Feb. 22, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane's indoor track and field program will return to the Birmingham Crossplex for the fourth time this season when they compete in the Conference USA Championships on Friday and Saturday.
The meet will pit Tulane against the 11 other schools in Conference USA - ECU, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Tulsa, UAB, UCF and UTEP.
"We are going into this meet with the expectation of improving where we've been in the past by a lot," said Tulane director of track and field Eric Peterson. "Where we are strong, we are strong. Our expectations are very high for good performances."
The Green Wave is expecting a large portion of their scoring to come from the pole vault competition, where sophomore Merritt Van Meter(first), junior Joanna Lapucha (fifth) and sophomore Jessica Knierim (sixth) all sit in the top eight of the current conference standings. Van Meter holds the school record for the event, after clearing 4.23 meters (13-10.5) during the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 8. Lapucha's best jump on the season - 3.80 meters (12-5.75) -came during the Cherry and Silver Invitational. Knierim cleared 3.75 meters (12-3.5) during the New Mexico Classic for the sixth best jump in the conference.
"Obviously, we are excited about Merritt Van Meter leading the conference (in the pole vault) and going into this meet with an opportunity to really lead our team," stated Peterson. "We are hopeful that the depth we have (in the pole vault) will really pay off for us, from a team-scoring standpoint. Jessica (Knierim) and Joanna (Lapucha) have had real good, consistent seasons, and we are hoping they will continue that this weekend."
The triple jump is another event in which the Green Wave will weigh heavily. Star freshman Tamika Brazzel is third in the conference in the triple jump with a leap of 12.51 meters (41-0.5), followed by sophomore Estefany Cruz's fourth place jump of 12.49 meters (40-11.75). Junior Briana Santiago is also in the top eight, placing sixth with a jump of 12.17 meters (39-11.25).
Junior Melanie Mainor has put together a very strong 2013 campaign, and she'll look to score points for the team during the high jump portion of the meet. Her jump of 1.73 meters (5-8) at the New Mexico Classic in early February is the fourth best jump in the conference this year.
"Not only has there been solid improvement from Melanie (Mainor), but she has been consistent with it - which is just as important at this point in time. She has been training well. She is very prepared to compete well in this meet," said Peterson.
On the oval, sophomore Paige Callahan sits in fourth place in the conference standings in the 5,000 meter run with a time of 16:59.70. Her time is the top mark in school history.
"I think Paige is arguably one of the most improved distance runners in Conference USA," stated Peterson. "The mid-season performance that she put out in the 5,000 meters indicates that she is really ready to challenge the more established distance runners from other programs in this meet. I think she is capable to be in the top five or top six in the 5K."
The Green Wave sits sixth in the conference with a time of 3:48.44 in the 4 x 400 meter relay. They will send Tiffanie Smith, Candice St. Etienne, Hilary Woods and Kayla Quincy to pass the baton during the event this weekend. Tulane will also compete in the distance medley, marking the first time the squad has taken part in the event on the season.
Tulane's participants are familiar with the Birmingham Crossplex, having competed in three meets there this season. Tulane participated in the Panther Ice Breaker in early December before the squad headed home for winter break. The first two meets of 2013 - the UAB Blazer Invitational and the Crimson Tide Opener - were held there on back -to-back nights in early January.
This year's championships mark the second consecutive season that UAB has served as hosts. The Green Wave last won a Women's Indoor Championship in 1999.
Live stats from the meet will be made available through www.flashresults.com/flashtexas.
You can follow the Tulane track and field programs on Twitter (@GreenWaveXCTF) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.
TULANE ENTRIES FOR THE CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Women's 200m Dash
Women's 400m Dash
Candice St. Etienne
Women's 800m Run
Women's One Mile Run
Women's 3,000m Run
Women's 5,000m Run
Women's 60m Hurdles
Women's 4 x 400m Relay
Women's Distance Medley
Women's High Jump
Women's Pole Vault
Merritt Van Meter
Women's Triple Jump