First Tulane pole vaulter to qualify for the NCAA Championships
EUGENE, Ore. – A storybook season for Tulane redshirt sophomore pole vaulter Merritt Van Meter will reach its pinnacle moment on Friday as she is set to compete in the pole vault at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, hosted by the University of Oregon, in Eugene, Ore.
The pole vault event is set to take place at 5:15pm CT. A link for live results is available on the track and field schedule page at TulaneGreenWave.com.
The NCAA Outdoor Championships - which began on Wednesday and goes through Saturday - is being held at Hayward Field. Dubbed "Track Town, USA", Hayward Field has called itself home to the Oregon Ducks track and field program since 1921.
Van Meter is wrapping up what will go down as one of the finest individual seasons by a Green Wave athlete in any sport, as she becomes just the first Tulane track and field pole vaulter in the history of the program to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
On top of that, the Metairie, La., native becomes just the first Greenie to qualify for the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships during the same year since Tulane legend Gloria Asumnu did so in 2007. However, Van Meter is the first to qualify for the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in the same season in the same event since Marie Ablander qualified for the triple jump during both seasons in 2001.
After a stellar indoor season, Van Meter wasted no time getting into her groove during the outdoor campaign. In her first meet of the outdoor season, she notched a 3.98 meter (13' 0.75") vault at the Stanford Invitational, breaking the Tulane school record in the event. She eclipsed that mark, though, on four separate occasions, including her qualifying mark of 4.11 meters (13' 5.75"), set at the Sun Angle Classic on April 6. That jump tied her for the 23rd best jump in the NCAA all season.
Since her record-setting performance at the Sun Angel Classic, Van Meter earned Conference USA First Team honors in the pole vault by winning the Conference USA Outdoor Championships, hosted by Rice, with a jump of 4.02 meters (13' 2.25"). During the NCAA East Regionals in Greensboro, N.C., on May 24, she tied for first in the pole vault with a leap of 4.10 meters (13' 5.25").
"I really think that this season up to this point in time has gone very well for Merritt," said Tulane track and field director Eric Peterson. "She has obviously accomplished a lot by setting new school records in both the indoor and outdoor seasons, and she has at least qualified for NCAA Championships in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. But this isn't the time for us to sit back and look at what she has accomplished at this point in time. Finishing is the most important thing in sports. Her focus, and our focus as a program, has not just been to qualify for this meet, but to come to this meet and perform well. That is what we are here for. Tomorrow, she has the opportunity to compete against the 23 best pole vaulters in the United States. She has been on a roll lately, winning the Conference USA Championships and pole vaulting very well at the NCAA East Regional meet. She is feeling really good, physically. Psychologically, she is excited and really looking forward to the competition. Hopefully, those are the ingredients to producing a strong result."
All of Van Meter's success during the outdoor season came just after she wrapped up her first indoor season as a member of the Green Wave track and field family, where she set numerous records and competed in the NCAA Indoor National Championships. She was one of 16 to qualify for the indoor championships, but she failed to clear her first bar. The disappointing end to the indoor season has motivated her to be on top of her game during the outdoor campaign.
"Before the NCAA Indoor Championships, we kept talking about how proud we were of her for qualifying for the meet after coming back from her injury," added Peterson. "She had been away from competition for so long after not being able to finish her freshman year at North Carolina the way she wanted to. Then, she had to sit out an entire year – not by her choice – but because she just wasn't physically able to return from an injury. Now, we are talking about competing in national championships. I just don't think she was relaxed during that meet. She put a lot of pressure on herself to do things that, probably at the time, she may not have been ready to do. She was already performing above the predictable standard we had set for her coming back from her injury. Things are different now. She has learned from her experience at the indoor championship. I see her approaching this meet with the right mindset, and she is healthy now."
The meet is also a homecoming of sorts for Peterson, who starred for the Oregon Ducks in the late 1980s in both track and field and cross-country. A native of Eugene, Ore., Peterson was a member of the 1989 Pac-10 Championship cross country team that finished second in the NCAA meet. He was also an All-American for the Ducks in 1988 for his performance in the 1,500 meters.
"This is such a special place. I don't think there is any place in the United States that appreciates track and field like the fans here in Eugene," said Peterson. "That is demonstrated by the size of the crowd that comes out to watch these kids compete, as well as the enthusiasm that the crowd offers. It just feels a little different here than it does anywhere else in the United States. I'll admit, being back in Eugene is very special for me. Having grown up here and having spent my childhood and young adult life here, being a part of this track and field program at the University of Oregon, I'm very proud of my history here."
Despite his opportunity to reminisce, Peterson said he, jumps coach Doug Fraley and Van Meter traveled to the Pacific Northwest for one reason.
"At this point in time in my career, it's not about me at all," stated Peterson. "This is Merritt's time. This is an exciting time of the year. The weather has cooperated, which is great because it can be a little bit nasty during this time of the year in this part of the country. We are just looking forward to Merritt finishing strong at this track meet."
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