unusual to have just two teams competing against each other. Before coming to the US I have never heard of such a thing (apart from the obvious like a soccer game!), so lets say that at least in track & field. No wonder the rivalry is this big when you have one opponent only! It’s so absolutely comparable to what is going on here (in Switzerland) in soccer or ice hockey, and let me tell you, fans are very fanatic here! I was impressed, though, with the intensity the races were run. Of course I remember competing against Bernard Lagat!

Another memory is the long bus trips to Pullman (and back!). That was always a lot of fun and very important for team building, things I miss over here in Europe.

MARTIN BINGISSER, UW (hammer thrower)

At UW, the hammer throw is contested off campus at West Seattle Stadium and we typically hold the hammer throw the night before the dual meet in order to accommodate the meet schedule. As the men started to warm up in 2005, we had about as many competitors (5) as we had spectators. Just as we were about to start, a large bus pulled up in the parking lot and the entire WSU team emptied out. All of a sudden, the ring was surrounded by a sea of crimson and grey, with a few Husky fans intermixed. The crowd was loud and cheering for everyone. As I entered my ring for my first throw, I was booed for the first time in my career. I responded by throwing a personal best and taking the lead.

As the competition continued, the WSU team continued to support their teammates. It also became increasingly clear that I would easily win the competition. I had a lead of nearly 50 feet and the second place competition was going to have to throw a massive PR to even come close to me. The WSU fans realized there was nothing they could do about my lead, so they began to cheer for me too. I had some big fouls in the fourth and fifth rounds and the crowd began rhythmically clapping for my final attempt. It all paid off as I threw another personal best. More importantly, I scored our team's first points. We ended up winning the meet and snapping a four year losing streak.

For me, this is what the dual meet was about. We all wanted to win, but it was as much about having fun and seeing people succeed. When the WSU fans realized they wouldn't win, they still wanted me to succeed.

KEVIN TURNER, UW (triple jumper)

For me it was in May of '79 when I beat my old high school rival Robert Williams in the triple jump on my last jump. It won me Husky of the week honors. I still have the award on my wall.

JIM MC KAY, UW (distance runner)

I'm pretty sure that was the year (1990) (that we were the third ranked dual meet team in the country and WSU was the 2nd. We had just beaten Oregon at home and we went to Pullman with a really good chance of beating them. However, when the day came it was 18 degrees and snowing. (in May!) The wind was blowing like crazy and everyone did really poorly.

One funny memory is John Chaplin checking everyone in. I've never seen an opposing head coach take on those duties - especially such a high profile head coach. He made funny little disparaging comments to everyone. He hardly took a breath to let you tell him your name. I think he was trying to psych us out.

JODY PAGE, WSU (hurdler)

My junior season at WSU Chaplin made me cancel surgery to have my tonsils out to compete the WSU vs UW dual meet. He said he hadn't lost to UW in 25 years & wasn't taking any chances. I competed in the 110m HH, 100m, Long Jump, 4 x 100m & 4 x 400m that week. It was the most physically demanding meet I ever competed in & was the 1st time in my track career that I felt like I was part of a team & tradition. We won the meet & while there were much larger ones I competed in that was the performance I was most proud of in my career at WSU.

KOLLEEN (FAIRES) SEALS, WSU (triple jumper)

I remember my sophomore year duel against UW. UW hosted it and it was not too warm out. At that meet we had 9 PRs set and we swept the jumps. (Rob) Casselman was the coach at the time and when we boarded the bus he was so excited. His speech when longer then normal with lots of happy shouts and yells. It was a great day until the bus broke down on the way home....

COLLIER LAWRENCE, WSU (steeplechaser)

My freshman year they needed bodies in a few races so I got put in the 400 hurdles just because I was a steeplechaser. I don't think I even broke 75.

Last year (2008) I just remember all the distance runners from WSU and UW on the fence by the steeple pit cheering for the entire meet. While there is the rivalry there, is that common ground where we are making friends outside our team and helping make an environment that is fun to compete in.

