Time to make some more memories. Shannon McGrane may need them to get through a long, hot summer.
It’s already been a big month for the Willamette University hurdler from Colville. She went through graduation ceremonies last weekend, taking a degree in biochemistry. Today she enters the NCAA Division III track and field championships in Waverly, Iowa, with the field’s best time in the 400-meter hurdles, making her an obvious favorite.
“I know if I run the race the way I have been running, I should be fine,” she said, about the closest she’ll come to acknowledging her chances of being a national champion.
Should it play out that way, the elation should carry McGrane through the back-breaking days ahead she’ll spend mopping up fires, work she’s done every summer for the U.S. Forest Service since graduating from Colville High School in 2001 – occasionally shipping out to other western states.
“It isn’t very glamorous,” she admitted of the pick-and-shovel duty, “but I think it’s fun. You’re outside all the time and it’s good, physical work.”
So is running the 400 hurdles, which is often cited as one of track’s more punishing events – though not necessarily by McGrane, whose school record of 1 minute, 0.95 seconds this year is the best in Division III by nearly a full second.
“It’s definitely hard, but I’ve run the 800 as well and I prefer it to that,” she said. “The hurdles break things up so that you’re not paying as much attention to how much your body is hurting. I’ve come to love it.”
Success hasn’t hurt. McGrane surprised herself by qualifying for the Division III meet as a freshman. A year later, she was fourth in the nation – a circumstance that may have been her undoing a year ago, when she failed to make the finals.
“That was probably part of it,” she admitted. “I had high expectations for myself. I’m a kind of a perfectionist, and I just made myself way too nervous. I just needed to relax and breathe – and that’s what I’m doing this year, trying not to expect too much.”
Back … with a vengeance
Danielle Ayers-Stamper’s 2004 track season lasted all of two weeks. Now it seems as if she’s trying to cram an entire season into one track meet.
The Seattle Pacific junior from LaCrosse-Washtucna is entered in four events – or 10, depending on how you look at it – at this weekend’s NCAA Division II championships in Abilene, Texas. Besides the seven-event heptathlon, in which she has the nation’s No. 2 score, Ayers-Stamper will compete in the 100-meter hurdles, high jump and javelin.
The heptathlon battle could be sensational. Ayers-Stamper’s best of 5,491 is 21 points less than Nebraska-Omaha’s Anastassia Kyvelidou, a 25-year-old senior from Greece, and six more than the Barbados record holder Nikkisha Maynard of Lincoln University.
The Division II runner-up as a freshman, Ayers-Stamper was fourth last year in a hurried twist that saw her give up an expected redshirt season when a back injury came around in May.
“We thought she had a chance to win it or place high,” coach Jack Hoyt recalled, “but I was never more relieved than when she got the qualifying score. That was playing with fire. She’s obviously going to be much better prepared this year.”
It’s been (gasp) three whole years since the Community Colleges of Spokane swept both men’s and women’s NWAACC titles, but the Sasquatch could get back there, though perhaps in different ways when the 2005 meet starts today in Gresham, Ore.
The defending champion women will have to do it with depth – other than hurdler Molly Burt, who has already won the heptathlon, and half-miler/high jumper Teona Perkins, they have no other individual event leaders. The men, meanwhile, top the NWAACC list in seven events – including all four throws. Lewis and Clark grad Jason Dixon owns two of those – he’s the conference record-holder in the discus – and teammates Jacob Shanklin and Shae Murray top the hammer and javelin.
It’s NCAA regional weekend, so the exodus from the Spokane airport to Eugene for the West Regional beginning Friday includes 22 athletes from Washington State, 11 from Eastern Washington and eight from Idaho. Among the happiest of those is EWU’s Jamie Griffith, who didn’t meet the qualifying standard in the women’s 400 hurdles but earned her way there by virtue of winning the Big Sky title… A missing person from the area who had a qualifiying mark: javelin thrower Erin Merriman (Gonzaga Prep) of Stanford, her season derailed by injury… Athletes must place in the top five at regionals to earn a berth at nationals and 10 of the locals come into the meet with top-five marks led by WSU sprinter James McSwain, whose 10.19 clocking is the fastest in the 100. Idaho thrower Russ Winger is fourth in the shot put and fifth in the discus… The Cougars are getting pole vaulter Tyson Byers back after a hamstring pull kept him out of the Pac-10 meet… Freshman half-miler Brandon Howell is Whitworth’s only entrant at the Division III meet, but the Clarkston grad has a chance to make some noise with a 1:51.93 best that’s among the top 10… Bonners Ferry’s Dirk Bortz of Eastern Oregon is a threat to win both the discus and hammer at the NAIA championships in Louisville, Ky.