Third time since 1995 women's squad honored
Paige Callahan grabs a spot Top 25 in South Central Regionals
Green Wave looks for continued improvement in possible last meet of the 2012 season
Women improve and men repeat at C-USA championships in Mississippi
Mark Manion and Paige Callahan set to lead Green Wave in Mississippi
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When Tulane was looking for a new director of track and field, it only made sense to hire a coach who was directly responsible for the success of one of the most illustrious track and field programs of the last two decades.
Eric Peterson - who is entering his sixth year with the Green Wave - was hired to his first head coaching post in September 2009, guiding the Green Wave after a 16-year tenure at UCLA. It is no coincidence that the Tulane track and field program has experienced tremendous success since that time.
In just a short amount of time, Peterson has given the Tulane track and field program a shot in the arm, making them a player on the national scene. Under his watch, Tulane has qualified athletes for NCAA National Championship meets during four of his five outdoor campaigns as well as the last three indoor seasons. In 2013, pole vaulter Merritt Van Meter earned All-American status in Eugene, Ore., during the outdoor season, just one year after Ana Ruzevic became only the third Greenie to earn All-American status in back-to-back seasons when she did so in 2011 and 2012 in the javelin.
On the regional level, at least three of Peterson's athletes have qualified for a regional meet during every outdoor season on the women's side, including a record seven during the 2014 season. Peterson made history in 2013, when Devon Breaux (long jump) and Thomas Lynch (discus) became the first Tulane male track and field athletes to qualify for a regional in the history of the program. Breaux qualified again in 2014, marking the first time a male track and field athlete made back-to-back appearances at the regional level.
Four of Peterson's athletes - Daliadiz Ortiz in the javelin during the 2014 outdoor season, Van Meter during the 2013 outdoor season and the 2014 indoor season, Ruzevic in the 2012 and 2011 outdoor seasons and Jamie Riles in the 400 meter during the 2011 outdoor season - have claimed six Conference USA Championships.
During the 2014 C-USA Indoor Championships, Estefany Cruz and Tamika Brazzel earned the Silver and Bronze Medals, respectively, in the women's triple jump, while Taylor Potts picked up a Bronze Medal as a true freshman in the shot put. Senior Joanna Lapucha medaled for the third time during the C-USA Outdoor Championships in 2014, picking up the Bronze Medal in the pole vault.
During the 2013 C-USA Outdoor Championships, Lapucha (pole vault) earned a Silver Medal behind Van Meter's performance, while Lynch earned a Bronze Medal on the men's side. Breaux - who missed the early part of the 2013 outdoor season while working with the Tulane football team during spring camp - took the 2013 C-USA Outdoor Championships by storm, earning a Silver Medal in the long jump and a Bronze Medal in the high jump, along with scoring points for the team in the 4 x 100 meter relay. For his efforts, Breaux was named the Male Freshman of the Meet, becoming the first Tulane athlete to win a C-USA specialty award since Gloria Asumnu did so in 2008, while also becoming the first Tulane male athlete to win a C-USA award since Solomon Kandie and Erik Emilsson did so in 2001. Oddly enough, Emilsson transferred to UCLA after Hurricane Katrina and finished his career under Peterson's watch, earning All-American honors in the steeplechase.
Prior to Peterson's arrival, Tulane's teams were often one-dimensional, usually only scoring points at the Conference USA Championships in a specialized area. However, Peterson has directed squads that have notched points in a number of different events. When he first arrived, only the sprinters and relay teams scored points during 2010 C-USA Outdoor Championship. By the 2011 indoor season, Peterson's teams were scoring points in sprints, relays, distance and jumps, while adding points in the throws portion of the meet the following outdoor season. With the hard work and dedication of the Tulane student-athletes, each of Peterson's teams have improved from the previous season. During the 2014 C-USA Indoor Championships, the women's team scored 53 points for a sixth-place tie, the highest place the Green Wave had finished in ten years.
With the success at the conference, regional and national levels, it comes as no surprise that the Tulane track and field record book has virtually been rewritten over the course of Peterson's tenure. Fifty-two slots are occupied by Peterson's student-athletes in the top 10 of the 19 events during the women's indoor season, 23 of which are in the top five, all time. On top of this astonishing number, Van Meter (4.27 meters or 14') and Paige Callahan (16:59.70) have broken the school record in the pole vault and 5,000 meters, respectively.
The women's outdoor record book has an even greater number of Peterson's student-athletes occupying the top 10 slots, with 65 total placements that can be directly attributed to him. In 2010, Rebecca Coady notched a school-record 3,000 meter steeplechase time of 10:49.45, while Ruzevic's 51.37 meter (168' 6") javelin toss in 2011, Van Meter's 4.11 meter (13' 5.75") pole vault in 2013 and Tamika Brazzel's 14.31 time in the 100 meter hurdles in 2014 now stand as the top marks in school history in their respective events.