KIRA HARRISON, UW (distance runner)

My favorite part about the dual meet is how it brings the team together. With so many different events and different kinds of athletes, it can be hard sometimes to focus on the entire team when you are trying to focus on your own events. But being a team is what track is all about and the dual meet always brought everyone to their feet cheering for one another. I love that feeling.

LEE GORDON, WSU (1985 team captain)

The most vivid UW/WSU dual meet year for me was definitely 1984. We always had ever-improving relay teams; both the 400- and 1600-meter relays were made up of long sprinters like Kris Durr and Gabriel Tiacoh, 800 runners like Calvin Harris and Tim Manson, jumpers like Joseph (Taiwo), and sprinters like Dennis Livingston and myself.

The year before, the Huskies were good as well in the 400 relay with the team of Sterling Hinds, Byron Howell, LaNorris Marshall, and Dennis Brown. They placed 2nd at the NCAAs and were calling themselves "the Atomic Dawgs" after the song by George Clinton/Parliament Funkadelic, and were talking all sorts of mess.

Well, we came out to Seattle with our non-sprinter based relay team and spanked them in our dual meet. After that, every now and then I would come across steroid rumors against me and us, but have always felt a perverse satisfaction from the accusations since they came from the beating we gave the "Dawgs" that year!

WILL CONWELL, UW (6th, 2008 US Olympic Trials)

In 2005 Mat Schwinn and I were trying to take 1st and 2nd in the mens discus. The WSU thrower Drew Ulrick was ranked 2nd and had a good chance of ruining our top 2 finish. Mat and I proceeded to intimidate Drew by throwing his discus, asking him if he was sure he knew what he was doing and making several comments on his technique. After being mentally shaken up, he took his first 2 throws and fouled. His 3rd throw was a stand throw of 99-11 which was 80 feet under his Personal Best at the time. That was his best mark of the meet and Mat Schwinn and I ended up placing 1st and 2nd as planned.

DIANA PICKLER, WSU (2008 US Olympian, heptathlon)

When I think back at my memories of the WSU/UW dual I really can’t pick one out. I can remember the feeling I got each time we battled it out. In my career at WSU the Cougars always came out victorious!!

As a freshman coming from Texas I did not get that into the the dual or pay that close attention to who was leading through the comp. I soon learned the rivilary between the two universities, and from that year on I remember running up and down the field going up to coach Sloan saying where are we , how much are we up? How much are they down?? It was great seeing everyone on the team step up and do their part when they were needed.

Now that I have thought back I can remember my two favorite memories. The first one was the 4 x 100 during my junior year. We were not expected to beat them in that race, but we knew that we could. I was third leg watching how good Nicole Hatcher and La Shawnda Porter ran and was so excited after I handed off to (sister) Julie I remember screaming out to her GO!! That was one of the best feelings, seeing all of us running so well and coming out with the victory against the Huskies.

One of my other favorite memories (I believe this was the same year) was watching Sara Burns and Kaylee Gardner both jump over 40 feet in the triple jump. Sara did it first and then Kaylee busted out a big jump, it just showed how the Cougs compete. There is no other meet that brings the Cougs closer together--it is a great way to kick off the championship season.

JULIE PICKLER, WSU (five-time All American)

I had no problem remembering my favorite dual memory. Actually, it ranks as one of my favorite memories from my five years at Washington State track. It was the dual meet held at UW in 2005. The bus took the whole team over to the competition site at West Seattle Stadium and probably created the largest crowd ever at the UW/WSU dual for the hammer throw. The Cougs were everywhere—sitting on top of the shed, in the grass, all over the place! Ben Hampton led the cheers as it was the most Cougar spirit I have ever felt and it was so exciting to have everyone cheers and the WSU throws respond so well. It was so much fun and it is an experience I will never forget.

Photos courtesy University of Washington & Washington State University. Other photos by Paul Merca

1 comment:

Lee said...

Nice blog. This entry has me all fired up about the dual meets Texas has lined up against Texas A&M and Arkansas next year.

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