TRACK & FIELD
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Annett Wichmann is the second UH athlete to qualify for the NCAA championships since the program was revived in 2001.
Wichmann closes UH's year alone
The sophomore will wrap up 2005-06 in the heptathlon at the NCAA championships
While most of her teammates have already scattered for the summer, Annett Wichmann's return to Germany will have to wait a little while longer.
Not that she minds spending a few more days in the states.
The Hawaii sophomore departs for Sacramento today and will compete in the heptathlon at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships this weekend.
The meet starts today, with the heptathlon scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Sacramento State's A.G. Spanos Sports Complex.
With the Rainbow baseball team ending its season in the NCAA regionals on Sunday, Wichmann is the last UH athlete still competing and will punctuate the 2005-06 athletic year as just the second Rainbow Wahine athlete to qualify for the NCAA championships since the program was revived in 2001.
Sure, it gets a little lonely around Cooke Field when it's just her and UH coach Carmyn James on the track during practices. But she'll soon find herself among the nation's top college athletes, including a few familiar faces from home.
"I'm going to see some old friends (from Germany), so it'll be even more exciting," Wichmann said. "I'm really looking forward to that, it'll be a very different flair."
Wichmann is the first UH athlete to qualify for the meet since Cheryl Smith placed 12th in the 10,000 meters at the 2001 NCAA meet.
The seven-event heptathlon begins Friday with the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200 meters. The long jump, javelin and 800 meters will be held Saturday.
Wichmann earned an NCAA provisional qualifying score in winning the heptathlon at the Western Athletic Conference championships on May 11 at Cooke Field.
Her school-record score of 5,374 points ranks 16th among the 28 athletes entered in the NCAA meet. Arizona State sophomore Jacquelyn Johnson leads the field with a best of 5,987 points.
In her first season at UH, Wichmann already owns all but one of the school's heptathlon records, with the long-jump mark the lone record that's eluded her so far.
"I never had a real main event, I always stayed balanced," she said. "Now in the last year, the throwing events have become where I catch up on all the points."
That was certainly the case at the WAC championships, where a season-best throw of 141 feet, 3 inches in the javelin catapulted her past Utah State's Lacey Hulbert. Wichmann then clinched the title by sprinting by Hulbert in the final stretch of the 800.
James credited the duel between Wichmann and Hulbert at the WAC meet for boosting both of their totals and contributing to a reunion this week in Sacramento.
Although she'll be the only UH athlete at the NCAA meet, Wichmann will likely find camaraderie among her fellow competitors in the event.
"The heptathletes and decathletes, they're a different breed of athletes in terms of how well they get along and support each other," James said. "It still is competitive, but compared to the other events they are more so a collective group."
"We all go through the same things and we all hate the 800," Wichmann said. "And we're all together for two days. The sprinters are together for like 1 minute."
James didn't have to do much recruiting to get Wichmann, a national youth champion in Germany, to enroll at UH.
After recovering from a painful lower back injury that threatened to end her career in 2003, Wichmann got the brush-off from track officials in Germany. She then explored the possibility of competing in college and, "the only place I wanted to go was Hawaii."
Wichmann, who owns a personal best of 5,600 points, began corresponding with James in November 2004 and was accepted to UH last July following a prolonged exchange of paperwork.
"There was a lot of administrative red tape in terms of all the NCAA stuff," James said. "Like when we needed her transcripts, and they came but then we needed it translated. And then we needed this and we needed that."
On her side of the world, Wichmann remained patient, yet optimistic.
"I had booked a flight here even before I got the word," she said.
And when the news arrived in Germany that she'd been accepted, "I celebrated. I had a plastic lei, and then I got a real one here."
Wichmann's parents were here to witness her victory at the WAC meet and returned home on Monday after a month-long stay. She'll soon join them back in Germany -- but not before savoring this week's competition, as well as a few more days of beach time.
"I can jump in the water finally," she said.
Air time: CSTV (Oceanic digital 247) will air 2 hours of live coverage of the NCAA championships on Friday beginning at 2 p.m. Hawaii time. CBS will televise Saturday's events from 9:30 a.m. to noon|