Posted on July 7, 2023
Then he lost it. Then he regained. Then he lost it again.
When the dust settled, Washington finished second to Sam Mattis by exactly one foot, but with his spot on the U.S. team for the World Championships now virtually assured, Washington was all smiles afterward.
“I’m definitely still on the rise. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve really started to figure out what I’m trying to do in the (discus) circle,” Washington said. “And today I was able to execute what I wanted to do.”
The five-time NCAA champion believes his season best is still to come.
“In the coming weeks, we’ll just try to up that intensity because 65 meters won’t do anything at the world championships.”
Washington threw 65.60 meters (215-3) on Thursday, just short of the 66.22 he threw to win the NCAA discus title in June.
The automatic qualifying standard for worlds is 67 meters, but Washington believes his world ranking of 18th place will get him to Budapest even if he doesn’t hit 67 before the championships in late August.
The tight competition with Mattis continued a recent trend for Washington. At the NCAA meet in Austin last month, Washington appeared to be on his way to winning the shot put.
But then Arizona senior Jordan Geist popped a big one on his last throw to knock Washington out of first.
In the ensuing discus competition, Washington was the one flipping the script, coming from behind on his last attempt to win.
The NCAA discus win was a major upset because Washington took down Cal sophomore Mykolas Alekna from Lithuania, who is ranked third in the world.
“I beat Alekna on his off day, but any other day, 99 out of 100 he’d beat me,” Washington said with a smile. “He’s amazing. A real inspiration.”
Washington has consistently competed in the shot and the discus throughout his college career, but said he “liked the way my body feels” when he can focus on just throwing the discus.
“The shot is for bigger guys,” the 6-f0ot-5 Washington said with a grin.
His father, Anthony Washington, was a star thrower for years and won the gold medal at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, Spain.
Ironically, for all his success, Washington leaves college, though, having never won a conference title.
“Five-time NCAA champion but never won a Pac-12 title. That goes to show how important conference is,” Washington joked.
Another Sun Devil who got his US Championships off to a strong start was 400-meter sprinter Justin Robinson.
Running in the third heat of the first round, Robinson came on strong down the home stretch to win it in 45.22, the fifth-fastest time among all qualifiers for the semis.
Utah’s Emily Venters capped her very successful 2023 season with a seventh-place finish in the women’s 10,000 meters final.
Venters hung with the small pack leading the race until the last mile when she dropped back. Her time of 32:45.37 was just 33 seconds behind winner and former Stanford star Elise Cranny.
Oregon State’s Kaylee Mitchell also had an outstanding day, placing second in her heat of the 3000-meter steeplechase.
She finished just behind 10-time US champion Emma Coburn (former Colorado standout).
Mitchell was ranked 12th coming into the meet, but her time of 9:38.15 was not only a season-best but was also the second-fastest among all qualifiers for the steeple final on Saturday.
Roisin Willis and Juliette Whittaker, Stanford’s crack freshmen duo in the 800, also impressed, as they ran 2:00.23 and 2:00.74, respectively, to move into the semi-finals with the fourth and sixth fastest times.
—More from Steve Ritchie—
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- USATF: BYU’s Rooks Overcomes Fall to Win Men’s Steeple
- USATF: Prep Star Brahe-Pedersen Holds Her Own vs. Pros
- U.S. Track & Field Championships Preview: Road to Budapest
- Ritchie: UO, USC Women Set to Battle for Pac-12 T&F Title
- Pac-12 Men’s Track Title Preview, Part 2: Bruins Back?
- Ritchie: Is Oregon’s Pac-12 Track Dynasty about to End?
- Ritchie: Transfer Portal Big Key to Duck Football Success
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- Ritchie: Ducks and Bruins Battle for the Top of the Pac-12
- Oregon-Arizona Desert Duals have been Wildly Unpredictable
- Ritchie: Raised a Tiger, Bo Nix Finds his Place with Ducks
- Ritchie: Can Georgia Continue SEC Dominance over Oregon?
After Dramatic USATF Nationals, Focus Turns to WorldsIf performances last weekend are any indication, the American squad should do well in Budapest - July 16, 2023
USATF: BYU’s Rooks Overcomes Fall to Win Men’s SteepleThe Hayward crowd was in full roar mode, the loudest it has been during these championships - July 9, 2023
USATF: Prep Star Brahe-Pedersen Holds Her Own vs. ProsThe 17-year-old squeaked through the 100-meter semifinals as the final time-qualifier - July 8, 2023