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May 18, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Making their own statement Making their own statement (May 18, 2005)

Tired of hearing speech after losses, women win their first Pac-10 title

by Keith Peters

Edrick Floreal had his speech down well. Too well, in fact. After every close loss by his Stanford women's track and field team, he'd pull out those well-worn lines about how well they competed and how they would be back the following year and try again.

Well, his team evidently got tired of hearing it, because the Cardinal women went out and won their first ever Pacific-10 Conference championship meet title.

"I was happy they were tired of listening to me," Floreal said. "They did not want to hear that speech again."

So, what did Floreal do after his team clinched the championship?

"I gave no speech," Floreal admitted. "I did not want to be the hair in the soup. I had nothing to say but great job. I let them run around and throw water on me and just be 18, 19 and 20-year olds."

Stanford ended UCLA's grip on the women's conference championship after eight straight titles by the Bruins. Since the league began sponsoring women's track & field in 1987, UCLA captured 15 of the league's previous 18 championship meets.

That all came to an end on a hot, sunny Sunday at UCLA's Drake Stadium as Stanford captured its first women's Pac-10 crown.

For the past two seasons, Stanford finished second to the Bruins. This past weekend, the Cardinal chalked up a school record 175 points to easily score a 48-point victory over the second place Bruins. The 175 Stanford points was also second-most by a Pac-10 school in the 19-year existence of the conference championship meet.

Despite the warm weather, Floreal did his best not to get the tradition drenching.

"I was trying to get away from 24 women," Floreal explained. "I tried to get away. But someone grabbed me by the ankle and about 20 girls jumped on me. I took out my valuables and took it (a dousing of Gatorade) with pride."

Floreal said the frustration of being so close so many times has been the rallying cry for his team this season.

"The big word for the outdoor season was 'together,'" Floreal said. "Everyone was concerned about each other. It was a combination of frustration and not getting it done."

Like at the NCAA indoor championships this winter, when Stanford was the prohibitive favorite but finished a disappointed eighth. Like at last year's Pac-10 meet when Stanford led after the first day, only to wilt under UCLA's pressure on Day 2 to lose the title.

"Looking back at all those years of getting second starts to build up," Floreal said. "But the closer you get each year, the hungrier you get. I think the girls were tired of always having to come back the next year."

The Stanford women were paced on Sunday by victories in the 5,000 meters by Sara Bei, the 400 meter hurdles by Undine Becker, and a record-breaking performance by freshman sensation Erica McLain.

McLain, who captured the Pac-10 title in the long jump on Saturday, added to her impressive resume with a victory in the triple jump with an American junior and school record jump of 45-2 1/2. McLain's effort was a Pac-10 meet record and the third-best mark in conference history.

McLain also became the first Pac-10 athlete to win the long jump and triple jump conference titles in the same year.

Bei led a one-two finish in the 5,000 with a winning time of 16:47.57. Alicia Craig, who won her third straight 10,000 title on Saturday, finished second (16:58.88). Becker ran a winning time of 58.59 in the 400 hurdles, the No. 2 effort in school history.

Sarah Hopping's mark of 196-2 in the hammer was only two inches short of her school record set earlier this year. The women's 400 relay team of Jakki Bailey, Janice Davis, Nashonme Johnson and Ashley Purnell ran a time of 44.49, third-best in school history. Ashley Freeman's 800 time of 2:05.71 was fifth-best in school history.

Sara Bei's winning time of 4:16.14 in the 1,500 meters on Sunday is a career-best and sixth-best in school history.

The Stanford men finished seventh with 66 points. Oregon won the Pac-10 title for the second time in the last three years with 152 points.

Stanford produced one winner Sunday. Michael Robertson, the conference favorite, won the discus competition with a throw of 192-7. Robertson became Stanford's first conference discus champion in 40 years, since Bob Stoecker threw 183-10 1/2 in 1965.

On Saturday, McLain continued her sensational freshman outdoor season with a victory in the long jump.

McLain, who had entered the conference championship with the third-best mark in the field, staged the upset with a winning effort of 21-2 1/2. That mark was a freshman school record, the second-best mark in Stanford varsity history and qualified her for the upcoming NCAA West Regionals at Oregon.

Craig, running in her first 10,000 meters of the 2005 outdoor season, captured the conference title for a third straight season in a time of 34:02.79.

Three freshman school records were broken during first day competition. In addition to McLain's long jump, Danielle Maier set a mark in the javelin with a toss of 150-2 and Wopamo Osaisai set the frosh record in the 100 meters with a time of 10.45 ... Osaisai's time is also second all-time in the varsity record book.

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