May 13, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Ana Ruzevic took control of the Conference USA javelin competition from the opening throw of the event on Sunday afternoon at Tad Gormley Stadium inside New Orleans beautiful City Park and set the tone for the Tulane track and field program on the final day of the 2012 Conference USA track and field championships. The men's squad finished eighth overall with 11 points and the women ended the championships with 33.33 points to finish tenth overall.
"We had some people perform exactly the way we expected them to coming into the meet today," said Tulane head coach Eric Peterson, "and we also had some nice surprises. Ana Ruzevic defended her Conference USA title in the javelin with a repeat performance today. That's a great way for a senior to complete her conference career."
For the second consecutive season Ruzevic claimed the Conference USA javelin title and she did by clearing the field on her opening attempt. The senior has led the conference since her opening throw of the season and uncorked a 47.87 toss on her first attempt. That throw was three meters better than her closest competitor and all four of her legal attempts were good enough to win the event.
Ruzevic becomes the second Green Wave javelin competitor to earn back-to-back titles, joining Jelena Jurlina who claimed double gold medals in the event during the 2003 and 2004 outdoor campaigns. That now gives Tulane eight of the 17 javelin titles in the conferences history. The Olive and Blue won titles in 1997, 1999, claimed four straight from 2001-2004 and Ruzevic brought the last two gold medals in the event back to the Crescent City.
A pair of underclassmen brought home silver medals from the championships with sophomore Joanna Lapucha finishing in a tie for second in the pole vault and freshman Estefany Cruz grabbed a runner-up showing in the triple jump.
"The biggest surprise of the day belonged to Joanna Lapucha in the pole vault," said Peterson, "She tied for second place and this is a girl who was not necessarily ranked to score coming into the meet. She went through every progression today cleanly. That gave our team a boost and broke a three-way tie with Marshall and Tulsa and moved us into 10th place."
Cruz also set a new lifetime best in the triple jump and captured her second silver medal at the C-USA Championships. The rookie claimed second place at the indoor championships and followed that with a runner-up showing at the outdoor summit. Her season-best jump of 12.83-meters on her third attempt. She was the lone underclassman in the top five of the event, with three seniors and a junior surrounding her.
"It was great to see Estefany Cruz, a freshman, finish second in the triple jump," said Peterson, "and it's a great way for a freshman to begin her Conference USA career. We know these to kids represent the core of our team right now and to see them come out and perform at a level they expected of themselves is very exciting."
The 400-meter hurdles was another bright spot on Sunday as Zandria Debowles and Candice St. Etienne both earned points on the women's side and Justyn Shackleford set a career-best to finish sixth on the men's side. DeBowles took the second best qualifying time into the finals and ran her second fastest time of the season, but the field was much better in the finals and the senior posted a fifth place finish. St. Etienne grabbed eighth place in the event to secure the final point in the event, breaking the tape in 61.96.
Shackleford improved his career-best time in the event by over one second this weekend. After qualifying for the finals with the seventh best time, the freshman covered the distance in 53.97 to claim sixth place overall and secure three points for the Olive and Blue.
"Justyn Shackleford is an impression freshman," said Peterson. "He just finished with spring football and broke 54-seconds in the 400-meter hurdles, which is certainly good for a true freshman. We're excited about having a guy like that being able to come out and contribute to our team."
Jon Frano found himself in a familiar position on Sunday when he stepped in to the starting blocks for the 400 meter. The junior made his presence felt at the 2011 C-USA Championships and acme strong with another good showing at the 2012 edition. The junior clocked a 48.19 over the distance, his second fastest time of the season, and posted his second straight eighth place finish in the event.
"The future is very bright for our program," said Peterson. "I think this finish gives us something to look forward to and I believe we can climb through this conference as we grow and develop as a program.
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