Say this about Heather Bergland: She doesn’t fear change.
The University of Idaho hurdler is three meets from the end of her college track career, so you’d think just about every aspect of her race would be second nature. But maybe that was the problem.
“Yesterday at practice,” she reported Tuesday, “I started hurdling with my other leg.”
This is not exactly like Felix Hernandez deciding to start snapping off curveballs left-handed. But it’s certainly a fundamental change, and an 11th-hour one at that – and not without risk. All that remains ahead of Bergland is a meet Friday in Seattle, Idaho’s lone home appearance Saturday – the Vandal Jamboree – and next week’s Western Athletic Conference championships in Logan, Utah. Unless, of course, she runs a qualifying time for the NCAA regional meet – which is the point of this experiment.
“It’s very drastic, but it’s exciting – and I needed something,” she said. “I’ve been down lately about track and this is going to help me change things up. I normally lead with my right leg, but my form is actually better with my left. I’m driving into the hurdle better, I’m coming out of the blocks better.”
And she hopes to finish better. A regional qualifier in 2007, Bergland hasn’t approached her lifetime best of 13.92 seconds this year – and time is running out.
Not that it had to come to this. Bergland was one of five seniors on the Vandals roster this year, but before the season coaches Wayne Phipps and Yogi Teevens gave them all the option of redshirting.
With what appears to be a strong recruiting class coming in next fall, the thought was to hold back the veterans with an eye toward making a run at the WAC title in 2010 – a tactic the Vandals have employed to some success before. So all the seniors are sitting out – except Bergland.
“I’m ready to be done with school,” she said. “It’s time to move on with my life and start a new chapter.”
Bergland came to Idaho from Edmonton, Alberta, four years ago in something of a package deal with another hurdler, Christie Gordon. They had known each other since the 10th grade, attending the same high school and running for the same club program. Since then, they have trained together and run against each other “in hundreds of races – pretty much every weekend,” Bergland said. At Idaho alone, they have faced each other in more than 60 races – Bergland usually getting the best of it indoors in the shorter sprint hurdles, Gordon dominating outdoors.
“Competing against your best friend is always going to be difficult,” she said, “but nothing is going to get in the way of us being friends.”
Even if Gordon is sticking around one more year.
“It sucks in a way,” Bergland said. “I knew that by not redshirting I’d miss the opportunity to win a championship. But it was my choice.”
It only took 30 years, but Jeanne Eggart – you may know her as Jeanne Helfer for some success she had as a basketball coach – is out of the track and field record book at Washington State. Cougars sophomore Marissa Tschida took care of that last weekend at the WSU-Washington dual meet, launching the javelin 181 feet, 8 inches – the No. 3 collegiate mark of the year.
That bettered the 178-3 Eggart threw in 1979 with the old women’s javelin, which looked like it might hold up forever when the implement was altered in 1999 to curtail its flight. But Tschida, a sophomore from Missoula, has increased her lifetime best by 20 feet over the past two weeks.
Tschida won’t get Eggart’s other record – she’s still WSU’s all-time scoring leader in women’s basketball, by a mere 441 points.
When Marzell Jenkins of the Community Colleges of Spokane nipped Eastern Washington’s Brad Wall in the 400 meters at Friday’s Pelluer Invitational (48.22 seconds to 48.26), it reversed the finish of last year’s State 4A high school final. … Though they lost the women’s meet for the first time in 12 years, it’s hard to fault the way Washington State competed against the Huskies. Coach Rick Sloan took 64 athletes to Seattle; 28 produced lifetime bests, and 18 more season bests. Senior Lorraine King skipped the intermediate hurdles and instead ran her first sub-55 second 400 (54.27) and slashed more than 2 seconds off her 200 best (23.82). … Whitworth’s Emmanuel Bofa took his school record in the 800 down to 1:49.93 in the Pelluer, the year’s No. 3 NCAA Division III time for the defending national champ. … They grow them here and send them elsewhere to run the steeplechase: BYU’s Rich Nelson (Shadle Park), Portland’s Justin Houck (Ferris) and Boise State’s Breanna Sande (Lake City) have qualified for the NCAA West Regional in the 3,000-meter race.
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