2012 WOU OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD
Mike Johnson (eighth season).
2011 finish: Men -
Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions.
Third place at GNAC Championships.
Returning conference champions:
3: Brett Campbell (110-meter hurdles), Will Crook (javelin), Kyle Larson (800).
1: Ashley Potter (triple jump).
MONMOUTH -- Ashley Potter was pretty blunt when she spoke of the first two times she reached the NCAA Division II national stage in the triple jump.
"I choked, both times," the Western Oregon University senior said of her 2010 and 2011 outdoor national meets, where she placed 11th and 15th, respectively.
Maybe that's what made her ensuing second-place finish - shattering her own record by more than a foot - in March's indoor national meet so gratifying.
Or just plain astonishing.
"I was just kind of in shock the whole time," Potter recalled with a laugh of the competition, when she landed her first career jump of more than 40 feet -- 40 feet, 8¬ inches, to be exact -- on her second leap of the day March 10 in Mankato, Minn.
The mark was also a personal best by more than a foot.
WOU head coach Mike Johnson spoke of the feat in a more methodical way.
A man with nearly 50 years of track and field coaching experience, Johnson looked at it more as an athlete who at last realized her potential.
Potter, a Thurston High graduate who spent her first season on the University of Oregon's track and field squad, had plenty of it.
"She and (jumps) coach (Issac) Frederick have had the opportunity to work together for the last couple of years. She's gotten really good on the runway, she's had a good year of training and her strength development has been really good," Johnson said straightforwardly. "She's done the little things that have made a difference.
"You try to play your best basketball at the end of the year, you try to play your best football at the end - so her training and preparation brought her to the point where it was a welcome but not unexpected performance.
"You knew it was there. She probably knew it was there. She put it together, and had a great series."
Of Eugene, Potter said she always wanted to compete for the Ducks, but when she actually got there, it didn't click.
"I spent a year there and realized it was either quit track, or transfer," she said. "My high school coaches went (to WOU), so they convinced me to keep going. It's turned out well."
And then some.
In her three-year career at WOU, Potter has:
Eclipsed 40 feet in the triple jump, becoming the first female in Great Northwest Athletic Conference history to do so.
Reached her goal of becoming an NCAA All-American.
Earned the GNAC Indoor Athlete of the Year, complete with her GNAC record in the triple jump and third-place finish (and WOU record) in the long jump at the conference indoor championships.
Photo by Pete Strong
Ashley Potter competes in the triple jump at last year’s John Knight Twilight Meet at WOU.
Earned four conference championships - two indoor triple jump titles (2010, 2012), one outdoor triple jump crown (2011) and one outdoor high jump title (2010).
Briefly held the school record in the 60-meter hurdles before her roommate and fellow teammate, Janna Vander Meulen, broke it again just minutes later.
Completed her degree -- a bachelor's in psychology -- nearly a year early.
"I started grad school today," she said with a laugh at Monday's practice.
Potter hopes to one day become an athletic college adviser, but until then, she's got a few more goals on the track to aim for -- like "41 feet," a triple jump automatic-standard to the outdoor national meet, and "maybe 19 feet in the long jump," she said.
But Potter knows no matter what, she's proud of what she's already done.
"I mean, last year, I didn't improve on anything - I didn't even PR," Potter said. "So that makes it mean so much more, what I did in indoor. It's kind of like, even if I don't do as well in outdoor, I still have that, and that's fine for me to leave it at that.
"I'm happy with what I've been able to accomplish."
Johnson understands you can't look at goals in terms of marks, anyway.
"If you try to jump the mark, you usually forget how to jump," he said. "Just like racing -- if you say you're going to run so fast, well, how do you do that? You don't focus on how you do it, or you're not going to do it.
"I think her expectations will be to prepare to do as well as you can."
For Potter, that sounds just about right.