Seattle Pacific wins GNC title
Fricker wins three events to lead Falcons to championship
MONMOUTH, Ore. -- Seattle Pacific won just four of 21 events -- McKayla Fricker in the 800 meters, the 4x100 and 4x400 relays on Saturday, and Ali Worthen in the heptathlon last week – and scored its other 148 points on depth to come from behind and edge Alaska Anchorage for the Falcons' third consecutive Great Northwest Athletic Conference women's track and field title.
Seattle Pacific, which had to make up about 30 points on the Seawolves coming into Saturday's finals at McArthur Field on the Western Oregon campus, edged UAA for the crown, 188-183.
“We did the math, and we knew where we had to do better, and where we had chances to do better,” coach Karl Lerum said. “There's so many stories when it goes into a two-day track meet like this. It's not just the winners or thbe top three or four. It's kids jumping up and grabbing that point for eighth place that they're not necessarily slated to take. That's important when you win by five.”
At the conclusion of Friday night's preliminary heats and counting the finals that already had been completed, Anchorage was on track to score 198 points, while SPU was seeded for 170 heading into Saturday. But in event by event, the Falcons chipped away.
The last race on the track was the 4x400 relay, and Seattle Pacific quickly took command of that one. Senior Myisha Valentine led it off, and handed the baton to junior Emily Quatier, who put it firmly in the Falcons' control by the time she came out of the first curve. Freshman Jasmine Johnson and sophomore Fricker brought it home in an NCAA provisional time of 3 minutes, 48.79 seconds, nearly a full second faster than they ran just a week ago in Bellingham.
That was the last race on the track, and left Anchorage still on top, 180-176. But the high jump was still in progress. Worthen got into a jump-off with Western Washington's Brittany Grandy. The Viking won it at 5-6 ½, but Worthen's eight points for second, plus four points for fifth place by senior Brittany Aanstad was enough to push the Falcons over the top.
Worthen knew those points were crucial.
“I didn't think about it too much in the jump-off. But definitely warming up and watching the 5K, we knew we were going to need points in the high jump,” she said. “We knew it was going to come down to those points after Natty (Plunkett) and Heidi (Laabs-Johnson) did so well in the 5K.”
That 5,000 was one of the key races. Anchorage was seeded for seven of the top eight spots. Only Plunkett was among seven Seawolves, seeded No. 7, and Laabs-Johnson was seeded 12th – not even in the points. But Laabs-Johnson wound up fourth, and Plunkett moved up to fifth.
Then there was Fricker's performance in the 800. The GNAC indoor 800 champion in February was the No. 2 seed coming into Friday's prelims, but wound up with just the fifth-fastest time. In Saturday's finals, she was boxed in by three Simon Fraser runners, but last, she found an opening with about 200 to go, slipped outside, moved around the pack – and won going away, coming through the wire in 2 minutes, 11.79 seconds. Sarah Sawatzky of Simon Fraser was second in 2:12.50.
“I was looking and looking and looking (for an opening). I knew it would come, but it needed to come sooner,” said Fricker, who was hoping to better her NCAA provisional qual time of 2:11.57 that had her on the national bubble coming into the weekend. “They had me so boxed in, there was nowhere for me to move. Finally, there was an opening. I made a move, and since it was so slow, I had the kick, and I just went for the finish.”
Valentine led the SPU sprint crew with a second-place finish in the 400 and a third in the 200. She combined with sophomore BryAnne Wochnick, Worthen and Kishia Mitchell for a meet-record time of 47.22 in the 4x100 relay.
Senior Natalie Nobbs polished off her career with a second-place finish and a PR time of 1:04.37 in the 400 hurdles. The Falcons also got a big day from junior Trinna Miranda, who went 37-5 ¼ in the triple jump to go from a non-scoring 10th seed to picking up four points for a fifth-place finish."