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Natalie Willer will look to defend her Big 12 title in the pole vault
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
          Release: 02/24/2010
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Huskers Open Big 12 Championships Friday in Ames

The No. 8 men’s and No. 14 women’s Nebraska track and field teams travel to Ames, Iowa, this weekend for the Big 12 Indoor Championships, hosted at Iowa State’s Lied Center. The conference meet is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Friday and continue on Saturday at 11 a.m. For a detailed schedule of the meet, check page six of the weekly notes.

 

2010 will mark the fourth time in the conference’s 14-year history that Iowa State will host in the indoor championships, as the Cyclones also hosted in 1998, 2000 and 2007. The meet will also mark the return of the meet to a north division school, after Texas A&M played host to the championships last season. Prior to 2009, the indoor championships had never been hosted in the south division, as Kansas State (1), Iowa State (3) and Nebraska (8) played host to the first 12 indoor conference championships from 1997-2008.

 

100 and Counting

The Nebraska track and field team will look to add to its 100 conference titles this weekend, after winning the program’s 100th conference crown last season during the outdoor season. In the Big 12 alone, the Huskers have won 21 team titles, the most of any program in the conference.

 

The Husker men have had good luck in Ames during the Big 12 era, as they have won or shared the conference crown in all three previous trips. The men won their last indoor team title in Ames at the 2007 conference meet, as they tied Texas for top honors. Also of note, NU’s first conference title came in on the men’s side in 1921 at the Missouri Valley Outdoor Championships in Ames.

 

For the NU women, the Huskers will be in search of their first team title since 2005 when they won the title at home in Lincoln. In Ames, the women’s team is 1-for-3, winning the title in 2000, while finishing second in 1998 and fifth in 2007.

 

On the Title Defense

Three Huskers will be defending their conference titles at the Big 12 Indoor Championships, including, Megan Wheatley (pentathlon), Nicholas Gordon (long jump) and Natalie Willer (pole vault). All three wins were the first indoor conference crowns for all three Huskers, while it was Wheatley’s second conference title after winning the 2008 outdoor heptathlon title. The Husker trio made a clean sweep of their events in 2009, with each winning the outdoor conference title in their event as well.

 

Vaulting to History

This weekend at the Big 12 Indoor Championships, Natalie Willer will have a chance to become the first Husker on the women’s side indoors to win back-to-back conference titles in the pole vault. Dating back to the 1976 Big Eight Indoor Championships in Manhattan, Kan., the Husker women have only once produced back-to-back titles in the women’s vault, when Christi Lehman and Jenny Green combined for the feat in 2003 and 2004. Willer would also join Green as the only women’s vaulter indoors at NU to win two conference crowns, as Green added a second title in 2006.

 

Leaders of the Pack

Four Huskers hold or are tied for the top spot in the conference in their event, including Paul Hamilton (high jump), Nicholas Gordon (long jump), Epley Bullock (high jump) and Natalie Willer (pole vault).

 

Hamilton, who has jumped three-quarters of an inch higher then Kansas’ State’s Erik Kynard at 7-3 1/4, will try for his second conference title, after winning the outdoor high jump last season. Gordon will look to repeat in the men’s long jump and has cleared 25-9 1/4 this season, one-half inch more than Bryce Lamb of Texas Tech.

 

Bullock, who won the women’s indoor title in 2008, holds the top spot at 6-1 1/2 and will try for her second conference crown in her final appearance at the indoor meet. In the women’s vault, Natalie Willer enters the meet tied for the top spot with Texas Tech’s Shade Weygandt at 13-11 1/4, Willer is the defending champion in the events.

 

Three Amigas

Nebraska women’s high jumpers rank 1-2-3 in the Big 12 Conference entering this weekend’s meet. Led by four-time All-American and 2008 indoor conference champion Epley Bullock, the Huskers are the favorite in the event. Bullock, who has automatically qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships with the third-best jump in the country this year at 6-1 1/2, is joined by NCAA provisional qualifiers Audrey Svane and Lorena Menghia. Svane is tied for seventh in the NCAA at 6-0 1/2, while Menghia enters the meet tied for 20th in the nation at 5-10 3/4. The three Husker jumpers are the only jumpers in the conference to have qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships. The top five in the women’s high jump is rounded out by Texas Tech’s Kelsey Lloyd (5-8 3/4) and Texas A&M’s Daphne Fitzpatrick (5-8 1/2).

 

Jumps-U

The Nebraska track and field team has always been a premier program for jumpers to develop under Head Coach and Jumps Coach Gary Pepin, and this year is no different. Nine of Pepin’s jumpers have already qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships, including automatic qualifiers Epley Bullock (women’s high jump) and Nicholas Gordon (men’s long jump). All of Pepin’s jumper rank in the top 30 nationally in their respective event, with four of those jumpers ranked in the top 10.

 

Could Go Even Faster?

David Adams put on one of the top distance performances in school history on Friday, Feb. 12, at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash., as the junior ran the first sub-14 minute 5,000-meter race in school history at 13:55.68. Adams ran nearly the entire race by himself, as the next closest runner finished nearly 20 seconds behind him at 14:15.24.

