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Women's track splits up this week

By Natalie Clericuzio     4/14/11 7:00pm

Regardless of how hard a team trains and how prepared each athlete is for her event, one element of an outdoor track meet is always left to chance: the weather.

Luckily, so far this season the women's track team has seen fair skies and warm weather for the most part. This weekend, however, the team will have the opportunity to — fingers crossed — compete in the best weather conditions possible for each event. The team will split up this weekend, with the distance runners traveling to Walnut, Calif., for the Mt. SAC Relays, and the rest of the squad (sprinters, jumpers, hurdlers, throwers and vaulters) will head to El Paso, Texas, for the University of Texas- El Paso Invitational.

Hopefully, perfect weather conditions combined with diligent preparation will result in the highest level of performance possible across the board for the Owls. The altitude and warm weather should be ideal for the "speed-power" athletes, as Head Coach Jim Bevan calls them, and Mt. SAC hopefully will live up to its expectations of cool weather and low humidity for the distance runners.

As the team looks forward to perfect weather, Bevan also looks forward to setting records.

"We're hoping to get national qualifying marks and lifetime bests," Bevan said. "It's something that's looked forward to the whole year to go and run [in El Paso and at Mt. SAC]. We're looking forward to the conditions that are usually great, and everyone comes with high expectations to do great things. It's usually a great situation, and the weather conditions are exactly what you're after."

Senior pole vaulter Ari Ince expects the conditions in El Paso to help her and her team hit the tough marks.

"For me, I've been working a lot on technical aspects [of vaulting] and doing a lot better in practice, but I want to come and do well in a meet," Ince said. "I think UTEP will translate into a really big jump for me."

"For the team, UTEP's a really good place to run for us; it's a really fast track. I've been seeing improvement in practice, but I think we can come in and get some good times and get back on track heading into conference."

Last season, the weather delivered on its promise of record-setting conditions. In California, senior Britany Williams set a new school record in the 5,000-meter run, finishing in 16:11.34. In El Paso, senior Tina Robinson, then a junior, set a school record in the hammer throw at 171'. The Owls in El Paso also posted seven other season-best times or marks in 2010, while the distance runners set three other season-bests and one lifetime best — in the 10,000-meter run by then-sophomore Marie Thompson. Thompson finished in 35:25.10.

In preparation for this upcoming weekend's big meets, the Owls traveled to Austin last weekend for the Texas Relays, hosted by the University of Texas-Austin. There, freshman Lindsay Miller continued to impress, as she placed sixth overall in only her second competition to run the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Miller's time of 11:14.75 is a 12-second improvement upon her previous time of 11:26.75.

Miller's performance was all the more impressive considering that she began the race in a bit of a tussle, according to Bevan.

"[Texas has] a barrier 25 meters from the start because of the configuration of the track," Bevan said. "She got tangled and went down on the first barrier and got a little shook up, and to her credit, she came up and passed a lot of people."

As Miller's times continue to fall, several other members of the team appear to be on the brink of a breakthrough performance, according to Bevan, namely seniors Ince and triple-jumper Sarah Agara.

Last week, Ince's height of 13' 1.5" marked a season-best for her. However, Bevan says she has yet to vault in competition at the same level she has in practice.

"She blew through her pole at 13' 1", and she had enough height for 14', and ultimately she needed another pole for the wind — It was very very windy," Bevan said. "She's vaulting at 14', and she's capable of that."

Agara placed sixth in the triple jump at the Texas Relays, turning in an outdoor-best mark of 41' 3.75." Like Ince, however, Bevan has seen her show signs that she is capable of performing at an even higher level.

"Sarah Agara is also toying with a big breakthrough," Bevan said. "She had a jump that she broke down on, and her hop and step were far enough to tell you she's going to go 43' sooner or later."

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