By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
College athlete of the week
Player: Katy Gross
Year, school: Junior, Seattle Pacific University
Sport: Track &Field
Hometown: Everett (Cascade High School)
What she did: Repeated as Great Northwest Athletic Conference indoor champion in the pentathlon, winning the conference title with a meet-record score of 3,649 points. Gross established PRs, or personal records, in the long jump (18 feet, 9 ¾ inches), the shotput (36-1 ¼) and the 60-meter hurdles (9.17 seconds) on the way to putting her name on the provisional list for next month’s NCAA Division II indoor meet.
What’s next: Gross will have to worry and wait, hoping that her provisional score holds up this weekend before heading off to the NCAA meet in Mankato, Minn., on March 9-10.
You won your second consecutive GNAC pentathlon title over the weekend. What made this one more sweet than last year’s win?
This year, I had a lot higher expectations for myself. Last year, I was just going in there hoping to get the hang of it. This year, I had a lot more expectations with the multi event. My ultimate goal was to get up there and be a qualifier for nationals and have a chance to go. Now I did that, and I’m pretty much sitting and waiting. But knowing I made the provisional mark, it’s awesome.
What needs to happen for you to clinch a spot at nationals?
There’s one more week left, and right now I’m in 11th or 12th place (in the nation). They take 12 to 14, so it kind of depends on how other girls do this weekend and how many they decide to take.
SPU also won its ninth consecutive conference team title. Has it gotten to the point where you’d be disappointed not to bring that trophy home?
Yeah. It was crazy. I really wasn’t expecting it _ not just the ninth straight, but the margin we won by was astounding. Last year, it was kind of close, within six points. This year, we almost doubled the second-place team’s score. We did really great. I was proud of the whole team.
There was a story on the SPU website about how you nearly foiled your chances with a false start in the opening event, the 60-meter hurdles. What can you tell us about that?
So I always get super-pumped-up on the first event. It’s make-it-or-break-it, and it sets the tone for the rest of the meet. I was really excited, really jumpy, and that almost played to my disadvantage. It was really close. It ended up being all right because I was quick out of the box and ended up PR-ing (getting a personal-record time).
So how does that work? Would you have been eliminated from the pentathlon?
I’m not really sure how they work it. I think they reset that race, and for the rest of the meet, you’re DQ’d.
What exactly does that mean: almost false-starting?
My hips raised up, and I flinched forward. It’s kind of a judgment call for the officials. Sometimes they’ll call flinches like that, and sometimes they let them go. I don’t really know. It was more: I felt it, but I wasn’t really sure they saw it. Then my teammates afterward were like, ‘Yeah, you false-started.’
What’s your favorite event in the pentathlon?
It’s hard to say. Right now, it’s probably the hurdles because I continue to improve at it, so that’s always fun.
Be honest, though. It’s got to be tough practicing alongside women that only have to worry about one or two events while you’re brushing up on the hurdles, high jump and shot put.
Sometimes it’s tough. But for me, I’ve always just been more of an all-around solid person, not especially outstanding in any one area. So it just kind of fits. I don’t really mind the extra practice. I have fun being around my teammates. So for me, it kind of works.
Well, you’re an engineering major, so time management is probably one of your strengths. Is that as tough as it sounds?
At first, getting hang of it, I struggled. But I really have learned to prioritize. It’s just making sure I set aside time for everything needed and also get in time to relax and recharge and everything. I’ve really found a good a rhythm. Even though it’s still tough, it’s gotten better.
What do you plan on doing with that degree?
Something I’m really interested in is working with biofuels and alternative energies.
See, that’s already over my head.
It’s pretty awesome.
I assume you don’t talk much class to your friends and teammates?
I like throwing in occasional educational things to my teammates and friends. They always roll their eyes and say, ‘There goes Katy again.’
It also said in your bio that you were a competitive jump-roper in grade school. When’s the last time you picked up a rope?
I haven’t really jumped in a really long time. Every time I see someone with a jump rope, I say: ‘Mind if I try that?’ Then I’ll bust out a couple moves. It’s not something I do often, but it’s like riding a bike: it all comes back. So I like to do it whenever I can.
What’s your favorite move?
It’s called Advanced Donkey Chick.
What exactly is that?
You go into a handstand with the jump rope and then pull the rope back before your feet get to the ground.
Sounds like the kind of move you’d need to have an engineering degree to figure out.
(Laughs) Maybe that’s where all started for me.
You went to Cascade High School, which is also the alma mater of baseball player Grady Sizemore. Is it true that you’re a better athlete, since you compete in seven events, and he was pretty much just a baseball and football player?
(Laughs) Well, I definitely wouldn’t say that. It’s definitely different, in different ways. But it’s cool coming from somewhere where people have been successful.
Did you watch him growing up?
Not really. I always heard about him and everything, but I didn’t really see many baseball games growing up
From what you’ve heard about him, how would Grady have done in the pentathlon?
He’d probably struggle a little bit at first. But with a good athlete, I’m sure he could pick it up.
So now you may be on your way to the NCAA Division II championships, where you took 13th in last year’s outdoor competition. What would the expectations be this time around if you made it?
My ultimate goal is to place in the top eight, be All-America. That would be just amazing. But this time around, before making goals like that, I just want to get in. With indoor, it’s kind of more like preparation for outdoor. If I could tune things up, that’d be great. I’m a better heptathlete then I am a pentathlete.
So what’s the difference in the events?
In the pentathlon, there’s no 200 and no javelin, and it’s the 60-meter hurdles instead of the 100-meter.
If you do make it to nationals, are you going to jump the gun?
No, I think I’ll have a better start. Hopefully, even with the better start, I’ll have a better time.