Feb. 13, 2009

 

Courtesy of Washington Athletics

One of the premiere indoor track meets in America in terms of quality and size is nearly at hand, as Washington hosts the Husky Classic this Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Dempsey Indoor. Over 50 college teams and more than a thousand athletes will be competing on the track and in the field events in a meet that annually produces some of the fastest times in the nation and churns out more than a hundred NCAA qualifying marks.

Things will be underway early on Saturday, as the first running events are scheduled for 7:30 a.m., with the field events beginning at 10 a.m. However, the top heats in each running event are conducted separately beginning at approximatley 2:45 p.m., giving fans a chance to watch dozens of the nation's elite college track athletes in one high-quality heat after another. Admission is free for all spectators.

Last year's Husky Classic produced 14 NCAA Automatic qualifying marks and 98 more Provisional marks, and with the caliber of teams in attendance both of those numbers could be surpassed this year. On the men's side, nine of the Top-25 teams in the USTFCCCA rankings will be in attendance, including No. 2 Arizona State, No. 3 Oregon, No. 6 Florida State, and No. 7 Texas. BYU (ranked 12th), Michigan (13), Stanford (16), Arizona (22), UCLA (23), Oklahoma State, Colorado, Alabama, Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Washington State and many other teams will also be sending large or small groups on the men's side.

The women's field will feature seven ranked teams, led by No. 3 Oregon, No. 6 Florida State, No. 9 Penn State, and No. 10 Arizona State. Additional ranked teams include Arizona (12), BYU (18), and Stanford (19). Rounding out the stellar field will be women from Colorado, Georgia Tech, California, Oklahoma, Nevada, Utah, and Washington State.

Among the many highlights Saturday will be Husky senior sprinter Jordan Boase making his first home appearance since last February. The four-time All-American and Olympic Trials semifinalist is set to run the 400-meters for the first time since the Trials last summer. Boase opened his season last week in Boise, Idaho with the third-fastest 200-meter time in the NCAA this year. He will have NCAA Regional finalist Jeff Gudaitis running with him in the final heat of the 400m. The two are also scheduled to run on UW's 4x400m relay in the day's last race.

The final heat of the men's 800-meter run should also be an incredible race, as 2008 NCAA Champion Jacob Hernandez of Texas is entered with the person he edged out for the title last year, Oregon's Andrew Wheating, a 2008 Beijing Olympian. Washington's senior Austin Abbott, who was seventh in the NCAA final last year, will look to play a spoiler role. Fast times could also be turned in from Jake Schmitt in the 5,000-meters and Joseph Turner in the top heat of the 200-meter dash.

Junior Katie Follett, a three-time All-American, will as usual be one to watch among the Husky women. Follett will run the 3,000-meters against defending NCAA Champion Susan Kuijken of Florida State in a field that also includes Husky cross country All-American Mel Lawrence. The women's mile run features UW freshman Christine Babcock, the national high school 1600m record holder, in her first collegiate mile run against a field loaded with All-Americans and NCAA finalists.

In the women's 5,000-meter run, Colorado's Jenny Barringer is back two weeks after breaking the Dempsey Indoor 3,000-meter record in a time of 8:53.88 that ranks seventh in the world this year. A 2008 U.S. Olympian in the steeplechase, Barringer will head a field that includes UW All-American Anita Campbell and sophomore Lauren Saylor, who placed 41st at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

The field events will also be littered with conference and national champions and All-American caliber athletes. Washington athletes to watch out for include senior vaulter Jared O'Connor, junior Zack Midles and freshman Angus Taylor in the weight throw and Elisa Bryant in the women's weight. Seniors Lara Jones and Andrea Peterson lead UW's efforts in the women's pole vault, while freshmen Kelly McNamee, already fourth in UW's high jump Top-10, will look to improve on her 5-8 college best. Freshman Johri Fogerson will make his official UW high jump debut. The Husky football safety from O'Dea High School is a former Washington state high jump champ. Also competing in a wide variety of jumps is freshman Jeremy Taiwo, who broke the school's heptathlon record two weeks ago.

Meet entries and the event schedule are tentative until Thursday night.