Aug. 5, 2010
NEW ORLEANS - When head coach Eric Peterson arrived at Tulane last fall he knew that he had a task ahead of him. He was already behind on recruiting and had put together a talented, but young coaching staff that was recruiting for the first time. With that said, all of the difficulty that he experienced early on has been washed away after announcing a 19-person recruiting class that will arrive on campus in a few short weeks to begin building the Green Wave cross country and track and field programs.
"I obviously started off the recruiting process with some concern, since we got such a late start," said director of cross country and track and field Eric Peterson. " To come up with so many great athletes, mostly all from our area, I think is a wonderful accomplishment. Our assistant coaching staff was recruiting for the first time in their careers and I am really proud of the type of people that we recruited."
The Peterson camp will bring in a group of student-athletes that have excelled on the athletic fields and in the classroom, with three valedictorians joining the roster. Of the 19 athletes that will arrive on campus, 16 of them are women and three of them are men. This group will bring a demographic that is true to the entire student body on the Uptown campus, with two international students, four coming from West of the Mississippi, four coming from the East Coast and eight coming from the southeast - including five from Louisiana.
"We have a lot of great kids joining our program this year," said Peterson. "That is always going to be a goal of ours. We want kids with strong character that have demonstrated leadership qualities in their high school program, and of course we want great talent. We know that this is a process of developing athletes over a long period of time and we are going to do our best to give them every opportunity to achieve their ultimate potential."
With the departure of Olivia Kizzee, Peterson needed to fill in a hole in the lineup for the upcoming season. The freshman class of Alaina Cargill, Tiffany George and Hilary Woods should be a great addition to the roster and have an immediate impact on the program. George and Woods are both home-grown talent and won LHSAA State Championships in 2009.
"One of our goals, from a coaching standpoint, was to do the best job that we could to bring in high-level Louisiana athletes," said Peterson. "I think that if a program is going to be successful, the recruiting focus has to be to recruit and sign the top kids in our state. We lost a sprinter in Olivia Kizzee, but I believe that both of these athletes that can come in and soften that loss. These are athletes that can impact our program in their individual events, but both will improve our depth in the relay events. These were two huge signings for our program."
George was the Louisiana 5A state champion in the indoor 55-meter dash and claimed the 100 and 200-meter dash state titles during the outdoor season as a senior. The Zachary High School product owns the school record in all three events and was an All-LHSAA pick during her senior season.
Woods was the Louisiana 5A State indoor 400-meter dash champion for Xavier Prep High School. The valedictorian of her graduating class, she also won the 400-meter dash crown at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Outdoor Track and Field Championships and was an eight-time LHSAA State qualifier.
With the loss of Nicolette Taku, coach Peterson and his staff had another major gap to fill on the roster and did that with a very decorated and diverse group of incoming jumpers.
The lone pole vault specialist in the group is Joanna Lapucha from Lafayette High School, a very strong local prep program. During her senior season, Lapucha finished as the Louisiana State 5A Runner-up in both the indoor and outdoor events at the LHSAA State Championships. She was the valedictorian of her graduating class and also can add depth in the middle distance events, holding three school records in distance relay events.
"Joanna is a very highly accomplished young woman and is coming to Tulane on a major academic scholarship," said Peterson. "On top of that, she is a very talented athlete. She was one of the top vaulters in the state and comes from one of the best programs in the state of Louisiana. She is exactly the type of athlete we want to build out program on. She will come in and challenge out current pole vaulters, is a very bright young woman and a strong leader."
Melanie Mainor will dawn the Olive and Blue after winning the 2009 Georgia State 4A high jump title with a height of 1.60-meters. Her personal best mark during her career was 1.67-meters during her senior season, while Mainor also finished fourth at the 2008 Georgia State Championships in the event.
"Melanie Mainor was the Georgia State high jump champion and we are very excited about her arrival," said Peterson. We have not had an athlete like Melanie in our program in quite some time. We know that Zandria Debowles is a great athlete, who battled injury last season, but Melanie will bring a level of excellence and consistency to that event."
Stefany Cruz will enter as a highly touted newcomer after winning the Central America and Caribbean High School triple jump championships with a leap of 12.60-meters. Cruz also posted a 6.00-meter jump in the long jump and was a Guatemalan champion as a gymnast. Danna Wasserman owns the Demarest (N.J.) High School long jump record with a 5.64-meter jump at the Bergan County Championships and was a four-time All-Bergan County League selection.
