Elon Track and Field Back in Action at Wake Forest Invitational

ELON, N.C. – The Elon University women’s track and field team opens the 2015 calendar year at the Wake Forest Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 10, at the JDL Fast Track Complex in Winston-Salem, N.C. A total of 15 competitors will be in action for the maroon and gold on Saturday with action kicking off at 10 a.m.

This is the Phoenix’s second indoor meet of the year after previously beginning its season on Nov. 22, at the JDL All-Comers meet also held at the JDL Fast Track complex. Saturday will also be one of four indoor meets that the Phoenix will compete at the facility.

“It’s always good to get started again,” said Elon director of track and field and cross country, Mark Elliston. “We’ve been on a long break, working hard and had some great workouts. This weekend is a starting point to see where everyone is when facing competition for the first time. We want to use this as a stepping-stone to gauge where we’re at and then we’ll go from there.”

Below is an event-by-event breakdown for the Phoenix track and field team for the upcoming 2015 indoor and outdoor campaign.

The Phoenix returns an outstanding, junior-laden core to its sprints and hurdles group for this season. Samantha Brown, Jennifer Esposito, Sydney Griffin, Simone Jackson, Jennifer Pash and Bria Turner will represent the maroon and gold in 2015.

“We’re looking for a breakthrough this year with the sprint and hurdles group,” said Elliston. “Joining a new conference (the Colonial Athletic Association), we’re going to have a great group of sprinters that we’ll be competing against from 100-meters to the 400-meters.”

Griffin returns after claiming conference championships in the 60-meter hurdles during the indoor campaign and 100-meter hurdles from the outdoor season. She also was one of five members of the team that advanced to the NCAA East Preliminaries last season. The Marietta, Ga., native broke her school in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.56 and also set the program mark in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.56.

Esposito also joined Griffin at the NCAA East Prelims after winning the 400-meter hurdles at the Southern Conference Outdoor Championships with a time of 59.60. Jackson broke the school record in the 100-meters with her time of 12.18 while also earning All-SoCon honors as a member of the 4×100-meter relay team along with Pash in 2014.

Jumps/Pole Vault
Much like the sprints and hurdles group, the Phoenix returns a wealth of talent and experience in the jump events. NCAA East Preliminary junior qualifier Megan Kirschling along with senior Haley Laird, junior Kayla Prior, and sophomores Carrie Abraham and Jayna Coyle will look to reach the potential that Elliston has for the group. Freshmen Emily Dixon and Lydia Laws will also jump into the fray and look to make an impact during their rookie year.

“The jumps is going to be another strong area for us especially in the high jump,” said Elliston. “Megan is working some technical things and I expect her to be a force and could potentially contend for a spot at Nationals this year.”

Kirschling set the SoCon record in the high jump last season with a mark of 5’ 10.5” (1.79m), winning the conference title. Laird also earned All-SoCon honors after finishing as the runner-up at the championship meet with a personal-best mark of 5’ 7” (1.70m).

“Truthfully, Haley could be right with Megan this season,” said Elliston. “If we can keep her healthy, those two can go from 5’ 9” to six feet with a lot of work and dedication and I think that’s where they are headed.”

Seniors Claire Smith and Melinda Hersey return to represent the Phoenix in the pole vault events. Smith set a new outdoor personal-best mark of 11’ 5.75” (3.50m) last year, the second-best in school history. Hersey also set a new personal-best outdoor mark in 2014 with a cleared height of 9’ 8” (2.95m), the fifth-best in school history.

The throwing group will have a younger look this season with only one upperclassman among the returners as well as a new throwing coach in assistant Shannon Popp. Competing this season in the throws for the Phoenix is senior Jennifer Jarvis, sophomores Briana O’Grady and Bre’anna Warren and rookies Bryanna Hames, Majayla Holland and Lauren Livezey.

“I have a pretty young group with only one senior,” said Popp, who arrives from Concordia University Irvine. “I’m excited to see what is going to happen for this season. We’re shooting for a big outdoor season this year.”

Headlining the returning group is Warren, who earned an outdoor conference championship in the discus with her mark of 153’ 2” (46.68m). She also broke into the top-five all-time in school history in the shot put with a toss of 42’ 8.75” (13.02m).

The distance group will not compete this weekend, but returns of number of headline performers from a year ago. Tereza Novotna is back after winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase championship at the SoCon meet. She also set a school-record in the event with her time of 10:29.28.

“We have established some big goals for our distance group,” said Elon head cross country coach Nick Polk, who also works with the distance group on the track side. “That group is really led by Tereza along with Jenny (Gallagher), Elyse (Bierut) along with (Kimberly Johansen). Those will be our four big guns heading into the indoor and outdoor seasons.”

Bierut ran the third-fastest time in school history in the 3,000-meter run with her time of 10:10.46 last season and earned a spot on the SoCon Outdoor All-Freshman Team in the 5,000-meter run. Johansen also made the All-Freshman Team in the 1,500-meter run after clocking the second-fastest time in school history with a time of 4:29.92.

Other members expected to make an impact this year in the distance events are seniors Haylee Dawe and Kaitlin Stober, juniors Emily Dunne and Sabina Bains, sophomores Kaitlin Snapp and Shelby Cuddeback and freshmen Carolyn Hopkins, Brigid Brennan, Alicia DeCastro and Corey Weiss.

On Deck
The Phoenix will travel to Lynchburg, Va., for the Liberty Open next weekend, Jan. 16-17.