On the men's side, Peterson has worked at rebuilding an outdoor program that was reinstated in 2008 after participating in 2005 before temporarily disbanding due to Hurricane Katrina. Since taking over as the director of track and field, 39 spots in the record book are held by male student-athletes, including the top marks in the discus - a 51.81 meter (169' 11") throw by Lynch in 2013 - and the decathlon - a 5,615 point score from Garrett Myer in 2012. Lynch's record bested the previous mark that was originally set in 1939 by Millard White and tied in 2000 by Tulane legend Nathan Junius.
The entire program has grown and prospered in the classroom, as well. The men's and women's track and field programs each earned All-Academic accolades from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Additionally, the women's cross country program earned All-Academic honors from the USTFCCCA in 2013 and 2014 while the men's cross country program picked up their second All-Academic status from the organization in 2014, as they also earned the distinction in 2011.
Individually, sprinter Kasey Rodgers was named to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team in 2012 after boasting a solid season on the track and in the classroom. In 2014, a program-high three individuals earned USTFCCCA All-Academic honors, as Van Meter, Ortiz and Lapucha all picked up the accolades.
Before joining the Green Wave, Peterson was a highly successful coach at UCLA for 16 seasons. While in Westwood, Calif., Peterson was an integral part of the Bruins 2004 NCAA Outdoor National Championship team, while also aiding in winning Pac-10 Outdoor Championships in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. During that ten year stretch, the team posted ten top 3 finishes in the NCAA. During the indoor season, the 2000 and 2001 UCLA women's squads won NCAA Indoor National Championships with the help of Peterson.
Individually, Peterson mentored Karen Hecox-Candaele - a five-time All-American - to an NCAA National Championship in the 3,000 meters (9:22.63) during the 1994 outdoor season, while Lena Nilsson won an NCAA National Championship in the 1,500 meter (4:12.60) during the 2002 outdoor season and added another in the 800 meters (2:05.13) during the 2003 indoor season under Peterson's watch. The 2002 distance medley team that starred Nilsson - a seven-time All-American and a two-time Pac-10 Female Athlete of the Year - won an NCAA National Championship during the 2002 season with a time of 10:58.19, as well. Peterson also coached Hecox-Candaele to an eighth-place finish in the 1500 meter final at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2000. Ysanne Williams (six-time All-American), Tiffany Burgess (three-time All-American), Ashley Caldwell (five-time All-American) and Beth Bartholomew (two-time All-American) were also Bruins who earned multiple All-American honors due to Peterson's tutelage.
In addition to his assisting with the women's success, Peterson was an immeasurable asset to the men's squad. The UCLA men's teams sent three individuals from the distance program to the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships and four in the NCAA Indoor Championship with 10 student-athletes participating in the NCAA Regional meet.
Peterson had six steeplechasers qualify for regionals, which was tied for No. 1 in the country for single event qualifiers. He also coached freshman Dylan Knight to a UCLA freshman class record in the steeplechase and a 10th-place finish at the World Junior Championships. In 2008, he coached athletes to four UCLA all-time top-10 marks and a UCLA record in the indoor 3000m for Austin Ramos.
Ben Aragon, Martell Munguia and Jon Rankin earned All-American honors on the 2005 NCAA Indoor runner-up distance medley relay team with Peterson as coach. Munguia also added individual honors in the 800 meter along with Erik Emilsson in the steeplechase. Marlon Patterson, Laef Barnes and Cory Primm earned indoor All-American honors in 2008, while Henry Hagenbuch earned outdoor honors in the steeplechase. All in all, Peterson's student-athletes racked up 40 All-American honors during the track and field and cross countries seasons at UCLA.
While working closely with the track and field squads, Peterson was the head coach of the Bruin cross country program, turning them into a Pac-10 Conference and national p ower. His men's team advanced to the NCAA championship as an at large in 2006 after the program's highest Pac 10 finish in a decade. The Bruins were back in the NCAA championship team competition in 2008 placing 26th in the nation, while three of student-athletes from the men's team qualified for the NCAA as individuals in 2007.
Peterson has trained and coached with some of the top distance coaches in the world, including Mike Manley (1972 U.S. Olympian in the steeplechase), former Oregon head coach Bill Dellinger (three-time Olympian in the 5000m), Luiz de' Olivera, who tutored Joaquim Cruz to the 1984 Olympic 800m gold medal and Larsen, who coached the U.S. men's distance corps at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Before his arrival at UCLA, Peterson was the graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach at Oregon for the 1992-93 season. He also spent two seasons as an assistant track and field and cross country coach at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego.
A star student-athlete himself, Peterson was a four-time letterman in track and field and a two-time letterman in cross country at Oregon from 1987-90. Peterson was a member of the 1989 Pac-10 Championship cross country team that was the NCAA Runner Up. He earned All-American honors in 1988, he was a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the 1500m (1988, 1992), running a personal best 1:49.78 in the 800m and 3:41.03 in the 1500m. For his stellar campaign in 1988, he was honored by the Ducks' track and field program as the most improved athlete of the year.
During his prep years, Peterson was the 1985 Oregon State high school 800m champion and earned All-America honors in the 1500m and mile at North Eugene High School in his native Eugene, Oregon.
Peterson resides in New Orleans.