May 8, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - A long outdoor track and field season will culminate this week at the Conference USA Indoor Championships, held in Houston at the Rice Track Stadium this Friday through Sunday, where the Tulane Green Wave track and field program will compete head-to-head against other elite track and field programs that call C-USA home.
The Greenies, who haven't competed in a meet since taking part in the Samford Invitational on April 27, are ready to return to action, and are expecting big performances from both the men's and women's teams.
"We are really excited about the championship phase of the season," said Tulane director of track and field Eric Peterson. "We always look forward to this time of the year. It is what we have all been working toward, and we are going into this meet with really high hopes."
Tulane's women's squad has an opportunity to score a large amount of points in a wide array of areas. They have a tremendous amount of depth in the pole vault, 400 meter hurdles and the triple jump, where each of the participants could score for the team.
In the pole vault, sophomore Merritt Van Meter is carrying the top mark on the season in the league - and the ninth best jump in the east region - after notching a height of 4.11 meters (13' 5.75") at the Sun Angel Classic. Junior Joanna Lapucha and sophomore Jessica Knierim also have the potential to make their mark at the meet, as they are both tied for sixth in the conference with identical jumps of 3.81 meters (12' 6") on the year.
The triple jump is an area that has the potential to be huge for the Greenies, as well, as the trio of junior Briana Santiago, sophomore Estefany Cruz and freshman Tamika Brazzel have all excelled in the event on the season. Cruz posted the team's top jump of 2013 with a notch of 12.56 meters (41' 2.5") at the Mesa Classic, good for third place in the conference on the season. Brazzel was not far behind, with a personal best leap of 12.16 meters (39' 10.75") that netted her an event title at the South Alabama Invitational just two weeks ago. Brazzel's top performance ranks sixth in the league on the year. Santiago's best jump of 12.03 meters (39' 5.75") at the Sun Angel Classic is good for tenth in C-USA on the year. Brazzel will also compete in the long jump.
In the 400 meter hurdles, seniors Tiffanie Smith and Candice St. Etienne are bound to post scores for their team, as they carry the seventh and eighth best times, respectively, on the season into the championships. Smith notched a career best 1:01.67 in the event at the Stanford Invitational early in the season while St. Etienne's season best of 1:02.68 came during the same meet. Freshman Jessica Adamson will also compete in the event, and she ran a 1:02.65 at the South Alabama Invitational for her season's best time.
"We know that Tiffanie and Candice, being seniors, are capable of performing well," said Peterson. "They are hopeful that they are going to have a strong week, and frankly, I'm expecting it by now. It's time for them to go out and finish their athletic careers on a strong note. I'm sure they will go out to the meet with a lot of motivation and high hopes to perform well."
Peterson is also expecting solid performances from the relay teams in the 4 x 100 meter and 4 x 400 meter relays.
"We have the ability to make changes right up to the beginning of the event, but right now, but we have a good group of athletes in Jerica Banks, Lilla McMillan, Tiffanie Smith and Jamie Riles to possibly run the 4 x 100, and we have a collection of athletes in Hilary Woods, Jamie Riles, Tiffanie Smith, Kayla Quincy and Candice St. Etienne for the 4 x 400 meter relay," said Peterson.
In other events, freshman Mikayla Sonneborn in the 3,000 meter steeplechase and sophomore Tiffany Kenney in the heptathlon will be relied on by their squad to post point-worthy performances this weekend. Sonneborn - who is also competing in the 5,000 meter run - notched a time of 11:17.33 in the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the Samford Invitational in late April, which gave her the seventh best performance in the event in C-USA on the season. Kenney participated in the heptathlon at the Cal Multis, and scored points in the pentathlon during the indoor championships earlier this year. Freshman Lilla McMillan will compete in the 200 meter dash during her first outdoor championship competition.
"We are looking for breakthrough performances from Mikayla, Lilla and Tamika in the long jump," said Peterson. "It would be great for Tiffany to possibly continue her strong development from the indoor season in the heptathlon. All of these athletes are really young, which is a great thing for our program."
On the men's side, the Greenies will look to a handful of athletes to give them an opportunity to place high amongst their Conference USA foes.
Senior Jon Frano will wrap up his career shortly, but not before he partakes in the 400 meter dash one last time. Frano ran his first sub-48 second 400 meter dash just two weeks ago at the Samford Invitational when he ran the event in 47.86. The time is the sixth best mark in the league on the year.
"The men's team is led by Jon Frano, and he's been on a hot streak as of late," said Peterson. "I am hopeful that he is going to finish his career just the way that he wants to, and that's with a big performance in his specialty event."
Senior Brian Lozes and sophomore Mark Manion will both compete in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, and they've both performed very well during the 2013 campaign. Lozes has the fifth best time in the event in the league on the year after running a 9:39.95 at the Samford Invitational. Manion will more than likely be close by, as he notched his season's best mark in the event at the same meet when he posted the eighth best time in the league on the year with a time of 9:50.43.
Sophomore Justyn Shackleford has traded his football pads for track shoes this spring, and it has paid off handsomely for the team, as he has the sixth best 400 meter hurdle time in the league this year after notching a 54.26 second performance in the event at the Sun Angel Classic. He will look to score points this weekend for the team with a similar performance.
With only eight outdoor Conference USA men's teams, the Greenie relay teams are guaranteed points in the relay events - barring any kind of disqualification. The coaching staff will pull from a variety of athletes - similarly to the women's side - to piece together the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 meter relay teams.
Senior Max Yanker and freshman Devon Breaux will both compete in the high jump after recording the third and fourth best jumps in the league on the season, respectively. Yanker notched a 2.06 meter (6' 9") height at the Tulane Team Challenge during the first week of the season, and Breaux - also a football star for the Tulane Green Wave - jumped 2.04 meters (6' 8.25") at the South Alabama Invitational - his only performance in the event on the season.
Lastly, sophomore school record holder Thomas Lynch will look score for the team in the discus, as he posted the schools' first 50-plus meter through this season. As a matter of fact, Lynch has tossed the discus over 50 meters on five different occasions this season, including the third best toss in the league on the year following his 51.81m (170'0") performance at the Stanford Invitational in March.
"I'm so excited about the direction of the men's team right now," said Peterson. "We are taking 16 guys on the trip with us, which is a really small group. They are a really tight-knit group who are really excited to be competing this weekend. We have seen very significant levels of improvement from all levels of the men's team this year. It's neat that we really have an opportunity to score in all areas on the men's side. Putting in perspective to where we were just one or two years ago, that is a significant step forward for the program."
A bulk of the events will begin on Saturday, May 11, preceded in action by the heptathlon on Thursday and Friday and the 10,000 meter run on Friday.
Live results can be followed by clicking on a link on the track and field schedule page on TulaneGreenWave.com.
You can follow the Tulane track and field programs on Twitter (@GreenWaveXCTF) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.
TULANE ENTRIES FOR CONFERENCE USA OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Women's 200m Dash
Women's 400m Dash
Women's 3000m Steeplechase
Women's 100m Hurdles
Women's 400m Hurdles
Candice St. Etienne
Women 4 x 100m Relay
Women 4 x 400m Relay
Women's High Jump
Women's Pole Vault
Merritt Van Meter
Women's Long Jump
Women's Triple Jump
Men's 100m Dash
Men's 400m Dash
Men's 800m Run
Men's 1500m Run
Men's 3000m Steeplechase
Men's 5000m Run
Men's 10000m Run
Men's 400m Hurdles
Men's 4 x 100m Relay
Men's 4 x 400m Relay
Men's High Jump
Men's Long Jump