Murray, Wichmann go after NCAA gold
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Kalani Takase
Novelle Murray never met Gwen Loud, but the University of Hawai'i senior has a chance to join her in the record books.
Murray and fellow Rainbow Wahine Annett Wichmann will participate in next week's NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex on the Sacramento State campus.
Murray will compete in the discus and Wichmann in the heptathlon.
Loud remains as the only Hawai'i athlete to win a national title, capturing the long jump in 1984.
That is, unless Murray has anything to say about it.
The 5-foot-8 senior from Surrey, British Columbia has the third longest throw in the nation this year at 56.44 meters (185 feet, 2 inches). Murray beat Arizona State's Sarah Stevens earlier this season at the Triton Invitational in San Diego. Stevens holds the nation's top mark of 57.73 meters (189 feet, 4 inches). Murray, who finished second at last week's regionals to Stevens, knows she will have to be at her best.
"I'm probably going to have to throw a personal record, but I think I'm ready," Murray said. "I would say anywhere between 56 and 60 meters."
At the 2005 NCAA West Regionals, Murray fouled on her last attempt and consequently failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships. She redshirted during the 2006 outdoor track and field season.
"Coming off that (foul) and not being able to redeem myself right away has made me really hungry this year," Murray said. "It was just a great lesson in competition: any day, anything can happen and you better bring your A-game every time."
UH head coach Carmyn James says the miscue was devastating to Murray, but fueled her drive this year.
"I think that just got her more motivated and inspired. Sometimes you learn from your biggest lessons from some negative events," said the seventh-year coach. "That was probably one of the worst things that's happened to her in her competitive career, but she was able to turn that negative thing around and become that much better of an athlete."
Murray, who has a UH record 10 medals — including 5 golds — between the Western Athletic Conference Indoor and Outdoor Championships, completes her eligibility next week, but hopes to compete for Jamaica in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Her father is Jamaican).
However, because Murray has competed internationally for Canada she will have to sit out one year.
Before she looks forward to international competition, Murray is "excited" for her first NCAA Championships.
"Pretty much this is the last meet so every throw could be my last one," she said. "Every one, do it big."
Wichmann, a Jena, Germany native, is ranked 14th nationally in the heptathlon and is regarded as one of the top multi-event athletes in the WAC.
Wichmann, a 5-foot-11 junior, is the two-time defending WAC Outdoor champion in the heptathlon, won the pentathlon during the WAC Indoor season and finished 11th in the event at March's NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Arkansas.
"She jumped higher in the heptathlon than the WAC champion did," said James, attesting to her athleticism.
"The throwing events are actually my strength and that's normally where I get more points," Wichmann said.
The lanky "Germanator" — as she is called by her teammates — knows every event won't go her way.
"For every event you have to focus and you have to refocus basically," she explained. "If one event was bad, you have to shake it off and concentrate on the next one. You have to go step-by-step."
Heptathletes have 30 minutes between events.
"Whether your last event was good or bad, you've got to let it go and focus on the next one," James said.
The success of the Rainbow Wahine could parlay into long-term success for the resurrected program.
"It's making an impact in terms of people who are interested in our program," James said. "All of a sudden, there are heptathletes out there that want to come to UH."
Hawai'i dropped its track program in 1985, but it was reinstated in 2000.
"People are noticing us and they're becoming more and more interested," James said. "That's the plan, that it'll snowball and we'll be able to attract more and more top quality athletes."
Thursday's heptathlon events include the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200-meter dash. The long jump, javelin and 800-meter run conclude competition on Friday.
The discus preliminaries are Wednesday and finals Friday.
CSTV will broadcast Friday's events live beginning at 2:30 p.m. Hawai'i time.