NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vanderbilt track team begins the final push of the 2010 season as the Commodores head to Knoxville to compete in the SEC Championships.
The ‘Dores are coming off a strong outdoor season that includes nearly a dozen personal records and four new school records. VU is prepared for the Championships and ready for the challenge of competing against some of the best athletes in the nation. Thursday Vanderbilt seniors Buky Bamigboye and Mallory Hitt will compete in the heptathlon on Thursday with events continuing on Friday. Thursday’s heptathlon events include the 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, and the 200 meter dash.
Bamigboye is looking to add an SEC heptathlon title to her ’06 Big East title from her tenure at Georgetown University. Bamigboye recently tied the school record in the long jump with a jump of 19-10.25.
“We’re looking for Buky to really come out big,” Vanderbilt assistant coach Clark Humphreys commented. “She has three girls that she is in direct competition with, so this is really Buky’s time. She’s improved every weekend and she can definitely improve on her 5,206 from Sea Ray Relays in Knoxville.”
Hitt has really come into her own in her final year of competition. According to Humphreys, Hitt is “really like the den mother. She has been here all four years and she really wants to make sure everyone competes at her best. She is focused on her final SEC Championships and we’re looking for nothing but great things from her this weekend.” Friday The final events of the women’s heptathlon, the long jump, the javelin, and the 800 meter run, will be contested beginning at 5:00pm on Friday.
After the heptathlon is completed, the women’s 800 meter preliminaries will get under way with two-time regional qualifier, junior Rita Jorgensen, competing for Vanderbilt. “The 800 is the toughest event on a national level,” Vanderbilt distances coach Steve Keith noted. “6 of the top 12 in the nation are from the SEC, but Rita is a tough competitor and a good finisher, so I wouldn't count her out of making the final.”
“All three of these ladies have improved tremendously all season,” Vanderbilt head coach D’Andre Hill said. “Anna and Taylor have been on each other’ heels in races and the record books. I look forward to seeing what all three can do in the prelims.”
The final competitor of the evening for Vanderbilt is Kristabel Doebel-Hickok in the women’s 10,000 meter final. Doebel-Hickok has competed in the event once this season, running her way to a second place finish at the Rhodes College Open Meet with a time of 36:51.69. Saturday Saturday’s events begin for Vanderbilt with Bamigboye in the open long jump competition. Bamigboye’s jump at the Tennessee Invitational of 19-10.25 has put her near the top of the SEC leaderboard, giving her a strong possibility of scoring points for the Commodores.
“Buky has improved so much in the long jump and we think she has a real chance to perform well on Saturday in the long jump. She will have had some time to recover the heptathlon and we hope she can jump even further than she did last weekend,” Humphreys noted.
The women’s pole vault competition follows with three Vanderbilt vaulters, including current Vanderbilt indoor and outdoor record holder, junior Katherine Hendricks, along with teammates sophomore Meagan Martin and freshman Morgan Toone.
“The way Kat is jumping now, this is the high 12-footer we recruited,” Humphreys commented. “We know what she’s capable of and I think she’s realizing now that she belongs with the big dogs. I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished this year and I can’t wait to see what happens this weekend.”
Humphreys noted further, “Meagan and Morgan have been on Kat’s heels all year and I think it says a lot about the future of our program that they have just kept setting the school record nearly every weekend. They have both improved so much this season and I think they will both be on Kat’s heels once again this weekend.”
Both Hitt and Bamigboye will return for the open women’s high jump, an event that has been successful for both ‘Dores. Bamigboye’s career high is 5-05.00, a mark she set at the Black and Gold Invitational back in March. For Hitt, she is right behind Bamigboye with a jump of 5-04.25, set this past weekend at the Tennessee Invitational.
Jorgensen returns on Saturday for the 1500 meter run along with freshman Kristen Findley. Jorgensen holds Vanderbilt’s four fastest times of the season for the 1500, including her season best of 4:22.77, set on her home track at the Vanderbilt Invitational in April.
“Rita's performance in the 1500 ranks well and I know she wants to make the final and contribute to our team point total,” Keith noted. “It’s a demanding double, the 800/1500, but I know that Rita is up for the challenge.”
Hill returns from her 200 meter prelims on Friday for the 400 meter prelims on Saturday. Hill’s best time of the season came from the Vanderbilt Invitational, clocking a 56.19 finish. Carr and Jackson also return from the 200 meter prelims on Friday for the 100 meter prelims on Saturday. This is arguably Carr’s best event, as she is the new record holder in the 100 meter dash, setting a time of 11.80 at the Vanderbilt Invitational in April.
“Anna is ready. She’s been getting better every competition and has shown that she is one of the best sprinters in the conference,” Hill commented. “She just needs to come out strong and show what she can do and it’s the same with Taylor. Taylor and Anna are neck and neck every race and I think it’s good that we have two sprinters who can really push each other like that. I hope we can get a few more records broken this weekend and score a few points.”
Saturday’s competitions come to a close with women’s 3,000 meter steeplechase, an event in which freshman Allie Scalf will only be competing for the second time this outdoor season. Her time of 11:01.43 at the Vanderbilt Invitational puts her in good scoring position for this weekend.
“It is hard to put expectations on a person who has competed in their event only once ever, let alone that they are a freshman as well, but I feel good with Allie's chances in the Steeplechase,” Keith noted. “Her fitness and mindset are at a very high level and that's what you want going into a championship. If Allie can be patient and not overextend herself early I can see good things happening in the second half of the race.” Sunday Sunday’s events are crucial for the Commodores as they include many point-scoring opportunities.
Vanderbilt competes first in the 4x100 meter relay, with the team of Bamigboye, Carr, Hill, and Jackson representing the Commodores. Their best time of the season came at the Vanderbilt Invitational, clocking a 46.46 finish.
“We’ve been training hard since our last 4x100 competition at the Sooner Invite to really improve on our time. We know that we have a serious chance at breaking the school record this weekend and all of our girls need to precise and strong to do that,” Hill said. “If we can really keep things tight and all our girls are focused, we can do great things out there.”
The women’s 5,000 meter run is a strong race for Vanderbilt, as sophomores Louise Hannallah and Alexa Rogers, and junior Adrienne DiRaddo, compete for at least one point-scoring opportunity for the ‘Dores. Hannallah’s time of 16:59.24 at the Penn Relays was a strong statement of her ability to put points on the board for Vanderbilt.
“I have been very proud of Louise's efforts all year and especially this past Indoor season when she placed 7th in the 3000 at SEC Indoors,” Keith commented. “We'll be in a similar situation this weekend with Louise being just on the edge of a scoring position. Her race at Penn Relays was an improvement, but we both know that there is a better race waiting to be run. If Louise keeps the same focus and determination that she has shown all year, she will really contribute.”
The Commodores who make it past the preliminaries of their running events will compete in the finals of that event throughout the day on Sunday. Vanderbilt is looking for its best point finish in recent years, as the ‘Dores have many scoring opportunities in highly contested events. As evident throughout the season, Vanderbilt track is finally starting to come into its own and has the chance to prove that progress this weekend.