To say that the UW indoor track and field team had its fair share of ups and downs this season would simply be an understatement: It felt more like a Six Flags roller coaster ride.
World records were set. Notable star athletes battled through injuries time and time again. Football players turned track studs showed flashes of future greatness. And at the end of the five-event, two-month-long season, only two Huskies were left standing.
Senior heptathlon star Jeremy Taiwo and senior middle-distance runner Christine Babcock represented the Huskies at the NCAA Indoor Championships this past weekend at Randal Tyson Track Center at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.
The top 16 competitors nationally in each event qualified for the Championships. Despite owning the best heptathlon score in the country this year and the third-best in NCAA history, Taiwo was limited to just the high jump due to a lingering hamstring injury. He placed 15th with a jump of 7-0 1/2. This was the second time in his career that he cleared the seven-foot mark. Even though he only placed 15th, Taiwo was happy with his performance.
“Truthfully, I’m really glad I could get over the opening bar,” he said. “For a multi, starting at 6-10 3/4 is unheard of, especially since I didn’t practice for two weeks leading up to [the championships]. I’m happy with 7-0 1/2 and that I didn’t hurt my hamstring any worse.”
It’s certainly good news for Taiwo and the Huskies that he could compete in spite of his injury. The Huskies were limited this indoor season due to injuries, and they affected top athletes including Jordan Carlson and Maurice McNeal, two Huskies who looked poised to make the championships.
The competition at this year’s event was impressive. Babcock, who competed in the women’s one-mile, is a two-time All-American, yet she failed to qualify for the final, placing 13th with a time of 4:41:55. The top 10 in the one-mile qualify for the final, and Colorado senior Emma Coburn, who came into the event as the No. 1 seed, finished first with a time of 4:29:91.
Given that Babcock surprisingly squeezed into the Championships, her 13th-place finish is solid. She finished the regular season ranked 24th nationally in the one-mile, but after nine athletes ahead of her dropped out of the race, she rose to 14th.
Overall, the University of Arkansas claimed its 20th national championship.
The spotlight now moves to the outdoor season, which begins at the Trojan Invitational in Los Angeles on March 22.
“The focus now is a gradual build into speed endurance, and a ton of work on the discus and javelin for outdoors,” Taiwo said. “It’s going to be a long season, so we’ll be smart so that my body can last. But I’m ready to travel and compete in warm weather.”
Reach reporter Luke Severn at email@example.com. Twitter: @lukese7
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