May 25, 2012
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Faced with a familiar situation, Monika Jakutyte refused to let history repeat itself.
Whether or not the senior's career at Wisconsin would continue largely hinged on successfully clearing her third and final attempt at 5 feet, 10 3/4 inches at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round.
The scenario was too similar to the one that brought her sophomore season to a close on the same infield at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas, in 2010. Then, Jakutyte finished 13th and missed a berth in the NCAA outdoor championships by one finishing position. The difference was a single miss.
She wrote a different story on Friday.
After a pair of misses at 5-10 3/4 -- the second coming by the narrowest of margins -- Jakutyte came through in the clutch and cleared the bar to cement a tie for seventh place and a trip to next month's NCAA outdoor championships.
She joined teammate Kelsey Card, who qualified earlier in the day in the discus, on the growing Badgers bandwagon headed to Des Moines, Iowa. UW has qualified seven athletes for hte national meet.
"Going into the third attempt I was thinking, 'No way,'" Jakutyte said. "Two years ago I was 13th here by one miss and I was not going to let that happen again.
"That was my motivation."
That Jakutyte used her narrow miss as motivation rather than a source of added pressure on her final attempt was key. Another memory helped put the close call in perspective.
"I knew I was super close," Jakutyte said of her second attempt. "The same thing happened at Big Tens. I jumped up, I hit (the bar) with my shoulders and I knew I'd hit it.
"But then everybody started cheering and I was thinking, 'Why are you cheering?' and then I see the bar stayed on.
"The same thing happened this time. I hit it with my shoulders and then I brought my hips over and my legs over, but (the bar) sat there and then fell in slow motion."
Rather than be discouraged, Jakutyte prepared to make the most of her final opportunity.
"It was my third bar, I knew I was close, I knew I wanted to go and I knew I was not going to get left behind like I did two years ago," she said. "I think everything added up."
On one hand, Card was disappointed. On the other, she's excited about what falling short in one event means now that she's exceeded expectations in another.
A day after she missed out on advancing in the shot put, the freshman earned the right to move on to the NCAA championships in the discus with a ninth-place finish.
The silver lining in not advancing in the shot put? Card can spend the next two weeks focused exclusively on honing her skills in the discus.
"Ideally, I would have liked to make it in both," Card said, "but I'm grateful that I get to go. In one way, I guess it will be nice because you always do better when you focus on one thing."
Card made the most of warm and windy conditions to emerge from a competition that lasted just shy of five hours.
While fellow competitors struggled with the wind blowing into their faces, Card unleashed a throw of 171 feet, 11 inches on the second of her three attempts in the trials. It was enough to get her through to the final round of throws as the No. 9 qualifier, a spot she held onto over the final three attempts.
"It was ugly," Card said of the gusty conditions. "I ended up doing alright in my flight, but it was still kind of a struggle.
"For a lot of people it was terrible. In this last flight (the finals), it nailed you like crazy and several girls ended up with three fouls because of the wind."
The other bright spot for Card is that teammate Taylor Smith -- who failed to qualify after a pair of sector fouls and an intentional foot foul after a short throw on her final attempt -- will be alongside her in Des Moines after advancing Thursday in the shot put.
"It's nice," Card said. "It's always good to have someone there to talk to and to support you. We can cheer for each other, and that's nice, too."
It's a familiar situation for the duo, though with reversed roles. Card finished sixth in the shot put at the NCAA indoor championships to earn All-America honors, while Smith was an indoor qualifier in the weight throw.
"Having already been there, it's nice to know how it all works," Card said of qualifying for both NCAA meets as a freshman. "Outdoors will be different because it's on a bigger scale, but it will be nice to be familiar with it."
Junior Dorcas Akinniyi, the nation's lone athlete to qualify for NCAA competition in four events, closed out her busy preliminary round schedule with a pair of solid performances. Akinniyi cleared 5-9 1/4 in the high jump and finished in a tie for 16th place, sandwiching attempts around her run of 13.98 in the 100-meter hurdles.
Fellow NCAA heptathlon qualifiers Jessica Flax (13.71) and Deanna Latham (13.81) also raced to wind-aided times in the 100 hurdles.
Junior Brittney Harper's strong season came to a close with a 24th-place effort in the quarterfinals of the 800 meters, as she recorded a time of 2:12.17.
In the 3000-meter steeplechase, junior Ashley Beutler saw a season of marked improvement end with a 17th-place finish in 10:29.47. Senior Dani Fischer, competing in her first NCAA postseason race, finished 35th in 10:53.54.