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(Conway, S.C.) Cornerstone's T&F Women opened their outdoor season at the Coastal Carolina University Invitational. Just one week after their top ten finish at the NAIA Indoor National Championships, the plan was to see if there was enough left in the tank to get some qualifying performances for Outdoor Nationals before taking a break.
The first running event on Friday showed there was more than enough. Julia Contreras, Audry Yonge and Julie Ooosterhouse, three-fourths of CU's All-American distance medley relay, were joined by NAIA Indoor 3,000 meter finalist, Jill Louisignau in the 4 x 800 meter relay. "Since there are so few meets with good 4 x 800 competition, we really wanted to qualify and not have to think about it again until May," said coach Rod Wortley.
Circumstances didn't figure in favor of the Golden Eagles. Yonge and Oosterhouse were not feeling well, putting pressure on Louisignau whose best events are longer than 800 meters. The forecasted rain, which held off all day began to sprinkle the track as the temperature dropped. In spite of the conditions, Yonge led off with her best 800 split, 2:22. Louisignau raced aggressively keeping Cornerstone in third with her 2:24 leg. Contreras ran 2:20 bringing the stick to Oosterhouse with a two-step lead. Emma Tobin of Towson followed Julie through the first lap, matching her 1:07 for 400 meters. Down the backstretch she held her position, clearly gathering for a move in the final half lap. Oosterhouse kept the pressure on stretching the gap to three meters, then five meters going into the final turn. Her 1:08.5 last lap resulted in a three second margin of victory. CU's time of 9:22.25 bettered the automatic qualifying standard of 9:25.00.
Friday's field events had a familiar theme as Lindsay Lipa and Brittany Green swapped freshman records. In the long jump, Lipa broke the record on her first attempt, adding 3/4th of an inch to the old mark of 17' 2.5" set by LeAnne Ericksen in 2001. Brittany Green, on her fifth attempt jumped 17' 5.75" to take over the freshman mark then extended it to 17' 6" on her final jump.
Saturday was sunny, but windy. Contreras had no trouble, though, running 4:56.69 for 13th in the 1500 meters, putting her fourth on the CU all-time list.
Larissa Hampton's collegiate debut of 25.66 in the 200 meters put her fifteenth in a field of 84 and fifth on the CU all-time list. Her 58.78 placed 11th. Lauren Pierce's season opener in the 400 meter hurdles clocked 1:06.7 for 7th place.
Louisignau returned for the second to last event, the 3000 meter steeplechase. Based on the entry list, she wouldn't be challenged for the win. That meant she would need to do all the work herself to hit the NAIA automatic mark of 11:25.00 and earn a return trip to nationals in the event. Needing laps of 1:31, Jill was on pace and in the lead for three laps before Amber Thompson of Mount Olive caught up. Louisignau ran the next four laps in 1:32 with Thompson hold in a ten meter lead. The two charged into the last lap with Jill gaining slightly with each barrier jump due to her better hurdling form. Coming off the final water jump and into the homestretch, the CU sophomore mounted a determined effort that brought her even, with ten meters remaining. Thompson leaned at the line and Jill ran through the finish, getting the win 11:19.88 to 11:19.96.
Contreras, Oosterhouse, Hampton and Pierce closed out the day taking sixth in the 4 x 400 meter relay in 4:02.19.
"Coming off Indoor Nationals and a solid week of practice, we got great effort and great results out of a lot tired athletes," said Wortley. The women have three weeks before their next meet on March 30-31 at the Grand Rapids Open.