It’s the week of the Husky dual for Washington State’s track and field team, a week when some of the participants, as coach Rick Sloan puts it, need to become players.
As Jon Jeffreys did last week, with a 10-foot improvement in the javelin that put him past the 200-foot standard for the first time.
“He’s a player now,” said Sloan.
Even if it’s the last sport Jeffreys might have anticipated.
Jeffreys knew he got off a long throw in last weekend’s Cougar Invitational, but not because it felt especially pure.
“What tipped it off was my dad in the crowd yelling, ‘Go, baby, go!’ ” Jeffreys laughed. “I thought, ‘OK, that must be a good one.’ “
It taped out at 207 feet, 1 inch, giving him a 23-foot gain on his best last year at West Valley High School in Spokane – not that 184 feet then was anything to dismiss, given that it was his first season of throwing the javelin.
The 6-foot-6 Jeffreys was the Greater Spokane League’s co-scoring leader in basketball in 2004 at 22.3 points per game and the Eagles’ quarterback for two years, having once passed for 396 yards in a game. Long before that, he was an accomplished baseball pitcher. So what’s he doing in a Cougars track uniform?
“Up until last spring, I thought I’d be playing basketball somewhere,” he said. “But I wanted to go to a bigger school, not a Division II or Division III school. And I was too small for my position to do that – they wanted to move me to guard and that’s not where I play by any means.”
His dalliance in track – he was third at the State 3A meet – got the Cougars interested enough to invite Jeffreys to walk-on, an interest cemented when Jeffreys boosted his best to 193 feet after some summer work with Community Colleges of Spokane javelin guru Ryan Weidman. At WSU, he’s stayed consistently in the 190s but “knew I could throw so much farther,” he said. “This is only my second year of throwing and everyone else is a lot more knowledgeable than I am.”
Sloan seconds that, calling Jeffreys “a long thrower, but not a good thrower yet. He has a lot of natural talent, but as he develops the skills and positions, he’s going to be real good.”
He’s one of the people Sloan would like to see snag a few points in Saturday’s dual at Washington, in which the Huskies loom as narrow favorites on both the men’s and women’s sides. The Cougars’ chances may hinge on how their decathletes and heptathletes hold up over the course of the afternoon. Twins Diana and Julie Pickler will be especially busy; in addition to both relays, Diana is entered in both hurdles events, the long jump and high jump, while Julie will do the 400, 100-meter hurdles and the two jumps.
Attached, at last
Mike Uhlenkott has been vaulting “unattached” in meets this spring, but not by choice. Only last week did the Eastern Washington University freshman get the OK from the NCAA eligibility clearinghouse to begin competing for the Eagles. He celebrated by winning the day session pole vault at the Oregon Invitational with a 14-11 clearance.
The certification process for Uhlenkott, the State 4A runner-up from North Central with a 15-3 best, was prolonged because he didn’t enroll at EWU until winter quarter – and because he’d been home schooled. The clearinghouse needed to verify textbooks and course structures.
“We wanted him in school last fall,” said EWU coach Stan Kerr, whose history with the family goes back to when he and Uhlenkott’s father were counselors at Camp Reed. “He’s a great kid with a lot of talent. But at the time, he thought one of the two bands he was in was going to make it big time and he really felt that was the direction he was going. But both bands dissolved and we kind of became the backup. But we didn’t have a transcript and he didn’t take the SATs until December, so we were a little behind in the process.”
There’s a new surface on the track at Spokane Falls Community College and it’ll get its first competitive test Saturday when the Sasquatch host the Duane Hartman Invitational. On Monday and Tuesday, CCS hosts the NWAACC multi-events championships at the same facility. … Let’s play catch-up on some school records set last weekend at the Oregon meet. Idaho’s Mary Kamau shaved more than two seconds off the women’s 800-meter record in winning in 2 minutes, 7.11 seconds. EWU’s Branden Fuller lowered his school record in the 3,000 steeplechase to 8:56.31. And GU’s distance duo of Joe Miller and Jill Semenza did it again, Miller running the 10,000 in 30:45.22 and Semenza taking the women’s 5,000 mark to 17:18.87. Eastern’s Caitlin Prunty’s 4:31.08 best in the 1,500 would be a school record, except that she’s redshirting this season. … Another delayed arrival for EWU this outdoor season has been jumper Teanna Meinhold, who’s been rehabilitating a foot injury. Her debut at Oregon – a 38-43/4 triple jump – is the No. 2 mark in school history. … Lewis and Clark High School graduate Jena Robinson of Puget Sound was favored to win the long and triple jumps at last week’s Northwest Conference championships, but was held out with a leg injury. She’s fifth nationally among NCAA Division III triplers with a 38-21/4 best. … Also at the NWC meet, LaCrosse-Washtucna alum Lindsey Blankenship of George Fox set a conference record with a 164-5 hammer throw, the nation’s No. 6 mark. … When Paul Nicoletti and Tyson Byers got in clearances at 17-3/4 and 17-41/2 before lightning and rain came at the Cougar Invitational, it gave WSU its first pair of 17-foot teammates outdoors since Greg Ernst and Brian Goodman in 1980.