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Sako earns at-large berth to nationals

By mrasor Published: May 27, 2007

In a regional meet that saw near misses, weird rulings and injuries, one bright point is that high jumper Natalie Sako earned an at-large invitation to nationals.
With Stevi Large (hammer throw) and Auston Papay (shot put and discus), that makes three athletes representing Akron in four events in the NCAA Championships -- the team's smallest group of national qualifiers since 2002.
"Even though we had our largest contingency ever and one of the larger groups in the region, unfortunately we came away with our worse showings ever at this meet," head coach Dennis Mitchell said.
There were some odd happenings that prevented Akron from having more national qualifiers. Crystal Goldsmith, for example, sat in a three-way tie for fourth after the pole vault finals. She injured herself, however, and the Zips coaches tried to stall a little to let her recouperate. No one complained -- not the official or the other coaches. A meet referee, however, stepped in an disqualified Goldsmith.
"That event was crazy," said Mitchell, who protested the call and tried to have it overturned.
The Zips performed well in the 4x400 relay, but were disqualified for a lane violation. It was a violation that officials announced along with the event's results, so the coaching staff had no chance to protest.
Further, Cadeau Kelley had a great leap in the long jump, but it was called a fault, despite video evidence to the contrary.
"That was a tough one to swallow," Mitchell said. "It was one of those types of meets."
Mitchell said he still is confident Akron will have a strong performance at nationals, despite the smaller contingency.
"The three we have going to nationals should do a great job," he said. "They are all veterans of the meet."
Tom Gaffney
wrote a season synopsis of the Zips' rise to prominence.
If you haven't kept up on the team, you should read it.

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