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Women’s track finishes successful season at NCAA championships

Walkonen leads for half of 10,000-meter race, but injury forces withdrawal

Andrea Walkonen (CAS�08) qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 10,000-meter race with a time of 33:18.21 in the NCAA East Regional.

BU women’s track Terrier Andrea Walkonen’s California gold rush left most competitors eating dust halfway through the 10,000-meter race in the NCAA Championships on June 8.

Walkonen (SAR’08), seeded fifth in the competition in Sacramento, moved immediately into the lead. Joined by Auburn’s Angela Homan and Oklahoma State’s Mary Davies in the front pack, Walkonen ran the 3K in 9:48, and the trio led a chase group of five runners by about 45 meters (approximately 15 yards). Walkonen still led at the halfway point, but with two-and-a-half miles left, a leg injury forced her to pull out of the race.

Despite this disappointment, it was a productive spring for Walkonen and her teammates. The women took second at the America East tournament on May 7 in Durham, N.H., and 10 athletes went on to the NCAA East Regional championship — the most competing from BU since the NCAA switched to a regional format in 2002.

The Terriers’ second-place finish at the America East tournament matched their best showing in 13 years. Narrowly edged by the University of Albany, their performance marked a successful debut by new track and cross-country director Robyne Johnson. The coaching veteran and former All-American hurdler came to campus in September after helping the University of California at Berkeley win 10 Pac-10 championships as an assistant coach. Tahari James (CGS’06) took home the Most Outstanding Performer Award, the Outstanding Field Performer Award, and the Coaches’ Award, for recording the most points. Walkonen finished first in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 16:19.25.

At the NCAA East Regional, Walkonen qualified for the NCAA championships with an automatic qualifying time of 33:18.21. At the same meet, Marisa Ryan (CAS’07) finished 10th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. James came in 12th in the triple jump with a distance of 12.98 meters (42 feet, 7 inches), 26th in the long jump and the 4×100-meter relay, and 26th in the long jump with a distance of 5.82 meters (19 feet, 1.25 inches). Alexis Beaudet (COM’09) was 33rd in the long jump with a distance of 5.57 meters (18 feet, 3.25 inches). Fellow freshman Rebecca Marshburn (CAS’09) came in 24th in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles with a time of 1:02.40. Jessica Cickay (COM’08) finished 36th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 11:23.20, and Abbey Sadowski (CAS’07) was 14th in the 1,500-meter race with a time of 4:28.29. The 4×100-meter relay team of Beaudet, James, Erin Cadden (COM’06), and Melanie Piccolo (SAR’07) finished 15th with a time of 46.89.

Walkonen, a native of Jaffrey, N.H., helped the BU women’s cross-country team win the America East title last fall and then spurred on the women’s indoor track team to capture the conference crown in February by shattering the 11-year-old America East record in the 5,000-meter race, turning in a time of 16:13.80. She went on to finish 10th in the 5,000-meter race at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships the following month in Fayetteville, Ark., with a time of 16:20.20. That was Walkonen’s first trip to the NCAA Championships, but with two years of eligibility left, she seems almost certain to return.