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UW track team returns home, but some will sit out

Washington’s track and field team is finally back home.

It’s just too bad they can’t all compete here.

After a season filled with road trip after road trip, Washington will return to Montlake to host the Ken Shannon Invitational tomorrow at Husky Stadium.

Some athletes, though, will have to use this weekend as an opportunity to rest. Those expected to do well in next week’s conference championships have to decide whether it is worth taxing their bodies in a meet that has no bearing on the official standings.

One such athlete is thrower Zack Midles. Although Midles, a senior, only has this one last opportunity to defend his home turf, he made the tough choice to sit this one out.

“It was a very hard decision,” Midles said. “Ken Shannon will be there, and he’s an amazing coach, and it would’ve been awesome to be able to compete in front of him. But my coach and I talked about it together and decided I would gain more out of my athletic career, and accomplish more of my goals, if I sat this one out and trained through the weekend. It’s tough, but in the grand scheme of things, the championships are a lot more important.”

Even so, some athletes just can’t resist the urge to compete at Husky Stadium. Pole-vaulter Ryan Vu has locked up a spot in regionals — he ranks in the top 20, and 48 are invited — but has decided to compete this weekend.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Vu said. “There’s a lot more people that can come to this meet, because it’s local. My high-school coaches and friends can come by and watch. The way it’s set up is very cool, and you get a chance to jump in Husky Stadium where you watch the football games, which is a really cool feeling.”

Husky Stadium is notoriously windy, and the gusts coming off Lake Washington would be enough to throw just about any pole-vaulter off game. But Vu has made a name for himself by vaulting well in inclement weather.

Last week against rival Washington State, Vu fought through terrible conditions to pick up the win, even while teammate and NCAA-championship favorite Scott Roth no-heighted. Because of this, Vu doesn’t expect the wind to be a problem.

“Last year at this meet is when I set my personal record, and I think I can do it again,” Vu said. “In high school, my coach had some really bizarre methods to get us used to the weather. He would pour buckets of water on me when it was sunny out. Pole vaulting is very mental, and if you can compete in crazier conditions, you have a good chance to win. I’m very used to the weather and don’t mind rain.”

The invitational will serve as the final tune-up meet for the Huskies before the start of the Pac-10 conference championships, aside from a few athletes who are already in Berkeley, Calif., to compete in the multi-events portion of the conference meet.

Reach reporter Jacob Thorpe at sports@dailyuw.com.

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