April 24, 2014
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Already with 16 national qualifying performances, two of them automatic, and seven school records this season, Western Washington University makes its only home appearance Saturday (9:30 a.m.) at the 33rd Annual Ralph Vernacchia Track and Field meet being held at Civic Stadium.
Besides WWU, the field includes Central Washington, Club Northwest, Everett CC, Green River CC, Kajaks, Klicks, Northwest, Olympic CC, Saint Martin's, Seattle U., Seattle Pacific, Simon Fraser, Skagit Valley CC, Trinity Lutheran, Trinity Western, Valley Royals and Whatcom Tesseract.
"Our athletes are looking forward to performing in front of a home crowd," said WWU head coach Pee Wee Halsell (27th year). "It looks to be a good meet with some solid competition, and hopefully the weather will be good. Right now, for us it's about hitting times and marks."
WWU has had 14 national provisional qualifying efforts and two automatic. The automatic qualifiers for the Vikings are both in the women's javelin, which begins at 1:30 p.m. They are Bethany Drake (So., Sandy, Ore.) with a school-record throw of 169-6 and Katie Reichert (So., Longview/Kelso) with a mark of 162-8, the third best in WWU history.
Drake, who earned USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Year honors earlier this spring, is first in the NCAA Division II national rankings (tied for 13th in all divisions) and Reichert is fourth.
The Vikings' Katelyn Steen (Jr., Sammamish/Eastlake) is a provisional qualifier in three events. They are the women's 1,500 meters (4:34.98), 5,000 (16:59.03) and 3,000 steeplechase (10:44.03) in which she ranks fifth nationally. Steen also set a WWU record in the 2,000 steeplechase (6:56.78).
Provisional qualifiers in two events for WWU are Frank Catelli (So., Sequim) and Logan Myers (Jr., Olympia/Capital). Catelli ranks fifth nationally in both the men's shot put and discus with respective school-record marks of 58-7 1/2 and 173-11. Myers has qualified in both the men's 110 hurdles (14.65) and high jump (6-8 3/4).
The Vikings' Tanya Bjornsson (Sr., Ferndale) broke her own school record with a leap of 19-4 3/4 to qualify in the women's long jump and is hoping to qualify in the 100 hurdles where her season's best time of 14.44 is just .04 seconds off the provisional standard.
Lindsay Wells (Sr., Seattle/Nathan Hale) met the provisional standard in the women's hammer with a mark of 179-5, as did Alex Donigian (Jr., Mission Viejo, CA/Trabucco Hills) in the men's 100 with a time of 10.49. Both bettered their own school records.
Rounding out the WWU provisional qualifiers are Peter Maguire (So., Boise, ID) in the men's 400 hurdles (53.98), Cheyenna Pinley (Jr., Bellingham/Squalicum) in the women's pole vault (11-10), and men's javelin throwers Slater Hirst (Jr., Shoreline/Kings) (209-4) and John Haskin (So., Baibridge Island) (191-11).
The Vernacchia meet, which began in 1982, was originally known as the WWU Triangular or Quadrangular, depending upon the number of teams entered. In the mid-90s, it was renamed to honor Vernacchia, who coached cross country and track and field at WWU for 14 years from 1973 to 1987.
Vernacchia, who coached the Vikings to seven NAIA District 1 championships in track, retired in 2011 after nearly 40 years as a professor in the WWU Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
Recognized as one of the nation's top sports psychologists, Vernacchia has served USA Track & Field as the co-chair of the Sports Medicine and Sciences Psychological Services subcommittee and was the psychologist for the 2000 USA Track & Field Olympic team in Sydney, Australia.
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