Speedy Steeplers Sweep Podium For HPU At Big South

• Sophomore Natalia Ocasio won the 3000m steeple title while setting a new meet and stadium record (10:36.91)
• HPU swept the steeple podium, as Kelly Hayes (11:06.11) and Katie Farina (11:08.39) finished No. 2 and No. 3
• Junior Jill Marois tied for second in the pole vault (3.70m, 12-1.5)

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The terrific trio of sophomore Natalia Ocasio, freshman Kelly Hayes and junior Katie Farina swept the 3000m steeplechase podium in a dominating effort that lifted the High Point University women’s track & field team on day two at the Big South Outdoor Championships.

Ocasio put together another outstanding performance, winning her first individual Big South title by more than 30 seconds (10:36.91) while setting a new meet and facility record in the process.

“We want to make this a tradition, to come out here and dominate in this event,” assistant coach Jenna Wrieden said. “We did exactly what I expected us to do and I’m so proud of what we accomplished. I’m so happy for Natalia for going after the win and being able to do it with such gusto. I’m excited for her progress and where it will take her moving forward.”

In addition to Ocasio’s valiant effort, Hayes finished second (11:06.11) in her Big South debut in the event, while Farina placed third in a PR of more than seven seconds (11:08.39). Junior Erika Peoples also eclipsed her PR by more than 30 seconds during an 11th-place finish (12:01.77).

“This is the most confident the steeple group has been,” Wrieden added. “Going into the race, Kelly and Katie and Erika knew they were going to compete at a high level. It was exciting to see it play out exactly like that.”

The 24 points earned in the steeple helped the Panthers remain in third place after two days of competition. HPU has 60 points, leading fourth place Gardner-Webb (45.50) by 14.50 points. Coastal Carolina sits in second with 73 points.

Other highlights for the Panthers included a 12-point output in the pole vault, where junior Jill Marois tied for second-place with a vault of 3.70m (12-1.5). Junior Alyssa Palenchar and senior Catelyn Griffin cleared the 3.70m bar on their third attempts to finish tied for sixth in the event. For Griffin, the height marked her personal best in her final event in an HPU uniform.

Sophomore Erika Bridges shattered her previous heptathlon PR by more than 1000 points while surging to a seventh place finish with 3983 points. Bridges posted individual event PRs in the javelin throw (31.53m, 103-5) and 800m run (2:39.52) on Friday to help her score a pair of points for the Panthers. Junior Sara Katherine Kirkpatrick placed 10th while also posting a personal best with 3860 points. Kirkpatrick placed second in the 800m run portion of the event in a season best time of 2:26.26.

Junior Erica Herrmann put together an outstanding performance in the high jump, as the Haddonfield, N.J., native matched her PR of 1.60m (5-3) to finish fourth and earn five points for HPU. Herrmann cleared the 1.60m bar on her first try to finish in front of four other competitors that converted on a second or third attempt.

In preliminary action, sophomore Cozette Collin placed sixth in the 800m run (2:16.91) to advance to Saturday’s final. In addition, Senior Emily Fischer wrapped up her HPU career in style in the prelims of the 400m dash, setting a new PR of 58.81 seconds to place 17th.

Juniors Emily De Lena (12.50) and Amanda Gregory (12.68), and freshman Mikaela Campbell (12.64) posted PRs in the 100m dash prelims for the Panthers. In the prelims of the 100m hurdles, freshman Ashlynn Schiro finished 12th (14.84) while fellow freshmen Haley Cianfarini (15.11) and Mikaela Campbell (15.88) placed 14th and 16th, respectively.

“It was such a great day for us,” head coach Mike Esposito said. “The winners are obvious, but there were so many other big performances. It was excellent to see Erika Bridges score in the heptathlon and Erica Herrmann provided a huge swing for us in the high jump. Our pole vault unit also performed well in one of the deepest Big South vault competitions I’ve seen in our league. Now we just need to carry this strong momentum into tomorrow’s final day of competition.”

The Panthers wrap up competition at the 2015 Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships Saturday inside Vert Stadium.