March 21, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Tulane's track and field team managed seven personal-best marks on Friday during day one of the John Mitchell Alabama Relays at Sam Bailey Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., including a first-place finish from sophomore Lilla McMillan in the 400 meter dash.
Against solid competition from Southeastern Conference schools, as well as other top programs from the south, a bevy of Tulane athletes, all of whom are underclassmen, posted new top marks in their respective events. Tulane's McMillan, freshman Sara Kebede (1,500 meters), freshman Katharine Smiley (1,500 meters), sophomore Tamika Brazzel (triple jump), sophomore Jack White (1,500 meters), freshman Caleb Bertrand (pole vault) and freshman Eldrick Washington (shot put) all improved on previous marks.
"I'm the most pleased with the fact that we are beginning to see consistent levels of improvement in many different areas of the team," stated Tulane track and field director Eric Peterson. "I think we did quite well. This is a very good meet for us. Our kids competed well in their respective heats. I feel like we are getting a lot out of this track meet. We are making significant levels of improvement from the different areas."
McMillan's performance is the most outstanding, seeing that she only competed in the event twice during her freshman campaign. The Mill Valley, Calif., native's time of 54.97 was the top mark out of 30 competitors on Friday. In just her third competition in the event, McMillan's time automatically vaults her to ninth place in school history.
In the field, Brazzel jumped nearly six inches further than her previous best in the triple jump, notching a leap of 12.43 meters (40-9.5). Brazzel placed fourth on the evening, and she is now tied with Nicolette Taku for the sixth-best leap in the event in Tulane history. Her previous best jump of 12.30 meters (40-4.25) came at the 2013 Conference USA Outdoor Championships.
Two rookies in Kebede and Smiley made their presence known in the 1,500 meters. Kebede finished in 4:43.89, while Smiley came in behind her at 5:01.89. Kebede is just shy of cracking the Tulane top-ten all-time in the event. While Smiley shaved six seconds off her time after taking part in the event last weekend, Kebede's mark was truly impressive to Peterson.
"This was the first time that Sara has ever run this event in her life," mentioned Peterson. "Her time in this event is the equivalent of running a 5:03 mile."
Three other Tulane women posted top-notch finishes, despite not setting new personal bests. Freshman shot putter Taylor Potts placed sixth with a throw of 13.64 meters (44-9), which is just a shade under her personal best of 13.71 meters (44-11.75). Redshirt freshman Daliadiz Ortiz placed second on the day with a toss of 48.05 meters (157-7), a meter shy of her top mark. Finally, junior Paige Callahan made her season-debut, running in the 5,000 meters. The Annapolis, Md., native posted a time of 17:34.86 in an event in which she is the school record holder during the indoor season. Her mark on Friday is good for fourth in school history in the outdoor campaign.
"Taylor made the final in the event," said Peterson. "She was a little more inconsistent than she was during the last two meets during the outdoor season, but I still think she is really competing well. I'm very happy that she made the finals. Paige faded a little in the final kilometer of the 5,000. She started off a little too fast. She will learn and get better at that. The only way she will be able to do that is to gain more racing experience."
On the men's side, Bertrand raised his status in the record books with a pole vault of 4.85 meters (15-11). Previously tied for third in the annals of Tulane, Bertrand moves now to second place, behind only Robbie Manard's top jump of 5.10 meters set in 1997.
Just a few weeks removed from Tulane spring football practice, Washington has certainly made a name for himself within the Tulane track program. The Harvey, La., native posted a shot put throw of 13.85 meters (45-5.25), moving him from seventh to sixth place in Tulane outdoor history.
White has been steadily improving on the season, and Friday was no exception. The Fairfield, Conn., native shaved nearly four seconds off his previous best time in the 1,500 meters, finishing in 3:54.70. His performance finally etches his name in the record books, placing ninth overall.
"With the men, we are starting to see a lot of improvement," stated Peterson. "Caleb improved in the pole vault. Eldrick threw very consistently in the shot put. Jack White had a massive improvement in the 1,500 meters. Jack was third in his heat, and he ran really aggressively. His mark was not only a personal best, but a significant time that will make his conference ranking pretty respectable."
Tulane will return to Sam Bailey Stadium for the conclusion of the John Mitchell Alabama Relays on Saturday. Live results can be followed by clicking on the `live results' link on the Tulane track and field schedule page at TulaneGreenWave.com.
"For the men tomorrow, we are really anticipating the men's 4 x 100 meter relay team," announced Peterson. "It's going to be a work in progress, but I think we have the talent to put together a very competitive relay team. We are also looking forward to Thomas (Lynch's) performance in the discus."
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 Alabama Relays
Women's 400m Dash
1. Lilla McMillan, 54.97 *
15. Hilary Woods, 58.47
Women's 1,500m Run
22. Sara Kebede, 4:43.89 *
34. Katharine Smiley, 5:01.89 *
Women's 5,000m Run
11. Paige Callahan, 17:34.86
Women's 400m Intermediate Hurdles
19. Dominique Hever, 1:10.86
Women's High Jump
NH Melanie Mainor
Women's Triple Jump
4. Tamika Brazzel, 12.43m (40-9.5) *
15. Briana Santiago, 11.40m (37-5)
2. Daliadiz Ortiz, 48.05m (157-7)
Women's Shot Put
6. Taylor Potts, 13.64m (44-9)
Men's 400 Meter Dash
17. John Mouton, 50.05
21. Christopher Arechiga, 50.53
Men's 1500 Meter Run
22. Jack White, 3:54.70 *
Men's 5,000m Run
45. Geoff Zelek, 16:40.35
Men's Pole Vault
t-7. Caleb Bertrand, 4.85m (15-11) *
Men's Shot Put
27. Eldrick Washington, 13.85m (45-5.25) *
*= Personal Best