Tigers Ready for C-USA Indoor Championships
Feb. 25, 2010
Memphis, Tenn. - For the ninth-straight year, the University of Memphis track and field teams will travel to the University of Houston for the Conference USA Indoor Track and Field Championships at Yeoman Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Houston.
The 2010 Indoor Championships will get underway on Friday at 9:00 a.m. with the pentathlon and heptathlon events. Field events will begin at approximately 2:00 p.m. with running events slated to begin at 5:00 p.m
Memphis boasts a strong history in the men's throws, claiming an individual champion in the shot put the past seven years and a weight throw champion the last two years. Two-time defending C-USA Champion Steffen Nerdal will defend his weight throw along with 2009 shot put champion Knut Syversen. Head Coach Kevin Robinson expects to see the dominance in the throwing events to continue with the higher level of competition.
"I think the throwers have underperformed all year with the exception of Steffen and Knut in the weight," Robinson said. "I expect each and every one of the throwers to perform at a higher level at this meet than they have all year and if they do that we will continue to be the same dominant force in the throws that we have been in the past seven or eight years. I am still waiting for that meet where all of the guys click on all cylinders at the same time and when that happens, it will be something very special."
Sophomore pole vaulter Karlis Pujats will look to become Memphis' third men's qualifier as he will compete with the defending NCAA Champion in the men's pole vault at 2 p.m. Friday. Jason Colwick of Rice is the defending champion in the pole vault and Robinson hopes Pujats can use the competition to qualify for nationals.
"My hope is Karlis will qualify. He is competing against last year's national champion in the pole vault so to put pressure on him to win the meet would not be fair. My goal for him is to jump 5.20m and put him on the provisional qualifying list. I hope Nate Arnold can come through and score a couple of points for us as well."
Freshman middle distance and distance runner Brieuc Vandeleene who joined the Tigers in January will compete in four different events for Memphis. Vandeleene will carry the Tigers in the distance events under the direction of first year distance coach Doug Clark.
"Bringing Doug in has been great for the staff and great for the program," Robinson said. "He brought a dimension that we needed and he has done a great job. Brieuc has only been here for a few weeks. He is going to be a very dominant force in the conference in the future. He will be running the 800m, mile, 3k and the distance medley and assuming he makes the final in the 800m, which will be five races for him this weekend. Obviously, he is in good hands with Coach Clark."
The sprints group for the Tigers features three Memphis athletes in the top-15 in C-USA. Junior Frashod Barlow ranks ninth in the 60m dash while junior Richard Lowe ranks 13th in the 200m dash. Lowe ranks fifth in the 400m dash followed by freshman Stephan Ender in eighth and junior Nick Harold in 14th.
"I expect Richard to make the finals in the 200m and 400m dash," Robinson said. "He will also anchor what we hope will be a contending champion 4x400m relay team. He along with Frashod Barlow, Nick Harold and Alex Sweet are the guys we are counting on getting in the finals on Saturday to mix things up. If we can do that, we are taking away points from teams that have assumed those points are for the taking."
Coach Robinson believes his team can finish the indoor season anywhere from first to third, but he believes Houston is the favorite to win, at least on paper.
"As a team right now on paper, we are in a pretty good position," Robinson said. "Houston is by far the dominant force in the conference, but that doesn't mean we are going to lie down and accept defeat. The reason we have competitions are because what is on paper doesn't matter. We are going to go in there and bust our butts and we are going to do everything we can. If we get beat, we get beat, but if we do the best job we can possibly do I feel like we have a good chance."
The conference championships represent a different picture for the women's team according to coach Robinson. Robinson wants his team do battle for a conference title, but his goal is to see some Lady Tigers post qualifying marks for the NCAA Championships.
After a solid meet at the Redhawk Invite last weekend, junior thrower Marina Vojinovic is on pace to post an NCAA qualifying mark at the C-USA Championships while vying for the individual crown in the women's shot put.
"The women's throws are looking better," Robinson said. "Marina is very close to qualifying in the shot and that is our goal going into this meet. She is ranked second in the conference going in and if things go well she could be a conference champion. I hope Karmyn Clarke and Angela Wigley are able to crack the finals in the weight and compete at a high level to score some points."
Entering the championships on Friday and Saturday, senior hurdler Tayanna Simpson is fourth in C-USA in the 60m hurdles. Simpsons is sixth tenths shy of a NCAA provisional qualifying time. Junior LaShundra Kershaw will compete with five NCAA provisional and automatic qualifiers in the 60m dash. Kershaw enters the meet ranked 11th, hoping to qualify for the NCAA championships which Coach Robinson believes is attainable.
"Tayanna comes in ranked fourth and she is three or four one-hundredths from qualifying for nationals," Robinson said. "My goal is for her to get on the podium and qualify for the nationals. LaShundra Kershaw has her worked cut out for her with the seven or eight qualifiers in the competition. However, I think she can qualify for nationals."
Sophomore distance runner Kayleigh Brown will anchor the Lady Tigers distance competitiors. Brown has posted improvements in the 800m, mile and 3,000m this season and she will compete for an individual championship this weekend.
Championship central on www.conferenceusa.com is your source for live results during the C-USA Indoor Championships. You can follow the Tigers on facebook at www.facebook.com and searching University of Memphis Track and Field.