TRACK & FIELD
STAR-BULLETIN FILE PHOTO
Hawaii junior Annett Wichmann ranks 14th nationally in the heptathlon. She placed 17th at the NCAA title meet a year ago.
2 Rainbow Wahine seek NCAA titles
A year from now, Hawaii senior Novelle Murray hopes to be preparing for the biggest track meet of them all.
For the moment, she's focused on her shot at closing her Rainbow Wahine career with a national title when she competes at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship in Sacramento, Calif., this week.
Murray is ranked third in the country in the discus and is aiming to become UH's first NCAA champion since Gwen Loud won the long jump title in 1984.
"This is what I've wanted since I set foot on this campus, so I'm very excited," Murray said of competing in her first NCAA championship.
Murray's skills could land her in Beijing next summer as she'll attempt to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games as a member of the Jamaican national team.
UH junior Annett Wichmann returns to the NCAA meet in the heptathlon and is the first Rainbow Wahine athlete to compete in both the indoor and outdoor championships. She ranks 14th in the nation and is looking to improve on a 17th-place finish at last year's championship meet.
The NCAA championships open Wednesday at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex and run through Saturday.
Although Novelle Murray has a chance to win a national championship this week, the Hawaii senior already feels like the pressure is off her shoulders.
While Rainbow Wahine heptathlete Annett Wichmann is preparing to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships for the second straight year, Murray is making her first appearance in the event which begins Wednesday in Sacramento, Calif.
The UH senior might have qualified for the national championships in the discus two years earlier if not for a miscue on her final throw at the West regional in 2005, a memory that crept back when she returned to the same stage last month.
"I was kind of calm and then the day before (the meet) any time I even thought about discus my stomach was doing flip-flops," Murray said. "I was having crazy dreams where I just froze up and couldn't throw. So, yeah, I was pretty nervous."
But after powering through the jitters to place second in the regional and earn that elusive NCAA berth ...
"I'm ready. I made it through the hardest part," she said. "I really screwed up in 2005, so to go back there and be in the same position I was, it was a huge thing just to get through."
Murray, who redshirted last year, enters the NCAA championship ranked third in the nation in the discus, and was runner-up to top-ranked Sarah Stephens of Arizona State in the regionals held May 25-26 in Eugene, Ore.
Murray topped Stephens at the Triton Invitational in San Diego in April, and went on to set a personal best with a throw of 185 feet, 2 inches at the Western Athletic Conference championships last month in Fresno.
"She's a very competitive person," UH coach Carmyn James said. "Of all the athletes I've been around, she is definitely up there in terms of having the focus and having the ability to rise to the occasion. The WAC was a perfect example. She had three events and had personal bests in all three of them."
Murray qualified for the NCAAs with a throw covering 176-6 at the regionals. Stephens won the event at 182-05.
Though Murray and Stephens are among the favorites this week, Murray shies away from peeking at the numbers her competitors are putting up.
"I never look at rankings," Murray said. "You can't control what everyone else does, but you can control what you do. So that's just what I try to focus on."
After completing her UH career, Murray hopes her next step in the sport takes her all the way to Beijing. Though she grew up in Canada, Murray's father is from Jamaica and she plans to attempt to qualify for the Jamaican Olympic team for the 2008 Games.
Murray's presence at the NCAAs this week means Wichmann will have some company in her third championship appearance.
Last year, Wichmann became the second UH athlete to qualify for the NCAA championship since the program was revived in 2000. She went on to compete in the indoor championship in March and is the first Rainbow Wahine to qualify for both NCAA meets in the same year.
The junior ranks 14th nationally in the heptathlon and earned a return trip back to Sacramento by retaining her WAC title last month with a school-record 5,557 points.
Wichmann stumbled to a slow start at last year's NCAA outdoor meet on her way to a 17th-place finish with 5,191 points, and is looking forward to a second chance.
"Last year I wasn't in as good shape as I am this year, so I'm a little more confident," she said.
Along with training for her return to the NCAAs, Wichmann competed in the West regional in the high jump and javelin. Wichmann missed the regionals last year and said participating in the meet last month helped her stay sharp in the break between the WAC and NCAA meets.
"Last year I didn't go to regionals and I could feel that I hadn't competed for a long time," she said. "This year it was really good I had this meet in between."
This week's meet marks the first time UH is sending multiple athletes to the NCAA championship since 1984. The event caps Murray's career and a memorable season for the Rainbow Wahine, who sent seven athletes to the regionals. They finished 17th among the 42 schools in the West region, second among WAC schools entered.
"Everyone keeps saying, 'This is the last time you're going to put on the Hawaii uniform,' and it is a pretty emotional thing," Murray said. "Hawaii's been very good to me."
Note: Qualifying in the discus at the NCAA championship will be held Wednesday with the finals set for Friday. The heptathlon will be held Thursday and Friday.