Track Athletes Hot In Blazing Sun Of Sacramento
David Ribich (left) placed ninth in a close, tactical men's 1,500 meter race while Bethany Drake threw to a ninth place finish in the women's javelin. Photos by Paul Merca.
David Ribich (left) placed ninth in a close, tactical men's 1,500 meter race while Bethany Drake threw to a ninth place finish in the women's javelin. Photos by Paul Merca.

Monday, June 26, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The weather was hot. The competition was even hotter and a handful of GNAC athletes turned in sizzling performances at the 2017 USA Track and Field Outdoor National Championships, held at Sacaramento State University’s Hornet Stadium June 22-25.

The Division II national champion in the men's 1,500 meters ended up being a last minute qualifier. Western Oregon senior-to-be David Ribich was not included on the list of accepted qualifiers for the men’s 1,500 meters until Monday night, but the GNAC Male Athlete of the Year proved that he certainly belonged among the group of elite performers.

Running in the third heat of Thursday’s preliminaries, Ribich surged in a fast field that included the likes of 2016 Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz and 2012 1,500-meter Olympian Andrew Wheating. Ribich finished just short of his season best with a time of 3:40.95, fifth place in the heat, and qualified for the finals as the second fastest time qualifier. Ribich finished just behind Centrowitz, who was third in 3:40.79, and ahead of Wheating, who placed seventh in 3:41.40.

As often happens on the big stage, Saturday’s final was a tactical affair. Ribich closed with a ninth place finish, clocking a time of 3:45.44 that was just a half second short of the top-seven. Robby Andrews won the event with a time of 3:43.29.

Thursday’s women’s javelin competition was a good one for Western Washington alumni. Fresh off of her Division II national championship and selection as the GNAC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Bethany Drake threw to a ninth place finish with a best of 160 feet, 10 inches. Her former teammate, 2016 WWU graduate Katie Reichert, placed 14th with a best effort in the preliminaries of 146 feet, 3 inches. Reichert has entered the competition with the No. 6 best mark in the U.S. Jena Winger repeated as the USATF champion with a winning mark of 206 feet.

Saturday’s women’s shot put proved to be a struggle for the GNAC record holder. Concordia’s McKenzie Warren finished with only one fair throw in the preliminaries and finished 17th with a mark of 50 feet, 0.75 inches. Raven Saunders of Ole Miss repeated as USATF champion with a winning mark of 64 feet, 10 inches.

In Sunday’s men’s high jump, Saint Martin’s Mikel Smith faced the challenge of an opening height that was near his lifetime best. Smith cleared the starting bar at 7 feet, 1 inch, on his third attempt, an outdoor season best by two inches. Smith missed all three attempts at 7 feet, 3 inches, putting him in a four-way tie for 10th place. Bryan McBride was the winner with a clearance of 7 feet, 6.5 inches.

USATF JUNIOR NATIONALS: Seattle Pacific freshman Alyssa Foote also earned her chance to compete in the hot California sun, but did so on the under-20 stage. Competing in the USATF Junior Outdoor Nationals, also held at Hornet Stadium, Foote placed 11th in the women’s 5,000 meters with a time of 17:40.65. Samantha Drop of Georgia was the junior national champion in a time of 16:56.91.

GERMAN U23 CHAMPIONSHIPS: Alaska Anchorage’s Vanessa Aniteye continued her season back in her home country, putting together an impressive performance at the German U23 Championships in Leverkusen earlier this month. The native of Norderstedt placed second in the women’s 400 meters with a lifetime best of 53.69 seconds. The performance well ahead of her GNAC season best of 54.88 seconds, which won the GNAC Outdoor Championships. Had the time been run during the collegiate season, it would rank second in GNAC history. The perfomance ranks as the 10th best time this season (as of Jun 26) by a U20 athlete in all of Europe.

CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: A number of Simon Fraser athletes are expected to take part in the 2017 Canadian Track & Field Championships, which will take place July 3-9 in Ottawa, Ontario. Current SFU athletes that are confirmed for entry include Addy Townsend (800 meters), Katherine Lucas (200 meters) and Julia Howley (1,500 meters). Simon Fraser alumni from the school's GNAC history entered in the meet include Jessica Smith (800 meters), Helen Crofts (800 meters), Lindsey Buttersworth (800 meters) and Cameron Proceviat (800 meters).