Feb. 14, 2014
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Tulane's track and field squad was looking to gain some momentum heading into the Conference USA Indoor Championships in two weeks, and they did just that with solid performances at different corners of the country as the Green Wave competed in the Southern Miss Cupid Classic in Birmingham, Ala., and the Husky Classic in Seattle.
Tulane had two pole vaulters in freshman Mary Carson Pitts and junior Jessica Knierim that posted new personal bests on the day, while freshman shot putter Taylor Potts also posted a new top mark in Birmingham. Thousands of miles away, a group of four Tulane runners teamed up for the distance medley and notched one of the top times in school history.
"I saw some really good indications of things moving in the right direction as we get closer to the Conference USA Championships," said the Tulane track and field assistant coach for jumps Doug Fraley. "I saw some competitiveness from our group, and that is what you want to see so close to the conference meet. I think the theme of the day is that we gained some momentum at the right time."
Redshirt junior pole vaulter Merritt Van Meter was up to her usual stunts on Friday, as she placed third in the event that has become synonymous with her on the Uptown campus. Fresh off being named the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the Metairie, La., native posted a jump of 4.16 meters (13-7.75).
"Merritt had not vaulted since Albuquerque (at the Cherry and Silver Invitational) because of some small knee issues," stated Fraley. "She really had a good jump today. To get real close to where she did in Albuquerque after a three-week layoff is very impressive."
"During the last three weeks, both Mary Carson and Jessica have been getting a little better," added Fraley. "That's what our goal has been as we move towards the conference meet, and that is what they did today."
Tulane's three triple jumpers all posted top-five results, including a second place finish from redshirt junior Estefany Cruz. The Guatemala native notched a new season-high in the event with a leap of 12.44 meters (40-9.75). Sophomore Tamika Brazzel came in fourth place in the event when she leapt 12.13 meters (39-9.75). Senior Briana Santiago was just one one-thousandth of a meter behind Brazzel, placing fifth one week after setting a personal best at the Samford Multis and Invitational.
"The thing about the triple jump today was that the results were positive, but we left some really big jumps out there because of fouls," stated Fraley. "What that tells me is that we have the potential for some really big jumps. We just have to capitalize on them."
Potts posted a new personal best in the event as she had a throw of 12.94 meters (42-5.5). The Fishers, Ind., native finished tenth in the event out of over 50 participants, and her throw is the fourth-best in school history. Her last time out, Potts fouled, so today's mark was a huge improvement from just one week ago.
Tulane only took part in one sprint on the day, and that came from the Conference USA leader in the 200 meter dash. Sophomore Lilla McMillan placed seventh on Friday in the event with a time of 24.52. She notched her pacesetting mark of 24.31 at the first meet of the season back on Dec. 6, and has run the event twice since then in times of 24.79 and 24.81.
"Lilla did a much better job than she has in recent weeks," added Fraley. "She's gotten healthy, so I know coach (Hasani) Roseby has gotten to work with her on her speed and her start out of the blocks. For her to improve a couple of tenths over what she's done during the last few weeks is a positive sign."
In Seattle, the Green Wave took part in one event on the evening. A quartet of Green Wave runners joined forces to run the 4,000 meter distance medley, and the group of Sara Kebede, Hilary Woods, Jessica Adamson and Mikayla Sonneborn placed sixth with a time of 11:45.72. The group boosted their ranking in Conference USA from seventh to second with the performance.
"I'm really pleased with the level of improvement that the distance medley team has made in the last month," said the director of Tulane track and field, Eric Peterson. "We made a change to move Sara to the leadoff leg and to put Mikayla in the anchor leg, and everybody ran a personal or seasonal best in their leg. That's what I expect from kids that get excited about running relays. It's so much fun to come together and put a collective effort out there. To see these guys improve by more than 45 seconds over the course of just one month is incredible."
While the Cupid Classic is over, there is a day two at the Husky Classic, where the Green Wave will compete in the 400 meter dash, the 800 meter run and the one mile.
Fans can follow the Tulane track and field programs on Twitter (@GreenWaveXCTF) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.
Tulane Entries for Southern Miss Cupid Classic
Women's 200 Meter Dash
7. Lilla McMillan, 24.52
Women's 60 Meter Hurdles
22. Tiffany Kenney, 9.82 #
Women's High Jump
t-21. Melanie Mainor, 1.55m (5-1)
Women's Long Jump
33. Tiffany Kenney, 5.03m (16-6)
Women's Triple Jump
2. Estefany Cruz, 12.44m (40-9.75)
4. Tamika Brazzel, 12.13m (39-9.75)
5. Briana Santiago, 12.12m (39-9.25)
Women's Pole Vault
3. Merritt Van Meter, 4.16m (13-7.75)
t-9. Mary Carson Pitts, 3.80m (12-5.5) *
t-9. Jessica Knierim, 3.80m (12-5.5) *
19. Joanna Lapucha, 3.65m (11-11.75)
--Emma Staisloff, NH
Women's Shot Put
10. Taylor Potts, 12.94m (42-5.5) *
48. Tiffany Kenney, 9.29m (30-5.75)
Women's Weight Throw
39. Cheyenne Swanson, 11.15m (36-7)
Tulane Entries for Husky Classic
Women's 4,000 Meter Distance Medley
6. Tulane (Kebede, Woods, Adamson, Sonneborn), 11:45.72