The Seattle University track and field team will leave first thing Wednesday morning for Humble, Texas, to compete in the 2012 Great West Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Houston Baptist University Thursday through Saturday, May 10-12, at Turner Stadium.
In the preseason coaches' poll released last month by the conference office, the Seattle U women were picked to finish in a tie for fourth place, while the men were picked to finish in sixth place. However, with the performances that have been submitted so far in the outdoor track and field season, Seattle U head coach Trisha Steidl believes that the Redhawks can exceed those expectations if they show their best effort over the three-day meet.
"Overall, as a team, we look really strong. We have been able to see the progress in the last few meets, peaking towards where our focus has been, which is this upcoming meet," Steidl said. "If people continue to do what they are capable of, take care of themselves, and handle the heat well, then we should look pretty good this weekend."
The first day of the championships will feature Kaytie Bateman (Chehalis, Wash.) in the first four events of the heptathlon, plus she will compete in the javelin throw, as will Renate Wescott (Puyallup, Wash.), who comes into the meet fifth on the conference performance list in the event. Wescott will also compete in the hammer throw Thursday, as will Bethany Richards (Shoreline, Wash.), currently seventh on the GWC performance list after continually improving her own school record mark over the past month, and Amanda Luna (Beavercreek, Ore.). Josh Walters (Sacramento, Calif.) will participate in the men's hammer throw.
Thursday's action will conclude with the 10,000 meter run. Erik Barkhaus (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) has the best time of the season within the conference coming into the championship meet, and Steidl believes he can win the event. She also believes that Matthew McClement (Bellingham, Wash.) and Graham Kinzel-Grubbs (Portland, Ore.) can also make a significant impact, as can Meghan Arigo (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) in the women's 10,000 meter run.
"The focus for Barkhaus is to win the 10k. Honestly, it should not matter who else is in that event, as long as his focus is on that race, he should be first across the finish line. We have done heat training and will do other things at the meet to be as prepared as possible. Matthew is capable of a better experience than he had the first time he ran this race, and that is what I am looking for from him," said Steidl.
Friday's competition will begin with Bateman concluding the heptathlon, as well as Katie Tougas (Edmonds, Wash.) and Cali Cull (Marysville, Wash.) competing in the women's long jump. Tougas has the second-best mark in the event within the conference coming into the week. Nick Bever (Seattle, Wash.) will compete in the men's long jump, while Richards and Sara Blakely (Spokane, Wash.) will take part in the women's shot put. Stephen Squatrito (Phoenix, Ariz.) is third on the GWC performance list in the pole vault heading into the championships.
The preliminaries of those track events which require qualification for Saturday's finals will also take place Friday, starting with the 1500 meter run, featuring Sarah Bolce (Sacramento, Calif.) and Jennifer Stolle (Seattle, Wash.) for the women and Kelton Sears (Maple Valley, Wash.) for the men. In the 400 meter dash, Austin Thummel-Gravitt (Puyallup, Wash.) is seventh on the conference performance list, while Elena Collins (Eugene, Ore.) and Candice de Sauvage (Foster City, Calif.) will look to help the Redhawk women by qualifying for the Saturday finals.
Zach Stanfield (Adna, Wash.) is third on the conference performance list in the 100 meter dash and second in the 200 meter dash. Eric Patterson-Floyd (Seattle, Wash.) will also compete for Seattle U in the 100 meter dash, while Zachary Schlachter (Tigard, Ore.) will take part in the 200 meter dash. Tougas and Meeghan Bergmann (Portland, Ore.) will compete for the Redhawks in the women's 200 meter dash preliminaries.
Dan Auld (Eugene, Ore.) brings the seventh-best time in the conference into the 800 meter run preliminaries, with Colton Misono (Newcastle, Calif.) also competing in that event. Samuel Engle (Portland, Ore.) will attempt to qualify for the Saturday finals in the men's 400 meter hurdles.
The final event of Saturday's session is the 3000 meter steeplechase, an event in which both Hannah Mittelstaedt (Maple Valley, Wash.) and Sears have competed in just once during the 2012 outdoor track and field season. However, Steidl is confident that both runners will do well in the event to give their squads much-needed points for the team standings.
Bateman will begin Saturday by competing in the high jump, while Bever brings the fourth-best mark in the conference into the triple jump competition. The first event on the track is the 4x100 meter relay, with the Redhawk men carrying the best time in the conference into the championships, while the women, including senior Alyssa Lout (Tempe, Ariz.), look to improve on their fifth-place standing on the performance list.
The finals of the 1500 meter run, 400 meter dash, 100 meter dash, 800 meter run, 400 meter hurdles, and 200 meter dash will be held in the early afternoon Saturday. Meanwhile, Richards and Blakely will compete in the women's discus throw, while Cull will look to repeat her winning performance from the indoor championships in the triple jump.
"Cali has a little more competition this time around, but I think she will rise to the occasion. She feels that she needs to defend her indoor title, and that feeling should be a motivating factor," said Steidl. "Bethany should continue to break her own records; there is still room for improvement, as she is just starting to get rolling."
Barkhaus brings the second-best time in the conference into the 5000 meter run, but his, as well as Kinzel-Grubbs's and McClement's, ability to recover from Thursday's 10,000 meter run will be key as to their performances in the second-longest track event of the meet. Jeff Baklund (Auburn, Wash.) will also compete in the men's 5000 meter run. Mittelstaedt will hope to have enough left from the previous night's steeplechase in order to score for the females in the women's 5000 meter run.
The meet will conclude with the 4x400 meter relay, where the men have the third-fastest time in the conference and the women are sixth on the performance list heading into the championships. Both teams finished sixth in last year's conference championships, but hopes are high for improvement on both sides as Seattle U competes in the Great West Conference for the final time before moving to the Western Athletic Conference next year.
"We have a lot of people who have the possibility of winning, they just need to bring everything they have in their arsenal that day," Steidl said. "Things are really coming together for the relays, and I know they want to run their fastest times this week. I want people to focus on scoring as many points as they can, and if they do that, the team scores will come together."
Live results will be available through the track and field schedule page on GoSeattleU.com, with daily recaps also posted on the Seattle U official athletics website.