May 24, 1997 in Sports

High Jumpers Featured In Pac-10 Arizona Freshman To Challenge Ucla Veteran At 6-Foot-Plus

Micah Rice Sacramento Bee
 

In what promises to be one of the highlights of the meet, UCLA high jumper Amy Acuff will meet the challenge of Arizona freshman Erin Aldrich at the Pacific-10 Conference Track and Field Championships.

The meet continues today. The first events - the decathlon and heptathlon - were held last week.

Acuff is the premiere collegiate jumper, having won three NCAA indoor and two outdoor titles. Acuff also was a member of the U.S. Olympic team last summer after finishing third at the trials.

Aldrich is a bright up-and-coming athlete. Last year, she finished eighth in the Olympic trials. She is the top-seeded jumper in the meet with a 6-foot-3-1/2-inch mark.

Acuff is close behind at 6-3-1/4. She won the indoor championship earlier this spring with a jump of 6-4. Aldrich, who also plays for the UA volleyball team, skipped the indoor season.

“They’re not bitter rivals, but they don’t want to get beat by each other,” UA coach Dave Murray said. “Their personalities are such that they don’t like to lose. And not only will they compete here, but down the road.

“They’re promising jumpers for the U.S,” said Murray. “This is the only (year) they’ll compete collegiately, but they’ll face each other down the road, vying for Olympic and world championship berths.”

The favorite for the men’s team title is expected to be UCLA; Murray sees UCLA and USC battling it out among the women.

He also thinks Stanford will be a factor with its strength and depth at the distance events. The Cardinal won the men’s and women’s NCAA cross country championships last fall.

Murray said the Wildcats are aiming for a high finish. On the men’s side, Arizona is sending 17 athletes; the women will have 21.

“I’d like to think we’d be in the top four, but it’s a very competitive meet, one of the most competitive meets in a long time. Every team has solid people,” Murray said.

However, Murray said Arizona can’t afford any athletes finishing lower than anticipated, mainly because of a lack of depth.

“I just hope we don’t have any letdowns from people we need to score,” Murray said.

Last season, Arizona was missing its three top distance runners - Bob Keino, Viola Schaffer and Amy Skieresz. All three were suffering from injuries.

Additionally, the Wildcats dropped the baton in the men’s 4x100 and the women’s 4x400 relays.

Murray said the Wildcats will be able to score higher at nationals, where quality is more of a premium.

Among the women, Murray said Skieresz (3,000 and 5,000 meters), Emily Nay (10,000 meters) and DeeDee Buzzi (hurdles) are among those who could win their events.

On the men’s side, the Wildcats have Keino (1,500 meters), Tapio Kolunsarka (hammer throw), Akin Akenremi (100 and 200 meters), Dameon Ortiz (400 meters), and Jussi Autio and Dominic Johnson (pole vault).

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