Panthers Look For Track & Field Sweep This Weekend
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (April 30, 2009) - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's track and field team heads to Lisle, Ill., this weekend for the 2009 Horizon League Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Hosted by Loyola and UIC, the meet gets underway Thursday with the start of multi-events, 10,000m and the hammer throw. The meet then runs through Sunday.
Milwaukee won the league's indoor title and is looking for its second indoor/outdoor sweep in three years. All told, the Panthers have won the outdoor meet five times and completed sweeps in 2001, 2003 and 2007.
UWM has had unparalleled success at the outdoor meet, especially because it hasn't allowed many teams to finish in the top two. Since the Horizon League sponsored an outdoor league championship in 1998, the Panthers have won the aforementioned five titles, while taking second each of the other six times.
The team is in strong shape entering the weekend, leading the league in six different events. Junior Kelsey Conrad, a league champ in the 2007 400m and 2008 200m, leads the league in the 100m (11.86) and 200m (24.45) and is second in the 400m. UWM has a strong history in the 200m, having won seven of the last eight crowns in the event.
Senior Holly Nearman's 5000m time of 16:35.62 gives her a healthy lead over the competition, as second in the league is over 25 seconds behind. She will be looking for her first outdoor 5000m title after taking second the last two seasons. In the 10,000m, junior Abbie Zaspel's best time of 36:04.57 is almost 100 seconds better then the league's next best time. She will also be looking to get over the hump, as Panthers placed second in the event three-straight times (2005-07) and haven't had a titlist since 1999.
UWM also leads the league in the 4x100m relay (47.16), where it is looking for its first title since 2007 and fifth since 2002.
Milwaukee looks strong in the field events, as sophomore Chelsea Von Ruden paces the league with a height of 5-5. Junior Reigna Pierce currently sits second in the league in both the long and triple jump and is looking for her first league title. She has history on her side, as 10 of the 11 all-time long jump champs have come from UWM.
Junior Erin Havener has some competition if she is to go a perfect 6-for-6 in league pole vault competitions. She has won all three indoor titles and the first two outdoors heading into this season. During the regular season she had the second-best height. Aside from her streak, Milwaukee has claimed the pole vault in each of the last seven years.
In the heptathlon, the Panthers have won three of the four championships contested. Last season, UWM took the top two places with junior Kory Olson taking first and junior Emily Budde taking second. Budde won the pentathlon at the indoor meet.
The team's preparations for the league championships were cut short last weekend. Inclement weather led to the squad withdrawing from the Marquette Twilight. But, some Panthers did run at the Drake Relays to record-breaking results. Senior Holly Nearman, Conrad, sophomore Tanaiya Fisher and freshman Erika Hanson combined on a school-record time of 12:06.17. That broke a record that was 13 years old.
In the 4x1600m, Nearman, Zaspel, Fisher and senior Danielle Magargee combined on a record-time of 20:44.79.
For her role in the two record-setting relays, Nearman was named the final Horizon league Track Athlete of the Week. It was fourth third award during the five-week outdoor regular season. Overall, Milwaukee claimed seven of the league's 10 awards. Conrad gave UWM a clean sweep on the track side, while Havener and Pierce each won the award for field events once.
The league championships do not mark the end of the season, not by a long shot. After a week off, some Panthers will head to last chance qualifiers to qualify for the NCAA Regionals. Nearman has already qualified for the regional meet with her school-record time in the 5000m.