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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Finish line at UH for first time

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai‘i junior Patricia Gauthier has the second-best pole vault mark in the Western Athletic Conference this season at 12 feet, 11.75 inches. That mark earned her WAC Track and Field Athlete of the Week.

Courtesy of Metz Photography

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WHERE: Cooke Field

WHEN: Today through Saturday

WHO: Approximately 500 athletes on eight women's teams and five men's teams

SCHEDULE: Heptathlon and decathlon today and tomorrow from 1 p.m. Individual events Friday and Saturday from noon. Meet scheduled to end by 7 p.m. each day.

2005 CHAMPIONS: Louisiana Tech women and UTEP men. The LaTech women and Boise State men won this season's indoor titles.

ADMISSION: Today and tomorrow free. Friday and Saturday, $6 adults, $3 senior citizens and students. All-session (two days): $10 adults, $5 senior citizens and students. No admission for field events taking place on grass soccer field.

GATES: Open noon today and tomorrow and 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday.


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Nicole Wright

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Nicole Wright, the University of Hawai'i's lone senior, has seen the track program clear a number of hurdles as it continues to grow.

Courtesy of Metz Photography

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Top Five WAC Rankings

High jump: 1, Emily Sheppard 5-8.75; T3, Mallory Gilbert 5-7; T5, Annett Wichmann 5-6.

Heptathlon: 2, Annett Wichmann 4,940 points; 4, Mallory Gilbert 4,049.

Discus: 4, Meghan Weaver 156-4.

Pole Vault: T2, Patricia Gauthier 12-11.75; T5, Jessica Trujillo and Tiara Krismunando 12-0.

3,000 meters: Chantelle Laan 10:26.06.

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Hawai'i's Meghan Weaver has the fourth-best discus throw in the WAC at 156-4.

Courtesy of Metz Photography

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Sendoffs for seniors at the University of Hawai'i are usually sincere and sentimental. For Nicole Wright, the Rainbow Wahine have scheduled organized mayhem.

They will host their first Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships this week at Cooke Field. Some 500 athletes will be competing on the renovated rainbow-colored track, jumping into imported Australian sand, performing the long throws (discus, hammer, javelin) across the road at the soccer field and warming up at Les Murakami Stadium.

Wright, a 2001 Kalaheo graduate and the lone UH senior, is rarely at a loss for words. But the best description she can come up with for her final home sprints, hurdles and jumps is "wonderful."

When she came to Manoa four years ago, the track was an injured ankle waiting to happen and the program was only two years into its rebirth. After four seasons of traveling to the Mainland basically every other week for meets, being home for the final days is a blessing.

It has been a senior season of mixed blessings. Sophomore Meghan Weaver is the first Rainbow Wahine to qualify for NCAA regionals in three field events — shot put, discus and hammer. Junior Patricia Gauthier has also qualified, for the second straight year, in pole vault. Both are in the region's Top 20.

The 'Bows have broken or tied seven outdoor school records, six by sophomore Annett Wichmann, from Germany. On one brilliant day in L.A. (April 12), Weaver and Gauthier got their NCAA standards and several Rainbow Wahine set personal bests. On their next trip, seven 'Bows set season or personal bests at the Sacramento Invitational, including Wright, who is closing fast with career bests in the long and triple jumps.

And yet, last season a record seven Rainbow Wahine went to regionals. Rain has wiped out more than one day, including a washout when the 'Bows were competing in two meets simultaneously and Bryan Clay, Hawai'i's Olympic silver medalist, came to visit.

One woman came by the Hawai'i tent during the downpour asking if it was "pineapple rain," Wright recalled. "We were thinking, 'what is pineapple rain?' I mean, rain that big might hurt."

Wichmann, for all her excellence, still has not reached the NCAA standard needed for nationals (there is no heptathlon regional). A virus broke out in the middle of the last Mainland trip, catching several athletes and coach Carmyn James. Wichmann, who won silver in the pentathlon at the WAC Indoors in February, set school and event marks at the Northridge and California multi-events. But at that last event, after setting records in the 100 hurdles, 200, shot put and total first-day score — and on NCAA pace — she had to pull out with illness.

Now, all the travel and 4:45 a.m. airport shuttles and Mainland questions about "Dog the Bounty Hunter" are over. The 'Bows close at home, with a goal of improving on last year's sixth-place finish. The meet will have its share of NCAA qualifiers, with Boise State alone bringing in three field athletes (Mattias Jons in hammer, Keron Francis javelin and Steffan Jonsson discus) ranked in the country's top five.

The team consequences are expected to encourage even more athletes to reach NCAA regional standards.

"I'm coming every single day," says Wright, who harbors hopes of reaching regionals in the triple jump. "These are my teammates. Everyone should come."

She thanked her teammates "for being part of my life" on the last road trip. Now, she can finish where she started, on a rainbow track "where you can't lose your lane and if you look up at the right time you can really see a rainbow."

"When people see that," Wright says, "they get why I'm here."

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.