Providence, R.I. – With the regular season finished, BIG EAST teams travel to Jumbo Elliott Track at Villanova Stadium in Villanova, Pa., for the 2011 BIG EAST Outdoor Track & Field Championships. This is the 22nd time in the 32-year history of the BIG EAST Outdoor Track & Field Championships that the event will be held at Villanova. The BIG EAST Championship consists of 15 women’s teams. The Louisville women are looking to win the title for the fourth consecutive year, which would tie the Cardinals with Miami for the most consecutive outdoor track & field titles. A title for the Cardinals would also make the program the first team since Pittsburgh in 2005 to win both the Indoor and Outdoor team Championships.
Below is an event-by-event preview for the 2011 BIG EAST Outdoor Track & Field Championship.
100-meter and 200-meter dash: All eyes will be on Connecticut senior Trisha-Ann Hawthorne in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, as she looks to become the first athlete in BIG EAST history to be a four-time champion in two separate events. The two-time BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Track Performer has the top time in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash this season. Hawthorne also could set the record for most career BIG EAST titles with 11 if she registers wins in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay. She has eight titles entering the championship (three in the 100, three in the 200 and two in the 4x100-meter relay).
400-meter dash: Villanova junior Christie Verdier owns the top time in the BIG EAST in the 400-meter dash at 53.70. Only two athletes that competed in the finals of the event last year returns for the 201 championship. Georgetown senior Deidra Sanders in the top returning finisher after placing fourth a year ago, while Pittsburgh sophomore Jonique Lawrence finished fifth.
800-meter run: Villanova has claimed four of the last five 800-meter champions including senior Sheila Reid in 2010. Georgetown freshman Chelsea Cox has posted the top time in the BIG EAST this season at 2:05.17. Connecticut has two athletes in the top four of the conference in junior Heather Wilson and sophomore Brigitte Mania. Wilson and Mania finished one-two in the 800-meter run at the 2011 BIG EAST Indoor Track & Field Championship.
1,500-meter run: Villanova’s Reid, the 2010 NCAA Cross Country National Champion, owns the top time in the 1,500-meter run in the conference this season at 4:11.85 which also ranks third in the nation. Georgetown has five athletes in the top seven of the conference rankings. Sophomore Emily Infeld leads the pack of Hoyas, ranking second with a time of 4:12.04. Infeld finished second at the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championship behind Reid.
5,000-meter run: The host Wildcats have the top two times in the 5,000-meter run this season. Sophomore Bogdana Mimic and junior Alison Smith sit first and second respectively. Mimic registered a time of 15:48.49, which ranks sixth in the country, at the Mt. SAC Relays. Villanova is looking to win the event for the first time since 2008. Behind the Wildcats are Syracuse teammates Lauren Penney and Katie Hursey.
10,000-meter run: Syracuse senior Catherine DeSarle looks to become the first Orange athlete to win the title in the 10,000-meter run. DeSarle enters the championship as the top 10,000-meter runner in the BIG EAST with a time of 33:38.94. Other top contenders include Connecticut freshman Lauren Sara and Georgetown sophomore Emily Jones. Jones placed fourth at the championship last year and ranks third in the conference with a time of 34:27.05.
100-meter hurdles: Villanova junior Shericka Ward returns to defend her title in the 100-meter hurdles. Ward is second in the conference this season with a mark of 13.41. Ward would be the first back-to-back champion in the even since Rutgers’ Shameka Marshall did so in 2004 and 2005. West Virginia senior Chelsea Carrier owns the top spot with a school-record time of 12.97. Carrier’s time also ranks ninth in the country. The senior won the event in 2008.
400-meter hurdles: Georgetown senior London Finley is in search of her second 400-meter hurdles title in three years. Finley won the event in 2009 and sits in the top spot in the conference this season with a time of 59.71. Finley is followed by a pair of Louisville sophomores in Chelsea Brown and Gabrielle Jackson. Louisville has one 400-meter title by Heather Trimiew in 2006.
3,000-meter steeplechase: With four of the top five times in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Syracuse has a chance to claim its first ever BIG EAST title in the event. Junior Katie Hursey leads the pack with the top time in the conference at 10:13.39, which also ranks 15th in the country. Juniors Natalie Busby and Heather Stephens follow in second and third. Providence junior Hannah Davidson ranks fourth with a time of 10:21.52. She looks to make it back-to-back titles in the event for the Friars after Shelby Greany claimed the 2010 crown.
4x100-meter relay: Connecticut is looking to become the first team since Miami in 1996-1998 to win three-straight 4x100-meter titles. The Huskies rank fourth in the BIG EAST with a time of 46.36 and have Hawthorne and Kristen Brown returning from last year’s squad. Cincinnati holds the top time in the conference at 45.06.
