June 7, 2013
EUGENE, Ore. - Tulane's track and field season ended on a high note on Saturday, as redshirt sophomore pole vaulter Merritt Van Meter finished a historic season in which she pole vaulted during the NCAA Outdoor National Championships on Friday.
Van Meter cleared 3.90 meters (12' 9.5") to place 19th in the overall competition, held at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. The redshirt sophomore cleared the bar on her second attempt, but couldn't clear the next highest bar set at 4.05 meters (13' 3.5"). She very nearly did so on her third attempt, but as her body cleared the height, her elbow hit the bar, dislodging it from the uprights.
"Merritt just had an excellent attempt on her third try of the second bar," stated Tulane director of track and field Eric Peterson. "Unfortunately, after she cleared the bar, she brushed it off with her elbow. Things like that happen, even though you don't like to see things like that happen in a championship meet. But this is an experience she is going to learn a lot from. These are moments, even though they are hard to accept and live with, that are necessary in the development of a young athlete who is capable of winning a championship. It was just nice to see her make some progress from the indoor season. Her attitude this time was very different from the indoor championships. There are still some things we need to get better at, but I am confident she is going to do that."
Five competitors failed to meet their first bar at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships. South Dakota's Bethany Buell won the event, tying an NCAA meet record at Historic Hayward Field by clearing 4.45 meters (14' 7.25").
The Metairie, La., native became just the third Green Wave track and field athlete to post results during the NCAA Outdoor National Championships since 2007. Gloria Asumnu finished ninth and eighth in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash races, respectively, during the 2007 season, while Ana Ruzevic finished fourth in 2011 and 15th in 2012 in the javelin.
Earlier this year, Van Meter began her Tulane track and field career during the indoor season, breaking the school record in the pole vault and competing in the NCAA Indoor National Championships. With her performance today, she became the first Greenie trackster to compete in the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships during the same season since Asumnu did so in 2007. Van Meter also became the first Tulane track and field athlete to compete in the same event in the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor National Championships during the same season since Marie Ablander accomplished the feat in 2001 in the triple jump.
After getting a late start to the outdoor season due to her qualifying for the NCAA Indoor National Championships, Van Meter did not take long to make her mark. She broke the school record in just her first outdoor meet - the Stanford Invitational - by jumping 3.98 meters (13' 0.75"). She wasn't finished, however, as she cleared 4.00 meters on four different occasions, ultimately notching her qualifying mark of 4.11 meters (13' 5.75"), set at the Sun Angel Classic on April 6. Van Meter notched the six best jumps in the pole vault on the team during the outdoor season.
"The encouraging thing about this year was that Merritt came back from over a year-long absence from the sport," stated Tulane assistant coach of jumps Doug Fraley. "We had certain objectives that we wanted to achieve this year, and neither one of them were necessarily qualifying for the NCAA Championships. So, she exceeded our expectations by qualifying for the championships during the indoor and outdoor seasons. That's significant progress after missing nearly a year and a half."
After coaching her for much of her youth - including during her high school days at Country Day in Metairie - Fraley has literally watched Van Meter grow into the athlete she has become.
"To see her go through the process and qualify for the NCAA Championships was tremendous," added Fraley. "It just makes things easier for next year and the year after that, as far as being able to call upon experiences. Pole vaulting can be very frustrating, because you can have a good jump and still miss the bar and be out of the meet, and be on the cusp of really good things. That was really how it turned out today for Merritt. As frustrating as that is, she really competed hard today. I'm real proud of the way she competed and how her attitude was today. The good thing is that she is a sophomore, and she has two very valuable experiences (from the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor National Championships) to build upon."
Now begins an offseason for the Tulane track and field program to train and prepare for what is sure to be an exciting year for the program in 2014.
"Everybody will go through a period of complete rest," said Peterson. "At the appropriate time, we'll all get together and begin working on our general conditioning to prepare for next year. This season is over, but we certainly made some marks of significant improvement, and we look forward to being even better next year."
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