Ian Waltz had one of the nation’s best collegiate discus throws Sunday.
Unfortunately, it came during warmups.
And, understandably, it caused the Washington State freshman from Post Falls, Idaho, to get a little excited.
So, in competition, he forced a couple throws, hit the cage on another, and only got two marks.
But his 188-10 effort was enough to take second in the Pacific-10 Conference Track and Field Championships at UCLA’s sunbaked Drake Stadium.
WSU’s men placed fifth with 82-1/2 points, well behind UCLA’s 151. The Bruins men captured their fifth straight title.
On the women’s side, Southern California won with 151 points, with WSU taking 7th with 56 points.
“What I saw was a real effort from the whole team,” WSU coach Rick Sloan said. “Some people didn’t do what they’d hoped, but a lot did far better than they expected - and everybody competed really well.”
Encouraging for the future of Cougar track, certainly, was the effort of Waltz.
“I had a couple warm-ups that were huge,” Waltz said. “They said they were almost 200 feet. But then when I got into the competition, I tightened up and just started trying too hard.”
Waltz misfired short into the turf on his first throw. “I was having trouble with my release,” Waltz explained.
The only trouble on the second was the effort it took to stretch the tape out to it. That 188-10 toss led through the prelims and into the second round of the finals.
“The second-place throw was his second one and it was supposed to just be a ‘safe’ throw with him taking a lot off it,” Sloan said.
Even if for only a moment, Waltz allowed himself to think about the possibility of a conference championship but, “I saw that big Nigerian guy (Chima Ugwu of Arizona) throwing well in warm-ups and I knew he’s been consistent in the 190s.”
On his second-to-last throw, Ugwu took the lead at 191-5 and stretched that to 193-0 on his final toss.
Impressively, though, Waltz defeated the trio of highly touted UCLA redshirt freshmen for the second straight week - topping them at the Modesto Relays as well.
“It’s gonna be fun the next three years with those guys; we’re gonna have some great competitions,” Waltz said.
The Cougars got two other second places Sunday.
Closest to a title was Dominique Arnold, a senior high hurdler who faced the difficult challenge of topping USC’s two-time defending champ Kenny Aladefa.
“Championships don’t mean anything. Everybody’s got to get knocked off their throne,” Arnold said.
But it didn’t happen Sunday as Arnold had to cut his stride on the sixth hurdle. Still, Aladefa beat him by a slender margin of 13.70 to 13.74.
“That one hurdle killed me,” Arnold said. “I carry so much speed in the second half of my race, I just ran up on it.
WSU also got a second from fabulous freshman Fran Green. Green won the long jump and took seventh in the high jump on Saturday. And Sunday, in the 100 meters, she trailed USC’s swift Tori Edwards (11.48) across the finish line in 11.61.
Green totaled 20 of the Cougars’ points in her individual events.
WSU’s Hilary Mawindi placed third in the men’s triple jump at 50-6-3/4, while Frank Madu took fourth in the 200 (21.46) and seventh in the 100 (10.73). Madu also helped the Cougs take third in the 4x100 relay.
Madu’s effort was particularly inspiring. A groin pull had kept Madu from training recently, and after the 100, he put on his sweats and planned to scratch from the 200 because of the pain.
WSU assistant Kienan Slate, though, knew how close the team score was. “Coach Slate told me we needed some points, so I decided to try to go out with a bang,” Madu said.
The fourth place “really shocked me,” Madu said. “I just tried to run hard on the curve and relax on the straightaway, and it worked.”
“All the points are the same, but when you come right down to the nitty-gritty, those points were what let us beat two other teams,” Sloan said.
Cougar Eric Kamau, a freshman from Kenya, was able to push the pace in the 1,500 before California veteran Richie Boulet pulled out to the win, leaving Kamau in fourth with a personal best by more than four seconds (3:45.32).
Freshman Molly Moore added a fourth place in the hammer to her fourth in the javelin on Saturday.
Sloan said that decathlete Leo Slack and Arnold are sure bets to compete in the NCAA meet in two weeks at Eugene, Ore. Green and Waltz, Sloan said, are possible competitors.
Washington’s Emily Johnson, a University High product, took third in the 1,500 at 4:28.81.
Mead High’s Greg James placed fifth in the men’s 1,500.
Leslie Coons, USC’s American record holder in the hammer, had three sector fouls in the prelims and did not advance… . The star of the meet, clearly, was UCLA sprinter Ato Boldon, who set meet records in both the 100 (10.03) and 200 (20.00).