4x400-meter relay: Georgetown looks to emerge as the favorite in the 4x400-meter relay with the departure of Seton Hall who had claimed each of the last three titles. Georgetown has never won the 4x400-meter relay but owns the top time in the conference at 3:40.49. Villanova (3:41.23), Cincinnati (3:41.53) and Connecticut (3:41.84) follow closely behind however, as all four of the top teams are within 1.5 seconds of each other.
4x800-meter relay: The Hoyas also are the top team in the 4x800-meter relay with a season-best time of 8:26.47, more than seven-seconds better than second-place Connecticut. Georgetown is looking to win its third-straight title and its fourth in five years. The Hoyas finished second at the Penn Relays in the event with a team of Emily Infeld, Rachel Schneider, Chelsea Cox and Renee Tomlin.
Javelin: DePaul sends two of the top javelin throwers in the country to Villanova in juniors Alanna Kovacs and Melissa Fraser. Kovacs has the top javelin throw in the country this season with a distance of 54.88 meters. She finished second to Fraser at last year’s BIG EAST Championship. Fraser is second in the conference and seventh in the nation with a season-best throw of 51.74 meters. Fraser has claimed the title in two of the last three championships.
Throwing Events: Louisville has used its dominance in the throwing events to win the last three BIG EAST titles and will look to do the same this year. Senior D’Ana McCarty has the top mark in the discus and hammer throw while ranking second in the conference in the shot put. Louisville has won four-straight BIG EAST titles in both the hammer throw and discus, while claiming two of the last three in the discus.
Junior Khadija Abdullah returns to defend her title in the shot put, ranking first in the BIG EAST with a season-best toss of 16.96 meters. McCarty stands second with a mark of 16.70, while Connecticut’s Victoria Flowers is third at 16.28 meters.
McCarty leads both the hammer and the discus. Teammate Chinwe Okoro sits second in the discus with a distance of 50.31 meters. DePaul’s Fraser ranks second in the hammer with a distance of 56.82 meters.
Pole vault: USF senior Denise von Eynatten tries to become the second straight USF athlete to win the pole vault title. She leads the BIG EAST with a height of 4.31 meters, a mark the senior set while winning the 2011 indoor title in the event. Von Eynatten will be challenge by Cincinnati’s MacKenzie Fields, who ranks second in the conference with a season-best mark of 4.21 meters.
Long jump: Connecticut sophomore Whitney Holder, reigning BIG EAST long jump champion, returns to defend her title in 2011. Holder ranks second in the conference with a distance of 6.26 meters. She trails Louisville’s Charachesicia Lockhart, who ranks first with a distance of 6.29 meters. Louisville senior Rachel Gehret, the 2009 champion, will also be featured in the field.
Triple jump: Last year’s runner-up in the triple jump, Syracuse junior Ieva Staponkute stands in the top slot in the event this year. Staponkute has a BIG EAST season-best leap of 12.84 meters. USF also has two athletes in the top four, including Marqueshia Stallworth and Monique Williams. Stallworth along with Pittsburgh’s Ashley Corum represent two of the top freshmen in the conference in the event.
High jump: With the graduation of two-time champion Carin Knight, freshman Natasha McLaren will try to carry the torch for Connecticut. McLaren has a BIG EAST season-best jump of 1.80 meters. Louisville’s Gehret, the 2008 champion in the event, also will be one of the top contenders, ranking second in the conference this season with a jump of 1.79 meters.
Heptathlon: The BIG EAST will see the nation’s top heptathlon athlete in West Virginia’s Chelsea Carrier. Carrier owns the best score in the heptathlon this season with 5,927 points. She will look to become the first West Virginia Athlete to win the event. Carrier won the heptathlon title at the 2011 Indoor Track & Field Championship. Syracuse boasts each of the last four heptathlon champions. Junior Kelsey Rubeor will try to continue that tradition, as she ranks second in the conference with a performance of 5,337 points at the ASICS/Winthrop Invitational on March 24.
Five Different BIG EAST Schools Earn Weekly Awards
For the third consecutive year, the BIG EAST recognized a men’s and women’s Track Athlete of the Week as well as Field Athlete of the Week for five weeks of the outdoor season.
Women’s Track Athlete of the Week Field Athlete of the Week
March 29: Chelsea Carrier, West Virginia Charachesicia Lockhart, Louisville
April 5: Ali Smith, Villanova D’Ana McCarty, Louisville
April 12: Trisha-Ann Hawthorne, UConn Chelsea Carrier, West Virginia
April 19: Sheila Reid, Villanova D’Ana McCarty, Louisville
April 26: Katie Hursey, Syracuse Rachel Gehret, Louisville