Regional Romp

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Senior Ben Pax hopes to grab his first NCAA Outdoor Championship bid this weekend.
Senior Ben Pax hopes to grab his first NCAA Outdoor Championship bid this weekend.

May 28, 2009

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue men's and women's track and field teams head to the University of Louisville this Friday and Saturday for the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships. The four NCAA Regional meets this weekend will determine the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championship field as the top five finishers in each event receive automatic spots, while the top 12 are eligible for at-large bids based on their best mark of the season.

Purdue has had several solid showings in the six-year history of the regional meets, including a fourth-place finish by the Boilermaker men in 2003, and back-to-back sixth-place efforts from the Purdue women over the past two seasons. The 2008 year marked the best combined effort from the Boilermakers as the men finished eighth with 29.5 points, sending five individuals to the national meet, while the women compiled 32 points en route to sixth place and sent five athletes to NCAA's. The Boilermakers have won six individual regional championships, including three by current senior Kara Patterson. Williams is the lone men's regional champion in Purdue history, winning the pole vault in 2003, and Lindsey Blaine and Astin Steward topped respective fields in the women's javelin and women's discus in 2007.

Patterson headlines this year's group of 24 Purdue athletes heading to Louisville, made up of 11 men and 13 women, looking to become the first four-time NCAA Regional Champion in school history. The two-time Big Ten Women's Field Athlete of the Year captured her third career conference championship at Ohio State last time out. Her top throw of 58.41 meters (191-08) has led NCAA Division I all season and is nearly seven meters (22-11.75) better than the second-ranked thrower in the region.

Supporting Patterson on the women's side are returning NCAA qualifiers Mallory Peck, Brianna Neumann and Stacey Wannemacher. Peck and Neumann both snagged automatic bids in the women's pole vault in 2008, finishing second and fourth overall. Neumann set the Boilermakers' outdoor record in Arkansas, clearing a career-best 4.16 meters (13-07.50), while Peck is just behind her on the list, clearing 4.15 meters (13-07.25) twice this season. Wannemacher is a two-time NCAA qualifier, making the national field in the shot put in 2007 and 2008. She set the Boilermakers' outdoor record in the event at the 2008 Mideast Regional, and has broke it twice more this season, topping out at a record 16.35 meters (53-07.75). Wannemacher is also set to compete in the hammer throw on the heels of her first Big Ten Championship and career-best mark of 56.23 meters (184-06).

The nine other Purdue women seeking their first trip to the national meet is made up of three returning regional qualifiers and six first-time regional competitors. Senior Ranay Harvey and juniors Christina Madison and Nkeiru Ugwoaba all hope to make the jump from regional to national as Harvey has advanced to the regional meet in each of the past two seasons, while Madison and Ugwoaba both competed at regionals last season. Harvey is set to run the 100-meter hurdles, hoping to duplicate her career-best mark of 13.55, while Madison and Ugwoaba sit tied for sixth place in the region in the long jump and triple jump, respectively. Madison's season-best of 6.29 meters (20-07.75) is second-best in Purdue's outdoor history and is tied for the 23rd-best mark in the nation this year. Ugwoaba bounced a career-best 12.88 meters (42-03.25) at the Big Ten Championships to earn third place, climb to second all-time for the Boilermakers outdoors and match the nation's 25th-best jump.

The Boilermaker women's regional-rookie field consists of juniors Nan Hammel and Kristin Phillips, sophomore Emily Breslin and freshmen Elizabeth Stover, Leah Eber and Terri Anderson. Hammel and Phillips are set to run the 800- and 1,500-meter runs, respectively, while Breslin is fresh off a silver-medal showing in the high jump at the Big Ten Championships and career-best mark of 1.75 meters (5-08.75). Stover will back up Peck and Neumann in the pole vault, Eber hopes to give the Boilermakers a pair of national qualifiers in the long jump, and Anderson, the 2009 Big Ten Outdoor Freshman of the Year, will compete in the shot put and discus.

The Purdue men have five returning NCAA Championship qualifiers in tow this weekend with senior Ben Harpenau, juniors Adetayo Adesanya and Eric Sparks, and sophomores Josh Hembrough and Bill Hardcastle. Harpenau is fresh off his first career Big Ten Championship, winning the hammer throw with a career-best mark of 64.35 meters (211-01), good for sixth in the region and 23rd in the nation. Adesanya cleared a career-best 2.16 meters (7-01.00) in the high jump at the Big Ten Championships and tied for the fifth-best mark in the region, while Sparks and Hembrough repeated as Big Ten Champions in the 110-meter hurdles and pole vault respectively. Sparks owns the second-best mark in the region and is tied for the nation's 12th-best vault at 5.35 meters (17-06.50), and Hembrough sits third in the region and is tied for 20th in the country with a season-best time of 13.87. Hardcastle grabbed an automatic spot in the national field with a fifth-place showing in the shot put last year and looks to track down his career-best mark of 18.85 meters (61-10.25) this weekend.

Senior Ben Pax and junior Lance Moe came up just shy of NCAA qualification in 2008, tying for fifth at the regional meet, but losing jump-offs in the pole vault and high jump, respectively, to miss the bid. Pax medaled at both the indoor and outdoor conference meets in 2009, taking third indoors and second outdoors, clearing a career-best 5.27 meters (17-03.50) indoors. Moe is fresh-off a career-best mark of 2.13 meters (6-11.75), looking to crack the seven-foot barrier this weekend. Sophomore Chris Thoman is the only other Boilermaker male to have NCAA Regional experience heading into the weekend, set to compete in the pole vault with a career-best jump of 5.20 meters (17-00.75) this season.

The Purdue men have a trio of first-timers at the regional championship in senior Stephen Bach, junior Chris Kirkwood and freshman Ladd Mercer. Bach and Mercer are qualified on the track as both turned in career-best efforts at the Billy Hayes Invitational to surpass the regional standard. Bach clocked a time of 1:50.25 in the 800-meter run, while Mercer crossed the line in 3:47.48 in the 1,500-meter run, good for third all-time at Purdue. Kirkwood came up huge at the 2009 Big Ten Championships, clearing a career-best 2.10 meters (6-10.75) to earn fifth place in the high jump and match the regional standard.

This weekend's action will commence at 11 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, with preliminary races in the track events on Friday, finals on Saturday and the men's and women's field events divided over the two-day meet. Live results and schedules will be provided by Delta Timing Group ( and will be available at For more information on the 2009 NCAA Mideast Regional Championships visit the University of Louisville's website (