College Sports

Stanislaus athletes ready for nationals

Rankings mean little to Cal State Stanislaus pole vaulter Kasey Burlingham.

Of course, being No. 2 in the nation gives a guy something to feel good about.

But rankings don't concern runner April Montgomery, either. The Warrior senior enters this week's Division II National Championships 14th on the 800-meter list.

"For me, times don't matter when comes to big meets," Montgomery said. "You go out and fight for your spot. I'm an underdog, but it just gives me more fire to go out there."

Montgomery and Burlington are part of a feel-good, five-athlete Stanislaus group in San Angelo, Texas this week. Competition begins Thursday at the LeGrand Sports Complex with junior Halihl Guy in the 400 hurdles preliminaries.

Guy is ranked fifth after leading the country most of the season.

All-American pole vaulter Rosemary Feikert makes her third national appearance.

Senior Jasimen Bailey takes momentum into her first after setting a school record in the discus at a last-chance meet at Sacramento State on May 9.

Kelly Clancey of Chico State, a Riverbank native, is seeded 15th in the heptathlon.

Burlingham has the Warriors' best chance of a title. He cleared 17 feet, 6½ inches -- a Stanislaus record -- in Sacramento one week after winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association title.

That's the best height in the country next to the 18-½ of Grand Valley State's Bryant Wilson.

Burlingham is just happy to be vaulting well after more than a year of struggling with injuries. Last summer, he broke his left wrist in a mountain bike crash, then strained his left hamstring.

He has taken it easy on the bike since then and is enjoying a stellar junior season.

"I think pole vaulting every day may be a little more dangerous," Burlingham said. "I'd pretty much say my life revolves around pole vaulting. It's in everything I do."

The only thing that could make this week better is if his wife made nationals, too. Annie Burlingham cut her hand on a broken pole a few weeks ago to end her season.

Both will return as seniors next season, giving Kasey Burlingham a chance to top his own record.

"It definitely feels good to finally jump that high," Burlingham said. "I feel pretty good. I had a solid practice (Monday). It's first time at championships, so hopefully be able to keep my nerves down."

Montgomery seems to have no such worries about nerves. She has dropped four seconds off her 800 time in the last year.

Montgomery is confident she and all her teammates can earn All-American status by finishing in the top 8.

"I have high hopes for our group," Montgomery said. "I know I'm going out with my entire heart. I won't disappoint myself. I think we'll all be able to come back as All-Americans."

Feikert earned All-American status last year by tying for eighth. Stanislaus has had a female pole vaulter place at nationals the last five years.

The senior enters nationals ranked 11th with a season-best height of 12-7½. Coach Geoff Bradshaw said Feikert improved in each of the last four weeks.

Even more impressive was Bailey's qualifying discus throw of 155-10 in her last meet.

Bradshaw said Bailey, a former CCAA Freshman of the Year, considered not returning to the field this season and is thrilled her decision to stay paid off with a national trip.

Guy enters his first nationals eager to face the competition face-to-face. Other athletes have surpassed his best time of 52.54 seconds.

Bradshaw thinks that only takes the pressure off Guy.

Montgomery said the Warriors have good plans, and will cheer each other on through the week.

"You have to think on your feet the whole time," Montgomery said. "I think we have to out and be very positive. We're going to be nervous, but we're excited to be here and be with each other."

Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at 578-2300 or kjones@modbee.com.

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