 

The York, Neb., native will now try to improve his time in a more competitive field at the conference championships. Adams, who ranks second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State’s Colby Lowe (13:45.01), is one of four runners in the Big 12 to have run below 14:05.00.

 

Right on Point

Defending indoor long jump champion Nicholas Gordon secured his spot at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Tyson Invitational with a second-place jump of 25-9 1/4, which exactly met the NCAA automatic standard. The Kingston, Jamaica, native is also the defending Big 12 indoor long jump champion and ranks No. 1 in the conference and No. 5 in the NCAA this season.

 

Soarin’ Svane

Junior Audrey Svane nearly guaranteed herself a spot in at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships with a personal-best jump of 6-0 1/2 at the Tyson Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 13.

 

The first-attempt clearance at the height moved Svane from 12th on the NU all-time indoor performance list to a tie for seventh with Heather Smith (1984). She also moved from a tie for 13th on the 2010 NCAA performance list to a tie for seventh with Ashley Rhoades of Indiana.

 

Home for Hurdlers

The Nebraska track and field team has one hurdler automatically qualified and three hurdlers provisionally qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships, with two each on the men’s and women’s sides. Lehann Fourie leads the way for the men, as he holds the No. 3 time in the NCAA this season at 7.70 and is joined by teammate Tyrell Ross, who is tied for the No. 33 spot at 7.91. For the women, Karyn LaCour moved into a tie for the No. 25 spot with her time of 8.35 at the ISU Classic on Saturday, Feb. 13, and is joined on the list by Arna Erega, who is tied for 27th at 8.36.

 

Willer Hits Auto Mark

In just her second meet of the season, Natalie Willer added her name to the list of automatic qualifiers in the women’s pole vault on Saturday, Jan. 30 at the Bill Bergan Invitational with a leap of 13-11 1/4. The indoor and outdoor school record holder is tied for tenth in the NCAA this season.

 

Bullock Rises to New Heights

Senior Epley Bullock locked up her spot at the 2010 NCAA Championships on Saturday, Jan. 23, at the adidas Classic with a personal-best jump of 6-1 1/2. The jump broke Bullock’s previous best by one-quarter of an inch and gave her sole possession of the No. 3 performance in Husker indoor history, after previous sharing the spot with Tammy Thurman (1988) and Kerry Doetker (1997). The mark is tops in the Big 12 Conference this season and ranks her No. 3 on the NCAA list behind Arizona’s Elizabeth Patterson (6-3 1/2) and Hawaii’s Amber Kaufman (6-3 1/4).

 

Pepin back for 30th Season

The all-time winningest track and field coach in the history of the Big 12 and the former Big Eight Conference, Nebraska Head Coach Gary Pepin is entering his historic 30th season at NU. The longest tenured active coach in Cornhusker athletics, Pepin enters his 27th season as head coach of both the Husker men’s and women’s track teams.

 

For Pepin, last season he also passed Frank Sevigne as the longest-tenured head coach in the history of the Nebraska program, and Pepin is still at the top of his game for coaching athletes to the highest levels of competition. He was named 2009 Big 12 Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year and the 2009 USTFCCCA Midwest Regional Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year.

 

Two Decades Later

Junior Ashley Miller started day two of the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational on a high note for the Huskers, as she took down a 20-year old meet record in the 1,000 meters. Miller, who led from the gun to the finish, clocked a time of 2:49.56 to break the previous record of 2:50.39, set by Missouri’s Val Sauer in 1990. The time topped Miller’s previous best of 2:51.93.

 

Atop the Conference

After winning 51 Big Eight titles during the conference’s history from 1974-1996, the Huskers have continued to dominate since moving to the Big 12 Conference for the 1997 season. NU has won a league-high 21 team titles over the Big 12’s first 13 years, including the program’s historic 100th conference team title last season at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships, where the men’s team won in dominant fashion with four individual conference champions.

 

Bullock Back for No. 4

Senior Epley Bullock will look to make history in 2010, as the Allen, Texas, native will have a chance to become the first Husker on the women’s side in school history to earn four All-America honors in the indoor high jump.

 

Last season, Bullock joined Chris Hall (1991-93) as the only Huskers to achieve the feat three times.

 

Gordon Goes for Two

After winning just the second indoor long jump national title in school history on the men’s side in 2009, Nicholas Gordon will look to become the first Husker ever to win back-to-back titles in the event.

 

Carl Myerscough and Ineta Radevica were the last Huskers to win back-to-back NCAA titles, as Radevica took the outdoor triple jump and Myerscough the outdoor shot put, both in 2003 and 2004.

 

Gordon is also the returning Big 12 indoor and outdoor long jump champion. Chris Wright (1997-98) was the last Husker on the men’s side to win back-to-back titles in the indoor long jump. Gordon topped Wright’s meet record of 26-0 last season with his winning jump of 26-1 1/2.

 

17 Decades and Counting

The wealth of coaching knowledge at Nebraska is nearly unmatched as the Husker coaching staff holds a combined 170 years of coaching experience.

 

Stability has been key to the success of the track team as four of Head Coach Gary Pepin’s assistants have been with the program for 10 or more years and two for 20 years or longer, including Jay Dirksen (27th season), Mark Colligan (24th season), Billy Maxwell (15th season) and Matt Martin (14th season).

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