May 26, 2006
Rhonda Watkins led the No. 13 UCLA women's track and field team on day one of the West Region Championships as the freshman won both the long jump and high jump titles to automatically advance to the NCAA Championships in Sacramento in two weeks. Sophomore Renee Williams (long jump) and senior Caroline Sommers (high jump) also qualified for Nationals with top-five finishes in their respective events
Watkins won the long jump competition, setting a new West Region meet record (old record: 21-4, Antonette Carter of Cal) a lifetime-best jump of 21-6 (old best 20-8) to automatically advance to the NCAA Championships. Watkins' jump moves her into a tie for third on the national list, No. 4 all-time at UCLA and eighth all-time in Pac-10 Conference history. Sophomore Renee Williams also advanced after finishing fifth with a mark of 20-9.25 (equals season-best). At the 2006 Pac-10, Williams was second (20-9.25) and Watkins was third (20-7.25).
"I'm really excited," Watkins said. "I was looking forward to doing a personal best. I'm peaking at the right time."
According to her coach, Bruin great and long jump world record-holder Mike Powell, even longer jump marks are in her future. "She jumped 21-7 in practice on Tuesday," Powell said. "This is her first meet of the season with the long jump as her first event. Usually the high jump is first (Watkins won the high jump/season best 5-11.25 at the Pac-10) and then she's tired going into the long jump competition. This is one of the top long jumps in the nation, and she's just starting to figure out what the long jump is all about."
In the high jump, Watkins duplicated her Pac-10 title, taking first place with a leap of 5-9.25. Senior Caroline Sommers also advanced to the NCAA Outdoor, tying for second (5-7.25). Not advancing for the Bruins were sophomore Allison Miller and freshman Lauren Correa, both tying for seventh-place (5-7.25).
"After the long jump I was tired, but I knew I had to get ready for the high jump," Watkins said. "I was hoping to jump 5-11.25, thinking it would be a top-five mark (automatic NCAA qualifier). As a freshman, I can't ask for anything more. I'm really happy."
The NCAA Outdoor (June 7-10 in Sacramento) will be the first time this outdoor season that the qualifying and finals for the long and high jumps will not be on the same day.
In the shot put, junior Kamaiya Warren finished 14th overall with a throw of 46-4.25. Warren should receive an at-large bid based on her finish on Friday (top-12 eligible for at-large) and her national ranking (10th with a throw of 55-11).
In the 100m hurdles, senior Dawn Harper advanced to Saturday's final running a wind-aided 12.87 (+4.0) to finish third overall (2nd in heat two).
Freshman Nicole Leach won heat one of the 400m hurdles with the fastest time of the day overall, 58.61, to advance to Saturday's finals. Junior MacKenzie Hill was third in heat two and 10th overall, running 1:01.66, but did not advance to the finals.
Sophomore Jolanda Diego ran a wind-aided 11.43 (+3.1) in the prelims of the 100m, finishing fifth in heat one and eighth overall to advance to the finals on Saturday. Diego also advanced in the 200m, finishing fifth overall and third in heat one, with a personal best time of 23.28
There were no prelims for the 1500m, so junior Ashley Caldwell will run in the final on Saturday.
Regional competition continues on Saturday in Provo, UT.