Getting out of their comfort zone, the Vandal track and field teams are leaving the Palouse for the first time this season. Idaho travels to Washington to compete in the Husky Classic and the UW Open Meet Friday through Sunday at the Dempsey Indoor Stadium. The meet will feature some of the best indoor track and field competition in the country.
“During our regular season, this is probably our biggest meet of the year,” Idaho coach Wayne Phipps said. “Everyone really loves to compete in this venue. The facility is great. Most importantly, the level of competition is amazing.”
Teams with athletes competing at the Husky Classic include Oregon, Washington, WSU, BYU, California, UCLA, Texas, Missouri, Arizona, Stanford, Boise State, WAC foes Seattle University and New Mexico State, along with many more.
Before this trip, all of Idaho’s meets had taken place at home or across the border at WSU. The Husky Classic and UW Open are the only road meets outside of the Palouse for the Vandals until they travel to Albuquerque, N.M., for the WAC Indoor Championships later this month.
“It’s exciting,” sophomore sprinter Ben Ayesu-Attah said of the Husky Classic. “I always look forward to this because it is the only (road) meet we have and you got to make the most out of it that one time of the year.”
Phipps and senior thrower Kristine Leonard said the facilities will be crowded and there won’t be much room or time to prepare for events. Consequently, younger athletes need to prepare themselves mentally before they compete.
“There’s going to be a lot of people there, there’s a lot more competition (than other meets),” Leonard said. “There’s like 50 girls in the weight (throw) on Friday night, so it’s a lot of people.”
For the experienced athletes, the Husky Classic offers an opportunity to compete against quality competition and post a time or mark that gives the athlete a chance at qualifying for the national championship meet.
“We have a number of people that we feel can move up in the NCAA rankings to give themselves a chance to make it to the national championships,” Phipps said. “They qualify a little bit differently this year … no mark is safe anymore.”
With the NCAA moving away from automatic times to qualify for NCAA Championships this season, there is more pressure on the athletes to secure a top spot in the rankings in order to qualify for nationals. They can’t hit a certain mark and relax because someone else could pass them and knock them out.
The Vandals are also travelling to Washington on a short week, competing just five days after finishing competition at the Vandal Open. Nevertheless, the Vandal athletes are eager and ready to compete against the best in Washington.
“I think everybody is pretty ready,” Leonard said. “We’ve had enough meets under our belt by this point that I don’t think anything will really surprise us.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at email@example.com