June 21, 2012
They've set school records, achieved All-America status and have taken UC Davis track and field to new heights as a Div. I program. Now Ashley Hearn, Jonathan Tipton and Kim Conley will take the Aggie name onto the international stage as they get set to compete at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials beginning on June 22 at the University of Oregon.
Hearn, a senior out of Rocklin, Calif., became UC Davis' first-ever Div. I track and field All-American after placing third at the NCAA Championships in the discus. Her school-record throw of 57.94 meters on her final attempt launched her into a third-place finish, the highest ever at the Div. I Championships for either the Aggie men's or women's teams, and solidified her provisional qualifying mark for the Olympic Trials.
She will don a UC Davis uniform in the preliminary round of 24 entrants on June 22, joining Jennifer Swanson as Aggies who have competed at the Olympic Trials in the same season they've competed for UC Davis. Swanson represented UC Davis in the pole vault at the 2000 Trials.
"Ashley's presence at the Trials represents an important step forward with respect to the levels at which individual Aggie athletes can achieve as well as for the program's continued exposure in a competitive, national context," said head coach Drew Wartenburg. "In sport, as in any facet of life, it is rare to set lofty goals and attain every one. The 2012 season has allowed Ashley to more or less accomplish just that, and finishing her storied career in Eugene this month caps off a spring that has seen her perform at a high level every time she stepped into the ring during the postseason."
Her success in the ring has placed her amongst the nation's elite at the collegiate level as Hearn prepares to experience an even higher level of competition. And yet, in the sea of unfamiliarity at this stage of the game, Hearn will have one familiar face to rely on: her very own UC Davis throws coach.
Tipton recently completed his first year as an assistant track and field coach after joining UC Davis in the fall of 2011. A two-time NCAA regional finalist for Sam Houston State, Tipton captured a region championship in the discus as a senior. In his first year as the Aggie throws coach, he took Hearn to her second-straight Big West Conference discus title.
"While Jonny's first priority remains coaching the throws squad here at UC Davis, the fact that he does have a mark that will qualify him for the Trials provides an opportunity that is virtually impossible to deny," said Wartenburg. "The ability to have a coach-athlete duo from our program compete at the Trials within days of each other is a unique and special circumstance."
While Hearn and Tipton find themselves as newcomers to the Trials scene, fellow Aggie and assistant coach Conley has been working toward the goal of competing at the Olympic Trials since graduating from UC Davis in 2008.
Conley virtually revolutionized women's distance running at UC Davis and has continued her impressive collegiate career into a professional career with SRA Elite in Sacramento. She achieved an "A" standard time in the 5,000 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays in April 2012 with a personal-best effort of 15:24.89, finishing sixth overall and less than nine seconds behind the event winner.
She also owns an "A" standard in the 10,000 but will compete solely in the 5,000. She will race the event preliminary on June 25 with anywhere from 12 to 16 top finishers from the prelim moving on to the June 28th final. Qualification for the Olympic Team requires a top-three finish and a time faster than the Olympic "A" Standard of 15:20.00.
"Kim's emergence on the national distance-running scene has shown steady development in the three years since she last donned an Aggie singlet," said Wartenburg. "The past two years have been dedicated toward developing the full range of her race distances on the track, and the 5000m stands as the event of choice for this Olympic year."
That steady development began in the second half of 2011 with several breakout road-race performances, including a second-place finish at the USA 5K Championships and a third-place effort at the USA 10K Championships.
Conley cites that it has been Wartenburg who has provided her with structured workouts and the inspiration that she could succeed at this level. Over the past four years, working with Wartenburg has been not only consistent, but also progressive, both of which will be key to landing a spot on the Olympic squad.
"There are no certified locks on the team for the Summer Games, and a lot will come down to timing and a desire to seize the moment when it presents itself," said Wartenburg. "Kim and I both feel good about where things stand for her entering the final days of preparation, and it will be a great experience for her to toe the line with a real opportunity to make an impact."
Conley, Hearn and Tipton could be joined by even more Aggies in uniform.
Jonathan Peterson, who became UC Davis' first-ever repeat solo winner of Colby E. "Babe" Slater Award as the university's top male athlete, owns a provisional qualifying time of 13:41.93 in the 5,000 which he set as an unattached runner at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford in 2011.
Alex Wilright, who graduated from UC Davis in 2011 and currently competes for the EVO Track Club in Long Beach, Calif., owns a provisional qualifying time of 50.32 in the 400m hurdles. Wilright earned second-team All-America honors in 2011 from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in 2011 to become one of the first Aggie All-Americans during UC Davis' Div. I era.
Freshman thrower Sarah Hussey has also seen some recent national experience while in her UC Davis uniform. She finished 13th overall with a mark of 48.56 (159-04) in the hammer throw at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships in Bloomington, Ind.