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Marken will try anything

Most schools have track season. Whitworth College has track month.

OK, maybe month-and-a-half. The tax man has barely come and gone and already the Pirates are in final preparations for their Northwest Conference championships this weekend in Salem, Ore.

It’s a ready-or-not proposition. Coach Toby Schwarz admits that, given the sodden spring and the limitations it’s put on training, his team probably isn’t. But senior Sarah Marken, who will compete in anywhere from seven to nine events this weekend, certainly sounds as if she is.

“It’s thrilling, actually,” she said. “It’s exciting because I love to do all the events – none of them is a drag. And it’s so much fun competing as a team.”

You could call Marken a team unto herself. Last year, she scored 32 1/2 points in the conference meet, about 26 percent of the Pirates’ total. If you include her heptathlon duty, she’s competed in 46 separate events at the NWC level – a workload that might seem cruel, except that she’s scored in everything he’s entered since her sophomore year and asked for more.

Make that almost everything. Last week in Salem, she no-heighted in the heptathlon high jump and finished 10th after placing third the past two years, a circumstance that some athletes might regard as devastating.

Marken’s assessment was a little more measured.

“It was sort of anti-climactic,” she laughed.

For most of the spring, Marken has battled muscle injuries – calf, sartorius, hip flexor – and entered the heptathlon competition with a full-blown case of bronchitis that’s been playing tag with the Whitworth team.

“So I went in with a realistic goal and knowing that this weekend was even more important,” she said. “As much as I love the hep, I know I can score more this weekend and I needed to be well for the team.”

The Pirates won’t contend for a team title, but Schwarz points out that they always have a knack for overachievement – which was certainly true a year ago when the women placed second.

Marken contributed points in the 100 meters, high hurdles, 4x100 relay, long jump, triple jump and shot put. She’ll swap the javelin for the shot put this week, and add the high jump – and she’ll swap her dinged-up status for relative health. That was evident in a triple jump workout over the weekend that saw her in the 37-foot range.

“I don’t get to do it much, but I’m glad I didn’t give it up,” said Marken, who was a state champion in the event in Wyoming. “I was just flying so that’s encouraging.”

Weather or not

So you head to California for the heat and the hot competition? Beware, traveler.

Idaho and Washington State sent groups to invitationals at Mt. San Antonio College and Long Beach last weekend for those reasons. Except there was no heat and lots of rain, and scads of L.A.-area athletes decided to save their muscles for a more hospitable day. So there went much of the competition.

In the end, the Cougs and Vandals rolled up some frequent flyer miles and had athletes improve their season’s bests in just 20 of 71 cases – which was still better than they would have done in Pullman or Moscow, where it snowed.

There were some notable successes. WSU’s James McSwain ran a wind-legal 10.31 seconds in the 100 meters and Idaho’s Driss Yousfi opened his outdoor season with a 1:50.93 in the 800. The Vandals’ Dee Olson got regional qualifying marks in both the women’s 800 (2:08.64) and 1,500 (4:22.52). And WSU throws coach Debra Farwell was impressed with Drew Ulrick’s discus win, noting that if “he could throw 177 feet in that, he can throw it anywhere.”

Fuller up

Branden Fuller left Eastern Washington University last spring having cracked the school’s top-10 list in four different distance events. Little brother Andrew may do him one better at the Community Colleges of Spokane.

“He’s the best range kid I’ve ever had,” said CCS coach Larry Beatty, who’s had some great ones. “He’s run a 1:54 for 800 and a 3:54 for 1,500 last week – he can go under 3:50. He’s run 9:20 in the steeple and 25:05 for 8 kilometers (in cross country). He’s really a talented kid.”

Last laps

WSU hosts its annual Cougar Invitational this week, but may not participate much – what with the annual dual against Washington coming April 29… .Consider Idaho’s Russ Winger un-redshirted. The NCAA shot put runner-up competed in Vandals colors at Mt. SAC – and upped his season best to 61-8 1/4. … Another Mt. SAC success was EWU’s John Timeus. His 29:51.61 clocking for 10,000 meters wasn’t a school record – but it was the fastest by an Eagle since Rick Adams set that school standard (29:48.6) a mere 28 years ago. … CCS hammer thrower Jacob Shanklin of Ellensburg, who’s thrown 185-11, has signed a letter-of-intent to attend Wyoming next year.

Rebekah Noble isn’t the only Spokane high school alum making a splash on the NCAA lists. Lewis and Clark grad Britney Henry, Noble’s Oregon teammate, moved to No. 2 nationally this spring with a 221-7 hammer throw at Mt. SAC. USC’s Kate Hutchinson, who won a state title at Pullman, is No. 5 in the discus with a 181-7 best. … Two other area athletes are event favorites at the NWC meet off their league-leading marks – LC’s Jena Robinson of Puget Sound in the triple jump (37-10) and LaCrosse-Washtucna’s Lindsey Blankenship of George Fox in the hammer (169-7).