Sarah Saddleton finally struck gold after a slew of silver, giving the University of Hawaii its sixth straight win in the high jump in yesterday’s Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
TeRina Keenan also grabbed gold for the Rainbow Wahine, defending her title in the discus with a season-best throw of 161 feet, 8 inches.
Saddleton and Keenan are juniors from New Zealand. They helped Hawaii into third place behind Nevada and Utah State after the third day at UH’s Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex.
The meet, which includes women and men (UH has no men’s team), ends today. Hawaii has 37 points, most from the high jump, discus and hammer.
UH senior Careena Onosai threw a personal-best 152 feet, 1 inch to take fifth in discus and Samantha Balentine cleared 5-foot-6 to get sixth in high jump. Balentine scored UH’s first point Wednesday when she was eighth in heptathlon, clearing 5-9.25 in high jump. The sophomore pulled a hamstring warming up for the first heptathlon event.
In the first event yesterday, Hawaii junior Emma MacCorquodale had personal bests on her last two throws to grab a bronze medal in the hammer. MacCorquodale’s 184-11 was good for six points and more than 7 feet farther than her bronze-medal throw from a year ago.
"I had just the right amount of energy," said MacCorquodale, from Nanaimo, British Columbia. "You have that shaky nervousness. Usually it overrides me, but I was able to contain it this time. … I hope I can throw that far at (NCAA) regionals."
Wahine freshman Joanna Franke-Kuhn was sixth, going 174-5 on her final throw to earn three points.
The Rainbow Wahine have won five discus titles since 2003, with Novelle Murray getting three ahead of Keenan. She felt she threw better last year, in part because of final exams this week. She took four Monday, another Tuesday morning and her last Wednesday night.
Her best throw last night came off late and landed on the 50-meter block (164 feet), which is a foul.
"But this is the best I’ve done this year, so that’s something …," Keenan said. "And Careena did really well. That’s her best this year as well. She finished well."
Saddleton came into the meet ranked third in high jump behind Nevada’s La Tijera Avery and Balentine, and in possession of four silver medals — one outdoors and three indoors. Saddleton got through the first six heights without a miss and cleared 5-10.75 on her second try, tying her personal best. The two Nevada jumpers chasing her could do no better than 5-8.5, despite a loud cheering section, which Saddleton said helped her find her focus.
"I stayed in the zone mentally," she said, "wasn’t distracted by anything."
Apparently, it was the difference between silver and gold.
"That’s a new strength of hers," said UH coach Carmyn James. "She’s always been physically talented, but she’s never had the mental toughness that she demonstrated tonight. That’s a huge breakthrough."
The top three in hammer were a repeat from last year, but MacCorquodale was ecstatic with the status quo.
"A personal best no matter what the place would have made me happy," MacCorquodale said. "The placing was a bonus. If I threw what I just threw and got sixth place I’d still be happy."
UH senior Anika Borden did not make the final round in hammer, but the Pearl City graduate will get her degree tomorrow in Hawaiian studies. She was the team’s Scholar-Athlete and Most Improved this season.
When Borden’s collegiate track career was over she sat on a long spectator bench and everyone on it — all family members — came over to hug her.
"Hardest working kid I ever had," said Garrett Collier, UH’s throwing coach.
In today’s final session, Madara Apine, who broke the UH triple jump record last month, will try to improve on last year’s silver-medal performance. Ashley Aitken is one of the top qualifiers in the 800 and 1,500 meters.
Hawaii has finished fifth in the WAC the past two years. Louisiana Tech has won the past six WAC women’s titles outdoors and 12 of the past 13 indoors and outdoors.
Senior Chelsea Hayes, who won the long jump last night, leads LaTech. She is ranked 19th in the world in the 100 meters and, with a time of 11.18, is just 0.01 from qualifying for the Olympic Trials. She also ranks 23rd in the world in the long jump, with a leap of 20-11.25. She jumped 20-10 last night and passed on all three jumps in the final round so she could prepare for sprints.