June 10, 2006
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Washington State University had three competitors score Saturday in the final day of competition at the NCAA Div. I Track & Field Championships at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex.
Diana Pickler reached a lifetime-best of 5,757 points for third place in the heptathlon. Julie Pickler took fifth place with 5,604 points. The Pac-10 heptathlon champion also took the NCAA title as Arizona State sophomore Jacquelyn Johnson scored 5,939 points. Missouri senior Tracy Partain finished second with 5,827 points.
The Picklers, juniors who are identical twins from Sachse, Texas, reached outdoor All-America status for the second consecutive year. Diana Pickler's 2006 total is the second-highest heptathlon mark in WSU history and she improved on her 2005 sixth-place finish. Julie Pickler also finished fifth in the heptathlon at the national meet last year.
"The Picklers battled tooth and nail all the way through this thing," WSU Head Coach Rick Sloan said. "Diana put up a great score and barely held off the Virginia Tech girl (Saskia Triesscheijn) who came within four points of her (5,753 points for fourth place). But I was really happy for her to get the third place finish and for Julie to get fifth. Waking up this morning Julie's plantar fascia was shot and already hurting her. It was hard for her to finish her long jump run. She did a great job to get 5600 points. I was proud of her the way she just hung in there. They both really did a great job and competed very well.
John Cassleman (junior, Pullman) took fifth place in the men's 400m hurdles in a time of 49.55 seconds. Cassleman came on strong in the last 100m, moving from seventh place and leaned at the finish line to place fifth. His lifetime-best time in the intermediate hurdles is 49.53, run at the WSU-UW Dual Meet in Pullman in April.
"John ran a great race," Sloan said. "He messed up a couple of hurdles a little bit but recovered nicely from it and passed two guys on the run-in from the last hurdle to the line. It was a typical John finish, just going like crazy at the end of it. It was a great run by him. Two great runs in the semifinal (49.77) and in the final at 49.55. He really did a great job of competing and dealing with the NCAA pressure that comes with this meet. He's excited for next year already."
Florida State won the men's team title and Auburn won the 2006 women's crown. The Washington State women finished tied for 25th with 10 points while the Cougar men's 10 points placed them in a tie for 26th.
In the heptathlon long jump, Diana Pickler leaped 19-feet, 3 1/2 inches (5.88m) on her third attempt, which was tied for fourth-longest on the day.
"Diana's first long jump was a foul but well-over 20-feet," Sloan said. "She was pretty nervous all day, for whatever reason, but she got hyped-up and went over 19-feet on a very conservative second attempt. Her third jump loosened up and she reached her lifetime-best legal jump."
Julie Pickler reached 18-9 3/4 (5.73m) on her second long jump attempt which was three-way tie for 13th. After this event, Diana remained in third place overall but Julie dropped to sixth.
"On Julie's second jump her step was a little out and she jammed her foot on the board so that hurt her knee and her plantar fascia," Sloan said. "She had a mid-19-foot jump at the end but it was a foul. Because that knee is her plant leg in the javelin, she was doing well but just not finishing the throw and hurt her distance a bit. In the 800m she did the best she could on that knee."
Diana Pickler had a PR javelin throw of 132-1 (40.27m) which was third-farthest of the heptathlon. Julie Pickler tossed the spear 122-10 (37.45m), 10th overall. In the seventh and final event of the heptathlon, the 800m run, Diana Pickler ran a time of 2-minutes, 20.15 seconds which was 11th while Julie Pickler's time of 2:24.23 was 20th overall.
"Diana really cranked out her second javelin throw and reached a lifetime-best," Sloan said. "Her first two events today were lifetime-bests. She came out and ran a very committed 800m race, finishing less than a seconds away from her lifetime-best time. Julie nearly called it a season and not come to the NCAAs two and a half weeks ago because her foot was in such bad shape. To come and perform at the national level and get fifth place in a very competitive heptathlon, that is a remarkable job on her part. It shows how strong mentally and how strong as a competitor she is to be able to do this."
The day was not joyous for senior pole vaulter Tamara Diles (Bellevue, Wash.) who finished tied for 13th after clearing only the opening height of 12-feet, 11 1/2 inches (3.95m) in Saturday's final. Diles, the school record-holder at 13-11 1/4 (4.25m), had cleared 13-feet, 1 1/2 inches (4.00m) in Thursday's qualifying competition.
"Tamara made the opening bar very cleanly," Sloan said. "Her first attempt at 4.05m (13-3 1/2), the pole she was on was a little too light and she blew through it (the attempt) and kicked the bar a little bit. So we decided to go to a bigger pole and the first jump her step was under by a foot and she got jammed on it and didn't get into the pit. Down to her third attempt, I told her to just remain rhythmic, not press it, and just keep her run where it is. She ran great, did exactly what she was supposed to do, got her step on, came in strong, got on the pole, the pole was moving great, started her swing and then let it go a little bit, barely touched the bar but enough to knock it off. She continued and went much higher than where the bar was. I think if she had made that jump, settled down, I think she would have been NCAA champion. We needed to get past that jump. I was expecting her to jump 14-feet today. It's sad and it breaks my heart."