Bulldog Runners At West Coast Invitational Saturday
SPOKANE, Wash. - For most of Gonzaga University's track team, Saturday will be the final day of competition for 2012 when the Bulldogs compete in the West Coast Invitational at Willamette University in Salem, Ore.
Gonzaga sophomore Emily Thomas is one who hopes there's more track left in her season.
Thomas has the opportunity to do something no Gonzaga track athlete has done as she bids to earn a spot in the NCAA Western Regionals in Austin, Texas, May 24-26.
The sophomore from Washougal, Wash., is currently 38th in the Western Regional rankings for the 10,000 meters with her school-record mark of 35:01.46 at the San Francisco State Distance Carnival in early April. The top 48 earn a spot in the Western Regionals.
"This is the weekend of conferences throughout the country," Gonzaga head coach Pat Tyson said. "We're excited about the West Coast Invitational (a meet that is not affiliated with the West Coast Conference but is being co-hosted by the University of Portland and Willamette.) Emily right now is looking really good for her to compete in Austin. There are some other kids who want to get a feeling for the extension of the season and may run the Portland Festival or the last chance at Whitworth, but those are just low-key opportunities for them we aren't sanctioning as a team."
Bulldog assistant coach Patty Ley said Thomas will run the 5000 meters and be looking to get ready for Austin.
"It's going to be a great race. They are going to rabbit it (a runner who sets a fast pace). If we can get her a little bit faster it would be awesome to get her under 16:50, a little bit faster just tuning up really for Austin more than anything else. We want her to move forward a little bit, give her some confidence. We want to get some improvement on it, but it will give her a chance to compete against some people."
Ley is looking for improvement across the board from the women.
"Across the board on the women's side another big improvement for everybody. I know they are coming off finals and a lot of it will be growing up and maturing and how you handle adversity and still run fast," Ley said.
Tyson said many of the WCC teams will have representation this weekend, and the meet is something the coaches would like to get sanctioned by the WCC.
"I definitely believe so. I think this is the push from the coaches. They really would love to have this sanctioned. It makes your sport more real," Tyson said of the future. "Conferences around America have track and field league championships. It's cool we can go to this, beginning the roots of what we believe will be something special down the road."
Tyson said WCC newcomer BYU will take advantage of the West Coast Invitational to try and qualify distance runners for regionals.
"BYU is bringing all of their high end distance runners to Salem, and sending all of their other athletes to Georgia Tech where it's a more humid zone and better for them. They want their runners in the low altitude, cool evening atmosphere that you get in the Willamette Valley in May that creates some really fast races," Tyson said. "Portland is hosting and they have guaranteed rabbits for all the high end races, and that includes steeplechase, 10,000, 5000 and 1500 meters. Most of the runners in this competition, since we aren't going for team points, are going for regional qualifying marks. I know that's BYU's goal. They have some guys right on the bubble, their steeplechaser for example. Portland has a couple of guys in the 10,000 that are on the bubble."
Tyson said the Bulldogs will have Tate Kelly in the 10,000 meters.
"He wants a wants a huge PR and maybe a school record," Tyson said of the opportunity.
Tyson said the Bulldogs are as healthy as they can be this late in the season and coming off finals.
"I think for this late in the season we're about as healthy as you can be. Remember, we're coming off finals and that's brutal," Tyson said. "They are cranking it, staying up later than normal which is the nature of the beast. This is private education and there's no slacking allowed, so they are going after their finals like they are going after the championship of a track and field competition. But I think we'll be relieved like we were a year ago when we went to the Ken Shannon at Washington. We went to the Ken Shannon to cap our season and we had a lot of PRs. That's our goal. Go there and crank some good PRs. It's going to be a wonderful night in all of our distance races."