BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - It was a day that didn't go as planned for the Tulane track and field program, but a second place finish from freshman Estefany Cruz and a scoring mark by senior Zandria Debowles highlighted the final day of the 2012 Conference USA Indoor Championships.
"We are not pleased with our performance this weekend," said Tulane head coach Eric Peterson, "and I think that I can speak for our entire program when I say that. It was not the way we wanted to represent our program and we are working very hard to correct the deficiencies that our team has when we compete at the conference level.
"Right now, we are too heavily relying on our young student-athletes - the freshman and sophomore classes - to score points and contribute at a time in their careers when most are not ready to do so. We are working hard with our upperclassmen to help them improve and contribute on the highest stage. That is our goal every day and we will work diligently towards that goal unitl this program can become competitive on the conference and nationally levels."
Cruz sat in first place entering the finals of the competition with a season and career-best leap of 13.03-meters on her final jump of the prelims. The rookie's mark stood up until the final round of the competition when Southern Miss' Tori Bowie landed 13.09-meters away from the board. With her second place showing, Cruz earns Second Team All-Conference USA honors and put eight points on the board for the team.
"I am elated at the performance of Estefany (Cruz)," Peterson said. "As a freshman in a championship setting, to jump as well and compete as well as she did today in the triple jump indicates that her futures is bright. Obviously we are looking for very big things from her on the conference and national level.
Her mark now sits third on the all-time charts at Tulane and she is just the third TU women's competitor to reach the 13-meter plateau. The mark would have ranked her eighth nationally entering the weekend, but the national rankings will not be ranked until Monday (Feb. 27). If the mark finishes as one of the top 16 marks in the nation at the end of the last chance meets during the coming weekend.
"We have been looking at the national marks and feel that if her mark holds up through next weekend she will have the opportunity to compete at the NCAA National Championships. If she were to achieve that at such an early point of her career shows a great example of dedication and leadership. That is something that we are trying to get out of all of our athletes in this program.
In the high jump, DeBowles claimed two more points of the Olive and Blue and set a season-best for the senior. She cleared 1.57 and 1.62-meters on her first attempt at each bar and took two attempts to land safely over the 1.67-meter height. She was one of four competitors to clear the height and finished seventh overall on overall attempts. Katelyn Price set a career-best in the event at the conference meet by clearing the 1.62-meter bar to place in a tie for tenth.
"Zandria has been working very hard in both of her disciplines - the 400 hurdles and the high jump - and I would guess that there are very few athletes in America that compete that those two events," said Peterson. "This fall and winter she has worked hard on developing her techniques. It was great to see her score for the team and make the kind of contribution she did in her senior indoor championship meet. I know that she was excited and we are really proud of the way she completed during her senior indoor track and field season."
Yesterday, Joanna Lapucha set the new school indoor record for the pole vault by clearing 3.66-meters to finish fifth overall. To read about Lapucha's performance and the entire first day of the Conference USA Championships, click here.
"I think that Joanna has been trying to clear that 12-foot bar for a year and a half now," said Peterson, "and she is totally committed to pole vaulting and her training. I feel as if she is getting some of the best training in the country from assistant coach Doug Fraley and they have built a great relationship over their time together. That is proving to be a great combination for our program. Joanna has been a little up and down during her time at Tulane, but this is her second time scoring at the conference meet in as many tries. I give her credit for the way she competes on the big stage."
Cruz is sitting in position to qualify for the NCAA National meet and will look to become the first field qualifier for the national meet since the 2001 season. That year, Marie Ahlander qualified in the triple jump.
You can follow the Tulane track and field programs on Twitter (@GreenWaveTkFld) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.
Entries for 2012 Conference USA Indoor Championship
19. Johanna Gretschel, 5:12.20
4 x 400m Relay
6. Tulane, 3:45.82 (St. Etienne, Riles, Woods, Smith, T.)
7. Zandria Debowles, 1.67m
T-10. Katelyn Price, 1.62m *
T-13. Melanie Mainor, 1.57m
2. Estefany Cruz, 13.03m *
10. Briana Santiago, 11.77m