Briana Santiago brings a great resume with her to campus after a solid prep career at Gulf Breeze High School. Santiago finished third in the long jump at the Florida 3A State Championships as a freshman and a senior, while owning the school record of 11.43-meters in the triple jump. She grabbed a career-best leap of 5.31-meters during her senior season in the long jump.
"The jumps and the sprints are the two areas we had the most success recruiting this season. This area is highlighted by Stefany Cruz from Guatemala. She is a great long jump and triple jump competitor and she will have an impact on our program in those areas right away. We have two good jumpers coming back in Raquelle Collins and Brree Carter, but Stefany, along with Danna and Brianna, are going to be very solid athletes for our program.
This is the largest addition to the roster for the Green Wave, with six student-athletes joining the program as a part of both the cross country and track and field portions. Charlotte Manogue headlines the class as she won the 1000-meter 4-A Conference Championship as a senior and took the Nassau County Championship in the 1500-meter. Colleen Loughlin earned All-State honors nine times during her career at Triton Regional in Massachusetts and Callie Turlington competed at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships and earned All-Mideast Region honors as a junior and senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
"This is a group of kids that are coming from all over the country," said Peterson. "This group is fairly consistent with our student population here at Tulane. The group is led by Charlotte Manogue, who is an athlete that has a great attitude and very strong work ethic. She is going to come in and stir up our program, which we need. I look for that from each of the members that will join our program this season. My hope is that this class can come in and make a lasting impression on our program."
Returners: Emmi Aguillard, Cassie Campbell, Rebecca Coady, Katherine Crabtree, Jessica Dallager, Maggie Gentry, Johanna Gretschel, Caitlin Hornbeck, Danielle Pensack, Elizabeth Piazza, Julia Whitrock.
One of the thinner parts of the Tulane roster was addressed in a major way during the recruiting season with the addition of Taylor Crosby and Elizabeth Thomassie. The pair joins the program from in-state high school programs, with Crosby coming from Vandebilt and Thomassie spending her prep days at South Lafourche High School.
"This was an area where our team was very thin," said Peterson. "We did not have a lot of depth in the throws, with three female and no male throwers last season, so this is something that we need to address. Taylor Crosby placed in the discus at the state meet and Elizabeth Thomassie will make our throwing corps deeper. These two kids are not good students, they are great students and they fit the profile of a Tulane student-athlete."
Crosby finished among the top-five at the LHSAA 4A State Championships twice during her career, placing fourth as a senior, and earned All-District 8-4A each season for the Terriers. She was the valedictorian of her senior class and helped the basketball team and swimming and diving program win state championships during her stay at VHS.
Thomassie threw the discus and javelin while attending SLHS and placed fifth at the LHSAA 5A State Championships as a senior. A four-time team MVP in the field events, Thomassie also earned Academic All-State accolades during her final season with the Tarpons.
The men's squad will add three student-athletes to their roster for the upcoming season, with sprinter Christopher Arechiga, pole vault specialist Hunter Moon and distance runner Ryan Rigali entering the fold. Each athlete is expected to contribute this season, with Moon following his father's footsteps as a Tulane track and field athlete.
"Our men's class was very difficult to work this past year because we have been a non-scholarship program, up until now," said Peterson. " Rick Dickson, our athletic director, has supported our program with some scholarship assistance, which is now going to allow us to go out and recruit kids who are regionally and nationally competitive."
Arechiga comes from very competitive sprinting area of the united state after competing at Long Beach Wilson high school. He provides a great addition to the sprinting corps after being a two-time letterwinner and an All-Moore League squad pick during his junior and senior seasons.
Moon was a standout pole vault specialist while at St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High School, where he helped the Raiders to the Florida State Championships as a sophomore, junior and senior. Moon earned All-County honors during his final three seasons and holds a career-best vault of 4.42-meters as a senior.
Rigali will impact both the track and field program and the cross country team as a distance specialist from Great Oak High School in California. He earned All-Southwestern League honors in cross country as a junior and career-best 5K time of 15:49 and an 800-meter time of 1:57, which would be one of the top times on the Green Wave squad entering the season.
"Hunter is a pole vault specialist that comes to Tulane from a good high school program in Florida and his father is an alumnus of Tulane," Peterson said. " He goes right to the front of our team and will be a major upgrade to our roster. Chris comes from the Long Beach Wilson program and is a good student and a solid 400-meter competitor. Chris will come in and impact our program in the 400-meters and in the relay portion of our team, which he had experience in during his high school career. Ryan will come in and upgraded our team in both the 800 and 1500-meter events, as well as upgrade our cross country roster."