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WSU’s Blackledge finally takes to track

Wed., April 6, 2011, 6:30 p.m.

His last time on a track, Daniel Blackledge churned down the long jump runway, hurled himself into the air and thudded into the sand – 24 1/2 feet from the takeoff board.

Then he turned to see the judge slowly raising his red flag.

“Scratched by maybe an inch,” Blackledge recalled. “That was pretty hurtful. I was going for 24-plus the whole season and that jump felt great and everybody was cheering – and my heart just dropped.”

He would finish second in the Colorado 5A high school championships by an inch and in a matter of weeks would be in Pullman in a Washington State football uniform. He always meant to swap it for a track singlet come spring “but never got around to it.”

Until now.

After going through Pro Day timing and testing in Pullman last week, the senior receiver joined the track team and will debut Saturday at the WAR IV meet at Spokane Falls Community College.

“I have high expectations, but the reality is I have to see how my body performs,” he said. “I’m so much stronger than I was in high school – I think I weighed 165 pounds then – but I still have the mechanics and technical side to deal with.”

Blackledge wasn’t just a one-jump wonder in high school. At that state meet, he won the 300-meter hurdles in 38.10 seconds, was second in the highs (14.61) and fourth in the triple jump (46-31/4). His best legal long jump was 23-81/2. He had 32 of the 55 points scored by Palmer High School, which also had runner-up finishes that year from high jumper Ryan Deese and triple jumper Sean Wilson – both Cougars now.

And his roommate the last three years? Two-time NCAA 400 hurdles winner Jeshua Anderson.

“It would be fun to race Jesh,” Blackledge laughed. “But he’s a national champion and you have to respect that.”

Blackledge’s WSU football career was spotty – 63 catches over four seasons – until December’s Apple Cup loss to Washington. He had seven receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown and several impressive snags on two fourth-quarter drives, but called it “a bittersweet way to go out – I had one of my best games, but the win was way more important to me.”

He’d like to play some more football – but will put it on hold for a couple of months.

“I’m focused on track,” he said. “I don’t like committing to something unless I’m putting full effort into it.”

Buddy, can you spare a track?

Long-awaited facility upgrades are in motion at the University of Idaho, the only downside being the relative homelessness of the track teams. For the first time since it opened, the Kibbie Dome was not home to an indoor meet this winter as work began on seating renovations – which often sent the Vandals across the border to work out in Washington State’s bubble. And on April 15, work starts on a $2.5 million facelift to the outdoor track, with a 2012 completion as the Vandals prepare to host the Western Athletic Conference meet.

The 290-meter Kibbie track will remain, and the outdoor upgrade will keep all field events within the infield, with protective netting along the discus/hammer sectors allowing competition during track events.

“If going without facilities for a few months means a brand new outdoor track,” said Idaho director of track and field Wayne Phipps, “that’s a deal I’ll take every time.”

Oh, yes, that title – with the departure last fall of co-head coach Yogi Teevens to an assistant’s job at Utah State, Phipps assumed a new position overseeing men’s and women’s programs. Throws coach Julie Taylor has been named head coach, and assistant Jason Graham assumed Teevens’ duties coaching the jumps as the school finalizes that full-time spot.

Bell lap

The WAR IV meet at SFCC is another whopper – 1,100 athletes from 16 schools, split into a Washington vs. Everyone Else scoring format starting at 9 a.m. … Washington State’s women are 18th in the USTFCCCA rankings, and Jeshua Anderson (49.33), high jumper Holly Parent (6-3/4) and javelin thrower Marissa Tschida (176-1) are national leaders in their events. … WAC champ Jeremy Klas of Moscow, a 17-9 pole vaulter, is redshirting. … North Central grad Ben Johnston is off to a great start as a freshman at BYU, having run 1:53.30, 3:52.10 and 9:09.72 in the 800, 1,500 and steeplechase in the outdoor season’s first three weeks. … Whitworth’s compact outdoor season – the Northwest Conference meet is just two weeks away – has already produced school records by Alexander Hymel (216-0 javelin), Tonya Turner (10:48.49 steeplechase), Jheri Gates (5-6 high jump) and Erica Cox (170-9 hammer).

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