Murillo, Arrigoni and Arakawa are EWU’s 18th, 19th and 20th National competitors in school history
Emma Murillo, Catie Arrigoni and Jordan Arakawa of the Eastern Washington University track and field teams are no strangers to making history this season, and each athlete has earned an opportunity to make even more as they head to Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Division I National Outdoor Championships on June 11-14.
The meet will be hosted by the University of Oregon at Historic Hayward Field, a venue and community that has earned Eugene the common classification “Track Town USA”. Each athlete qualified for the meet by placing in the top 12 in their respective event at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in Fayetteville, Ark., on May 29-31.
Eastern will be taking three athletes to the meet for the first time in school history, as they had never sent more than two in previous seasons. Murillo, Arrigoni and Arakawa will be the school’s 18th, 19th and 20th national competitors outdoors. Athletes who place in the top eight at the meet will receive All-American honors, a feat Eastern athletes have achieved four times outdoors and twice indoors in school history.
“This is historic for Eastern Washington University,” said head women’s coach Marcia Mecklenburg. “We have never had three athletes go to nationals at once for us and that speaks great for the talent and depth of our team. I’m excited to see them soak up the experience and take in one of the biggest meet of their lives.”
Murillo was the first Eagle to book her ticket to the big stage, placing 10th in the javelin with a toss of 156-11 and improving on her previous ranking of 24th coming into the West Preliminaries. The performance and NCAA berth represented a strong breakthrough during the postseason for Murillo, as the underdog shocked the Big Sky field with a first-place finish in the event at the conference meet on May 16. The junior out of Southridge High School had come into the meet ranked outside the top 10, but claimed her first career Big Sky title out of the first flight with a personal-best throw of 158-2 to rank seventh in school history. The mark was also a seasonal improvement by over 20 feet.
“It’s really exciting, I always wanted to make it to Nationals and it still feels surreal that it’s happening,” said Murillo. “I’m really thankful to be taking in this experience with two other teammates as well.”
The Kennewick, Wash., native enters the competition ranked 22nd in the event and will compete Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. in the first flight of the javelin. She will be Eastern’s fourth female competitor in the javelin in school history and 10th EWU female overall. The top nine marks after three throws in the competition will advance to finals and get an additional three attempts.
“My mindset coming into the weekend is to treat it like any other meet,” said Murillo. “Of course I’ll take it in and soak it up as it is Nationals, but when my competition starts I’ll just do what I know I can and stay relaxed.”
Arrigoni has been one of the staples in the women’s distance crew’s vast improvement this year. The transfer from Everett Community College placed 12th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the West Preliminaries with a personal-best time of 10:14.99, breaking teammate Katie Mahoney’s school record of 10:17.34 and earning the final qualifying spot to this weekend’s championships.
“I was nervous going in, but I tried to stay loose and put myself in the front pack,” said Arrigoni. “I gradually worked up during the race and put myself in a position to get that last spot.”
The sophomore was coming off a Big Sky title in highly-elevated Flagstaff, Ariz., and added a second-place finish in the 5,000 at the conference meet. Arrigoni, who is in just her second year of running the steeplechase, has put together five Eastern top 10 all-time marks in her first season with the Eagles.
“I think we can credit our success to the fact that we all push and feed off each other,” said Arrigoni of the women’s distance crew. “We formed a really great bond and have inspired each other to get better and it’s been awesome to be a part of it.”
Arrigoni will also compete Wednesday, as the steeplechase prelims will be run at 6:45 p.m. She will run in the second heat of the prelims, and is ranked 24th heading into the competition. The Oroville, Wash., native joins an exclusive group, becoming the 11th female competitor, just the third female distance runner and the very first qualifier in the steeplechase for Eastern. The top five finishers in the two heats of the steeple plus the next two fastest times will advance to finals on Friday at 5:35 p.m.
“I’m not ranked well going in, but that’s okay because there’s always room to move up and not as much pressure,” said Arrigoni. “It’d be amazing to make finals, and I that’s what I’m hoping to do.”
Arakawa has been a standout all season for the Eagles, earning a Big Sky title in the weight throw indoors, a second-place finish outdoors in the hammer, and five Big Sky Athlete of the Week selections (four outdoors, one indoors). The junior placed 12th in the hammer at the West Regional meet with a toss of 202-4 to nab the final spot in Eugene.
“It was definitely a weaker performance of mine, but I got lucky quite frankly,” said Arakawa. “I was hoping to come through with a bigger throw, but luckily I still got in.”
His seasonal best of 219-3 earlier in the season ranks second in school history, third all-time in the Big Sky and currently ranks 13th in the country.
The Olympia, Wash., native will take on a stellar field in the hammer Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Arakawa will be in the second flight, with his mark from Fayetteville ranking 24th coming in. He becomes Eastern’s ninth male competitor at the outdoor meet and just the second male hammer thrower since school-record holder David Paul qualified for the meet in 2007. The top nine marks in the competition after three attempts will advance to finals with a chance to garner All-American honors (top-eight finish).
“I’d like to make it to finals. Ultimately I want to become a first team All-American, but there are a lot of great hammer throwers competing,” said Arakawa. “It’s been a recovery week, so an opportunity to get a personal best is really there and hopefully it happens.”
The NCAA Championships will kick of Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. with the men’s decathlon at will conclude Saturday at 3:55 p.m. with the men’s 4x400 relay. Live stats and more meet information is available at http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=4367&SPID=243&DB_OEM_ID=500&ATCLID=206261960 . The meet will also be streamed by ESPN 3 (Wednesday-Thursday) and ESPN U (Friday-Saturday).