Bearcats are Ready to Host the Willamette Invitational

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- It's almost time for the annual Willamette Invitational in track and field, which will be held this weekend at the Charles Bowles Track. The 2009 WU Invite will be one of the largest meets on the West Coast, as it continues to join the Stanford Invitational and the Oregon Relays as featured events on the college track and field schedule.

This year, the Bearcats will host 51 college teams and running clubs, with a total of 1,274 entries. Action will get underway on Friday, March 3 with the men's and women's hammer throw and the women's and men's pole vault at 3 p.m. (PDT). The Charles Bowles Celebration of Distance also will be on Friday, with the fastest heats in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, 1,500-meter run and 5,000-meter run set for the evening hours between 7:30 p.m.and 8:45 p.m.

The 10,000-meter run and the slower heats in the other distance events will be held Friday afternoon between 4 p.m. and 7:05 p.m.

Saturday's schedule includes the remaining field events, starting at 10 a.m., as well as the shorter track events and the relay races. Running events will begin at 12 p.m., with the final event set for 4:55 p.m.

The Willamette Invitational will feature many quality competitors throughout the meet. The host Bearcats will be represented by talented athletes in a wide range of events. Meanwhile, the level of competition will be some of the best the 'Cats will face all season.

"There are a lot of good people in a lot of events. It's going to be a very good meet," said Willamette Head Coach Matt McGuirk.

"Across the board, we've improved," McGuirk said regarding the progress of Willamette's athletes so far this season. "And all of our kids are performing well. This is our first chance to really have great competition in every event."

As in recent years, the meet will feature lots of entries in virtually every race and every throwing event. The largest race appears to be the men's 800-meter run, which has 77 athletes set to compete. In the running events, athletes will compete against the clock, with multiple heats scheduled for events with large numbers of entries. The throwing events, long jump and triple jump will have four attempts per athlete and no final round.

"We have large numbers and many heats in all the races," McGuirk said. "This is the big one for us each year."

The schedule on Friday will include this year's major change, as the pole vault will be contested on the infield, with part of the competition to be held under the lights.

"The biggest difference this year is that we have built a pole vault runway and we've moved it to the infield," McGuirk noted. "Now we'll be able to vault with the wind, which is a major advantage."

Friday's list of events also features the Celebration of Distance for the second year in a row. Last season, the highlighted distance competition led to a pair of national qualifying marks for the Bearcats, as Ian Batch (Sr., in 2007-08) earned a provisional qualifying time in the men's 5,000 and Jena Winger (Jr., in 2007-08) registered a provisional time in the women's 5,000. Both competed at the NCAA Championships later in the season.

Staffing the Willamette Invitational is always a significant project, but McGuirk said several groups were providing workers to help keep things running smoothly. Heading the list are the Salem Track Club and the area's Certified Track and Field Officials. Also, many Willamette work study students will be providing help throughout the two days of the event.

Parking near Bush's Pasture Park will be in high demand, especially with fair weather in the forecast for Saturday. Fans should try the parking areas on both sides of the park, as well as nearby areas in Salem.

The Willamette University parking lot near the Sparks Center requires a parking permit until 4 p.m. on Friday, but is open to the public the remainder of Friday and on Saturday. The Sparks Center lot is located at the intersection of Bellevue and 12th Street, roughly two to three blocks from Bush's Pasture Park. Parking at Salem Hospital is not available and is only for hospital personnel and related business.

Willamette Invitational

Schedule for Friday, April 3

Field Events
(Four attempts and no finals in the Hammer)
3:00 p.m. - Men’s Hammer (Women to follow) at 1850 Oxford SE (Behind the Math Learning Center)
3:00 p.m. - Women's Pole Vault (Men to follow) on the infield of McCulloch Stadium

Running Events
4:00 p.m. - Men’s 3000m Steeplechase - B section
4:15 p.m. - Women’s 10K
5:05 p.m. - Men's 10K
5:50 p.m. - Women's 1500m - C section
6:00 p.m. - Women’s 1500m - B section
6:10 p.m. - Men's 1500m - D section
6:20 p.m. - Men’s 1500m - C section
6:30 p.m. - Men’s 1500m - B section
6:40 p.m. - Women's 5000m - B section
7:05 p.m. - Men's 5000m - B section

Charles Bowles Celebration of Distance �" Fastest Heats
7:30 p.m. - Women’s 3000m Steeplechase - A section
7:50 p.m. - Men’s 3000m Steeplechase - A section
8:05 p.m. - Women’s 1500m - A section
8:13 p.m. - Men’s 1500m - A section
8:20 p.m. - Women’s 5000m - A section
8:45 p.m. - Men’s 5000m - A section

Schedule for Saturday, April 4

Field Events (Four attempts and no finals in Throws, Long Jump and Triple Jump)
10:00 a.m. - Men’s Javelin (Women to follow)
10:00 a.m. - Men’s Shot Put (Women to follow)
10:00 a.m. - Women’s High Jump (Men to follow)
10:00 a.m. - Men’s Long Jump (Triple Jump to follow)
10:00 p.m. - Women’s Long Jump (Triple Jump to follow)
10:00 p.m. - Women’s Discus (Men to follow)

Running Events
(NOTE: Fastest heats run first on Saturday)
12:00 p.m. - Women’s 4 x 100m Relay (2 heats)
12:10 p.m. - Men’s 4 x 100m Relay (2 heats)
12:25 p.m. - Women's 100m Hurdles (4 heats)
12:55 p.m. - Men's 110m Hurdles (5 heats)
1:20 p.m. - Women's 400m (4 heats)
1:35 p.m. - Men's 400m (5 heats)
1:55 p.m. - Women's 100m (4 heats)
2:05 p.m. - Men's 100m (5 heats)
2:25 p.m. - Women's 800m (5 heats)
2:50 p.m. - Men's 800m (8 heats)
3:30 p.m. - Women's 400m Hurdles (3 heats)
3:45 p.m. - Men's 400m Hurdles (4 heats)
4:05 p.m. - Women's 200m (5 heats)
4:20 p.m. - Men's 200m (6 heats)
4:40 p.m. - Women's 1600m Relay (2 heats)
4:55 p.m. - Men's 1600m Relay (3 heats)

Willamette Invitational
April 3-4
At Charles Bowles Track
Grant Piros recorded an NCAA provisional qualifying throw of 194-9 in the javelin earlier this season.

Grant Piros recorded an NCAA provisional qualifying throw of 194-9 in the javelin earlier this season.