ASU, UA women capture top 4 spots at Pac-10 Multi Event

The championship portion of the 2011 track & field outdoor season in the Pac-10 is here already.  And ASU has jumped out to a nice lead on the women’s side.

Senior Samantha Henderson, who finished in fourth place in the women’s heptathlon at last year’s combined events portion of the Pac-10 Championships, climbed the ranks to win this year’s event – and propel Arizona State to a huge lead going into the second phase of the conference championship this coming weekend.

Henderson, a Mesa High School grad who transferred in to ASU from Mesa Community College, scored 5,470 points in the seven-event heptathlon to help the Sun Devil women to a near-sweep of the top four places.

The Devils also took the second and fourth places, with the University of Arizona stepping in at third place to prevent the sweep.

Henderson scored 5,126 points last year for her fourth-place finish, but an impressive personal-best jump of 20’04.25″ in the long jump and a fifth in the javelin provided the extra boost she needed this year.  Her toss of 113’01” in the javelin was also a personal best.

Teammate Keia Pinnick also bettered last year’s third place finish by moving up to second this year, earning 5,385 points, thanks in large part to a first-place finish in the 800-meter run (2:14.15).

ASU’s fourth-place finish went to Christabel Nettey, who is the only non-returning athlete among the six the Sun Devils sent to Drachman Stadium at UofA for this year’s competition, scored 5,068 points in her first-ever heptathlon.  She set an ASU heptathlon mark in the long jump, winning it with a leap of 20’08”.

The University of Arizona broke up the ASU sweep with Liana Fuentes‘ third-place finish, as she won the javelin event with a throw of 135’09’ – which was almost 12 feet beyond the next closest mark.  She also set a personal-best in the long jump by reaching 18’18.5″.

“That was big,” UofA coach, Fred Harvey, said of Fuentes’ performance.  “We anticipated her being in the top seven, but for her to finish third gives us some big momentum heading into next weekend.”

On the men’s side, ASU had a couple of finishes in the top 10, and UofA’s best performance was a 15th place.  Austin Prince collected 6,779 points to give ASU an eighth place in the 10-event deacathlon, and teammate Jeremy Marcinko was right behind with 6,769 points for a ninth-place finish.

Marcinko is a sophomore from Higley High School in Gilbert, where he was a two-time 4A-II state champion in the pole vault and set a school record in the decathlon.

By the time the dust settled on Saturday, the ASU women had compiled 23 points and the closest competitors were Washington State and Arizona, with six each.  UCLA took an early lead in the men’s competition with 15 points.

“It was a great start, with 23 points for our women’s team,” said Greg Kraft, the ASU head coach.  “It was beyond our expectations.”

The primary portion of the Pac-10 Championships begins Friday, again hosted by UofA, and runs for two days.  All points scored last weekend in the Multi-event competition will go toward team totals this weekend.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)