Junior Merritt Van Meter won the Gold Medal in the Pole Vault on Saturday at the C-USA Indoor Championships
March 1, 2014
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Tulane's track and field team finished tied for sixth in the Conference USA Indoor Championships - the highest the team has finished in ten years at the championship level - and four Green Wave track and field athletes medaled and made it to the podium at the conclusion of the event at the Birmingham CrossPlex on Saturday.
Tulane began the day with 11 points to their name, thanks in part to large performances from sophomore Tiffany Kenney in the pentathlon, junior Paige Callahan's run in the 5,000 meters and a distance medley relay team's fourth-place finish on Friday night at the CrossPlex.
However, the bulk of Tulane's performances came on Saturday, and they did not disappoint. Tulane scored a total of 42 points on Saturday, tying them for sixth place by the end of the competition. It was the highest placement of any indoor team led by current Tulane director of track and field Eric Peterson, and the highest finish during the indoor season by a Green Wave team since the 2004 team finished fourth.
"We were able to score in all areas, and we had some really high marks," stated Peterson. "I think it is important to note the growth and development of our program. Speaking for my entire staff, we can recognize how much we are improving in all areas of our team. Obviously, that was exemplified by the points we scored in all of the areas. Generally speaking, we are excited to know that so many of our athletes are young and have gained experience and are holding themselves to a high standard. As a result, we are getting better. I appreciate the effort and the achievement by this staff and our team, and I think we all feel really good about the direction we are heading in."
The Green Wave put four athletes on the podium on Saturday, as junior pole vaulter Merritt Van Meter, redshirt junior triple jumper Estefany Cruz, sophomore triple jumper Tamika Brazzel and freshman shot putter Taylor Potts all medaled in their respective events.
"One of the things we stress to our kids during championship level meets is to make it to the podium," added Peterson. "We want them to finish first, second or third in their individual events."
Van Meter won the Conference USA Gold Medal in the pole vault, placing first with a jump of 4.15 meters (13-7.25). Van Meter became the first Tulane track and field athlete to win a Conference USA Championship in both the indoor and outdoor seasons during her career since Gloria Asumnu won the 100 meter dash in the 2007 Outdoor Championships and the 60 meter dash in the Indoor Championships in 2007. Van Meter also became the first Tulane track and field athlete to win the same event at a Conference USA Indoor and Outdoor Championship meet since Nadja Petersen won the 400 meter dash at the 2001 Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
The leap by Van Meter also broke the Conference USA Indoor Championships meet record, besting Rice's McKenzie Johnson's jump of 4.12 meters (13-6.25) from February 2013.
"Merritt is now a multi-time champion in Conference USA," stated Peterson, as Van Meter won the 2013 C-USA Outdoor title in the pole vault. "I'm really proud of her performance, and I hope she has gained some positive momentum heading into the national meet in two weeks."
Van Meter's title earned the team ten points on the afternoon. She was joined in the scoring column by two of her pole vaulting teammates. True freshman Mary Carson Pitts made her mark on the Tulane track and field program this season, and on Saturday, she came through huge, as she vaulted 3.75 meters (12-3.5) to place fifth, scoring the team four points. Senior Joanna Lapucha came in eighth in the event, leaping the same height as Pitts to score a single point for the Green Wave.
In addition to Pitts mark as a true freshman, another rookie for the Green Wave impressed with a career-best performance on Saturday. Potts placed third for the Green Wave in the shot put, tossing 14.66 meters (48-1.25) for a new career-high. The throw is good for the second best toss in indoor school history. The Fishers, Ind., native became the first scorer in the shot put in the Conference USA Indoor Championships for Tulane since Helmi Leppanen and Jelena Jurlina scored for the Green Wave back during the 2005 Indoor Championships.
"In some ways, the most remarkable individual achievement came from Taylor Potts," said Peterson. "A few weeks ago, we weren't even projecting her to score in the meet. In the last few meets, she has improved at least five feet. She moved all the way to second in school history in the event, and she made the podium in her very first conference meet."
The trio of Tulane triple jumpers posted outstanding results, as all three combined for 15 points for the team. Cruz and Brazzel found their way onto the championship podium, as they earned the Conference USA Silver and Bronze Medals, respectively. Cruz placed second on the day with a jump of 12.81 meters (42-0.5), almost four-tenths of a meter longer than her previous season high. Brazzel had a career-best in the event, as she placed third with a leap of 12.60 meters (41-4.25). In addition to those two, senior Briana Santiago ended her Tulane indoor track and field career going out on top, as she placed eighth with a triple jump mark of 12.19 meters (40-0).
"As we went along this year, we talked about our cornerstones in our program being the triple jump and the pole vault," mentioned Peterson. "We scored 15 points each in those events. That is the foundation of our point production. I'm really proud of all of our athletes who came through for us. Estefany Cruz jumped as far as she has in quite a while. Tamika also had a lifetime best."
Tulane earned points in the 200 meter and 800 meter runs on Saturday, as sophomores Lilla McMillan and Jessica Adamson qualified for the finals in each race, respectively, on Friday evening. Adamson notched a personal-best in the event last night with a time of 2:13.16, but even bettered that on Saturday, as she placed fourth in a time of 2:12.81. Adamson's race scored five points for the team, and her time ranks her ninth in school history in the event during the indoor season.
McMillan ran a tad slower than Saturday's personal-best performance of 24.28, as she finished in eighth in the finals with a time of 24.52. Regardless, the Mill Valley, Calif., earned a point for the Green Wave.
Tulane entered the final event in fifth place with 53 points, but Charlotte's 4 x 400 meter relay team finished fourth to give them five points to tie with the Green Wave.
"All areas of our team improved this year, and we are excited for the future," stated Peterson.
The Green Wave will now move onto the outdoor portion of their schedule, starting with a March 7 meet in Mobile, Ala., hosted by the South Alabama Jaguars.
Fans can follow the Tulane track and field programs on Twitter (@GreenWaveXCTF) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.
Tulane Results for the Conference USA Indoor Championships
Women's 200m Dash
8. Lilla McMillan, 24.52
Women's 800m Run
4. Jessica Adamson, 2:12.81 *
Women's 1 Mile Run
16. Mikayla Sonneborn, 5:13.51
Women's 4 x 400m Relay
13. Woods, McMillan, Kreutzberg, Adamson, 3:49.15
Women's High Jump
9. Melanie Mainor, 1.61m (5-3.25)
Women's Pole Vault
1. Merritt Van Meter, 4.15m (13-7.25)
5. Mary Carson Pitts, 3.75m (12-3.5)
8. Joanna Lapucha, 3.75m (12-3.5)
9. Emma Staisloff, 3.60m (11-9.75)
10. Jessica Knierim, 3.60 (11-9.75)
Women's Triple Jump
2. Estefany Cruz, 12.81m (42-0.5)
3. Tamika Brazzel, 12.60m (41-4.25) *
8. Briana Santiago, 12.19m (40-0)
Women's Shot Put
3. Taylor Potts, 14.66m (48-1.25)*
Conference USA Indoor Championship Final Team Standings
1. East Carolina, 88
2. UTSA, 73
3. UAB, 71.5
4. Louisiana Tech, 65
5. UTEP, 62
t-6. Charlotte, 53
t-6. Tulane, 53
8. Rice, 52
9. North Texas, 38
10. Middle Tennessee, 37
11. Tulsa, 30
12. FIU, 28.5
13. Marshall, 9
14. Florida Atlantic, 2
15. Southern Miss, 1