Feb. 19, 2009
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
The University of Louisville men's and women's indoor track and field teams will be seeking their first-ever BIG EAST indoor titles this weekend when they travel to New York, N.Y. for the 2009 BIG EAST Indoor Championships on Feb. 21-22 at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory.
"The BIG EAST is a very deep and storied conference," said U of L head coach Ron Mann. "It's arguably one of the best conferences in the country in every sport and I just feel privileged we are a part of it."
U of L has 63 BIG EAST qualifiers (33 women, 30 men) entering the weekend and will have 39 athletes (20 men, 19 women) competing for both the men's and women's indoor titles. The two-day meet is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday, with the multi-events.
"Our goal when we got here was to be a conference contender and certainly on Thursday prior to the championships we are a contender on both sides," said Mann. "This is where we want to be and where we will end up who knows but we are in great position to do it."
The Cardinal women enter the event following a successful end to their 2008 campaign in which they took home their first-ever conference team title at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships. U of L earned their highest indoor finish a year ago as they placed third behind Connecticut and Georgetown who captured first and second, respectively.
Junior Rachel Gehret set the tone for Louisville in their final tune-up for the conference championships at the Hoosier Hills Invitational on Feb. 13. Gehret won the long jump with an NCAA provisional qualifying mark and school record leap of 20-01.00 (6.12m). She also won the high jump, clearing 5-08.75 (1.75m).
Sophomore D' Ana McCarty won the weight throw and reached NCAA provisional status for the sixth consecutive meet with a mark of 66-03.25 (20.20m), while freshman Khadija Abdulla moved up the NCAA event rankings list in the shot put for the second straight event as she placed second with a throw of 51-02.25 (15.60m).
On the men's side, the Cards finished third at the 2008 BIG EAST Outdoor Championships, while having placed fifth overall at the indoor championships a year ago. The Cards best indoor finish came in 2007 when they took second behind Notre Dame who won by 2.5 points.
At the Hoosier Hills Invitational on Feb. 13, senior Steven Hnat captured the shot put title with an NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 58-07.50 (17.87m). Hnat's throw was the best in the BIG EAST this season and earned him the conference's Male Field Athlete of the Week in the process.
Mid-year UCLA transfer Michael Johnson, Jr. also picked up an NCAA provisional qualifying mark in his second meet as a Cardinal, winning the triple jump with a leap of 50-10.25 (15.50m). In addition, senior Andrew Hackney reached NCAA provisional status in the weight throw for the fourth time this year as he won the event with a toss of 65-03.50 (19.90m).
"Accomplishing the goals of wanting to be a conference contender, a regional power and a strong national representative are all starting to come to fruition," said Mann. "We are not quite there yet but we are certainly on that journey and heading in the right direction."
The Cards will have a weekend off to prepare for the Alex Wilson Invitational on March 6-7 in South Bend, Ind. The meet will mark U of L's last attempt to earn qualifying marks for the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships which will be held at Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas during the weekend of March 13-14. Louisville has 13 NCAA provisional qualifiers and one automatic bid so far this season.