May 14, 2009 in Sports

WSU comes on fast this decade

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Remember the Long Crimson Line – Washington State’s heritage of outstanding distance runners?

Well, Justin Woods is looking to be the latest in the Short Crimson Line.

If the pocket-sized sprinter can win the 100 meters at this weekend’s Pacific-10 Conference track and field meet in Eugene, Ore., that will make four 100 champs for the Cougars this decade – after having one in the previous 40 years. Only USC among the southern schools has as many in the event in the 2000s as WSU’s three – by Anson Henry in 2002 and Anthony Buchanan the following two years.

That legacy persuaded Woods to Pullman from California four years ago, despite some reservations about the cool spring weather. Now he’s poised to make his own run. The 10.42-second best he ran in WSU’s dual win over Washington two weeks ago is the Pac-10’s second-fastest time – a mere .01 behind Arizona State’s Marcus Duncan, and just .01 ahead of 2007 champion Ahmad Rashad of USC.

The sea change in WSU’s scoring pattern isn’t limited to the 100. Of the 11 individual men’s titles the Cougars have won since 2000, nine have come in the “speed” events – the sprints, hurdles, relays and horizontal jumps.

“Most people probably think we can’t sprint in Washington, but the coaches do a great job of making sure we’re ready and progress, and when we get into a warm environment, we can come out and have fast times,” Woods said.

Woods has been remarkably consistent – and durable – as a Coug. Standing just 5 feet, 5 inches, he’s placed in every Pac-10 meet outdoors and Mountain Pacific meet indoor. He won the indoor 60 as a junior and lost photo finishes the past two years. He’s also run a wind-aided 20.66 in the 200 and a 46.3 split in the 4x400 relay.

“It’s all about relaxation,” he said. “Coach (Rick) Sloan mentioned the other day that when I first got here, I always looked rushed – I had kind of a jerky motion. I’m more fluid and relaxed now and I can really see it in my times. I think I’m running the best I ever have.”

What goes around …

That’s the life of any hammer thrower, but none more so than University of Idaho’s Evan Ruud.

The senior from Kennewick became the latest Vandals hammer man to blast through the 200-foot barrier at last weekend’s home meet, and should be a scorer in this weekend’s Western Athletic Conference championships in Logan, Utah. But his journey has taken more than the usual four turns with the ball and chain.

Ruud started his college athletic career as a football player – at Idaho, where he was a defensive end in 2004 until suffering a shoulder injury.

“I didn’t really get along with the coaches that were here at the time and they wanted met to get surgery done really quick,” Ruud told The Argonaut, UI’s student newspaper. “They didn’t want me to get it fixed the best way possible so I didn’t really think they cared.”

That prompted him to transfer to Central Washington, where his brother nudged him into turning out for track. By 2006, he was the Great Northwest Athletic Conference hammer champion. But a year later his coach, former Vandals thrower T.J. Crater, moved on to a new position at Nevada, and Ruud found his way back to Moscow – though the transfer cost him a year’s eligibility.

“I figure I could have two mediocre seasons at Central,” he told The Argonaut, “or one good one here.”

Needing a do-over

Whitworth’s Kory Kemp has endured a tough finish to his senior year – twice. As quarterback of the football team, he saw his last season cut short by a broken fibula in the Pirates’ second game against Redlands. Recovered from that, the senior from Redmond was trying to get back to the NCAA Division III track nationals for a third time – he was third in the javelin in 2007 and fourth a year ago – when he shredded an elbow ligament on his last throw at the Northwest Conference meet.

Barely a week later came much sadder news: His grandfather, Jack Kemp, the former congressman and vice presidential candidate who also starred as a quarterback with the Buffalo Bills, died at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer.

“It’s been a tough go for Kory,” said Whitworth track coach Toby Schwarz, “but he’s doing OK.”

Bell lap

Another area runner has made a splash – sorry – in the steeplechase this year. Weber State freshman John Coyle (Lake City) ran a NCAA regional-qualifying 9:04.65 at Stanford earlier this month. He’ll join BYU’s Rich Nelson (Shadle Park) and Portland’s Justin Houck (Ferris) in that race – and could have a say in whether the Wildcats challenge for the Big Sky title this weekend in Missoula. … Oregon’s Jordan Roskelley (Mt. Spokane) joined the ranks of 13-foot pole vaulters at last weekend’s Oregon Twilight. … Boise State senior Caleb Cazier (Timberlake) was the surprise winner of the WAC indoor 800, but injuries have sidelined him most of the outdoor season. He’ll try to compete this weekend after returning for the Broncos’ twilight meet and struggling to a 2:08.55.


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