PULLMAN, Wash. -- Washington State University's Whitney Evans won the women's high jump title and Ellannee Richardson finished second in the heptathlon Saturday at the NCAA Div. I Men's and Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships at A.G. Spanos Sports Complex on the Sacramento State campus.
Evans, a redshirt senior from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, won the women's high jump with a PR clearance of 6-feet, 1 inch (1.86m), which she cleared on her second attempt. When the bar moved to 6-1 1/2 (1.89m) Chaunte Howard from Georgia Tech and Jessica Johnson from Arkansas joined Evans in a battle for the title. None of the three cleared at that height and because both Howard and Johnson had missed attempts prior to the 6-1 1/4 height, Evans won the title and her seventh All-America honor.
It has been a steady climb for the talented Evans who started with a fourth place finish as a freshman in 1999, and a third place finish as a redshirt sophomore in 2001. At last year's outdoor and at the 2003 indoor championships Evans finished second. A spring of little or no practice due to Achilles tendonitis in her left foot and patella tendonitis in her right knee kept Evans working hard in the weight room and practicing a lot of visualization techniques. It obviously was enough.
"I couldn't go out any other way, to get a PR and a national championship feels great," Evans said. "She (Howard) was definitely a threat. She had jumped 1.89 before so I knew she was cable of clearing it again."
Cougar Head Coach Rick Sloan knew she was capable too. "Chaunte is an athlete we recruited. She is a young jumper who can make it by a mile on one jump and miss badly on the next jump. I knew she had the capability of making 1.89m. She has made that height this year. So, we were fortunate and Whitney did such an outstanding job."
"It's absolutely amazing what Whitney has been through over the five years at Washington State," Sloan continued. "She performed very successfully at every national championship meet with the exception of the one indoor meet when she was hurt. For her to come here to jump a lifetime best and win the national championship, it is perfect. She has battled a knee injury and this year Achilles tendonitis all year long. Since the indoor season, she has not practiced actually jumping once. She really showed her mental toughness tonight."
Richardson, a redshirt senior from Gladstone, Ore., moved past Idaho's Angela Whyte for second place in the heptathlon but could not catch Georgia junior Hyleas Fountain, the event winner with 5,999 points. Richardson's 5,839 points topped her PR and school record of 5,821 points set at the Pac-10 Championships in 2002 and earned her her fifth All-America certificate. Whyte took third place with 5,745 points.
"Hyleas definitely brought her `A' game," Richardson said after the competition. "She competed really well in every event and I was not able to do that. At the same time, I have to be happy with my performance because it was a personal best. There were a couple of events I know I could have done better. I had wind here and there. My javelin was struggling. It has been struggling the entire year. But, there are not any excuses."
WSU's Diana Pickler, a freshman from Sasche, Texas, fell in the final event of the two-day heptathlon, the 800m, and watched her sixth-place standing and All-America recognition disappear. Pickler ended with 4,586 points and last among the 27 competitors after ending the first day in ninth.
Richardson started Saturday with her personal-best first day total of 3,432 points which was third place. She long jumped equaled to her non-wind-aided PR at 19-feet, 2 3/4 inches (5.86m) and second only to Fountain. A sore back has caused Richardson to struggle in the javelin all the year and Saturday was no exception. She threw the javelin 130-10 (38.89m), nine feet less than her season-best and 20-feet off her PR. Richardson finished fifth in the javelin with Fountain fourth with a toss of 131-7. Whyte threw 124-0 but still maintained 16-point lead over Richardson going into the final event.
"She (Fountain) had a horrible first throw and a horrible third throw," Cougar Coach Rick Sloan said. "On her second attempt, she threw a lifetime best by a significant margin and that closed the door. If she had the same type of throw on her second attempt, I think we could have pulled this off."
As everyone expected, Richardson gave the 800m race her all, winning the event with a PR time of 2:12.04 and moved past Whyte into second place in the final standings. Whyte, hampered by a sore ankle, finished eighth in the 800m race with a time of 2:19.91. Fountain, with a lock on first place, cruised in the 800m, finished with a time of 2:25.87, 17th among the field.
"Ellannee did a terrific job running a lifetime best at almost 2:12 flat," Sloan said. "She gave a marvelous effort. There were just too many points to make up. The difference in the meet was the javelin. Ellannee just hasn't got back to her old form all season. If she could have thrown 145 feet, I think we still could have won it."
Pickler showed a solid performance with a long jump of 18-10 3/4 (5.76m), fifth-longest on the day, and a javelin throw of 123-4 (37.60m) to start the 800m in sixth place. Running in the second, and fastest heat, Pickler was jostled on the final lap and met with disaster.
"Diana was in a position where she just had to compete with about five others," Sloan said. "She got bumped going into the final lap, stepped to the inside, her legs buckled on her and she went down. That's a shame because she was in a position to score and be All-American. So, we had disappointments."
Anna Blue, a senior from Olympia, Wash., finished sixth in the women's 5000m with a time of 16 minutes, 21.92 seconds, and earned her first All-America honors. Blue set school records this year in the 10k (34:25.63), 3000m (9:42.22i), and 5000m (16:14.55). Stanford's Lauren Fleshman won the 5k in a time of 15:24.06.
"The race came out fast. I knew if I went out too fast, I was not going to be able to hang at the end," Blue said. "I just stayed back and followed the race plan. It was warmer tonight than in the semifinals and I made sure to run my race and it worked perfectly."
Blue passed three runners in the final two laps including passing UC-Santa Barbara's Katie Appenrodt twice on the final lap.
"I had no idea what position I was in, but I saw the Stanford girl (Sara Bei) fall back and I thought I could get her. So, I just kicked it in and held nothing back," Blue said. "The Santa Barbara runner and I pushed each other on the final lap. I wasn't going to let her get me tonight. I was very determined."
Blues' performance was the first All-American finish for first-year Cougar distance coach Jason Drake.
"The last lap Anna really hung in there well," Drake said. "Before the race I said there were probably about five women who run faster than everyone else and that if people went with them, they would be coming back. That is what happened."
The Cougar women earned 10 points with Evans' win, eight points from Richardson's second-place heptathlon finish and three points from Blue's sixth-place in the 5k for a total of 21 points for 12th place, the highest placing since 1986 when the Cougars finished 10th. LSU won the women's team title with 64 points.
Dudley's sixth-place intermediate hurdles finish earned the Cougar men three points and added to Darion Powell's fourth-place decathlon finish, WSU's men end the meet with eight points and tied for 27th. Arkansas won the men's title with 59 points.