LAFAYETTE, La. – The Ragin’ Cajuns men’s and women’s track and field teams are set to enjoy the comforts of the Ragin’ Cajuns Track/Soccer Facility for the third time this outdoor season as UL hosts the Sun Belt Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships this Friday-Sunday, May 11-13.
“Western Kentucky looks like they are way out in front on the men’s side, but from there second through eighth place is within 10 points of each other,” head coach Lon Badeaux said. “On the women’s side, its one of the weirdest conference meets at least on paper. 100 points is leading the match, while 70 points is eighth place. So really whoever gets hot and has something happen is going to win the women’s race.
“I think we will be competitive on the women’s side. I think we need a few more bullets to really be a champion, but we are going to be way more competitive than people think.”
Louisiana enters its first Sun Belt Outdoor Championships under the guidance of head coach Lon Badeaux. A former All-American athlete during his days as a track athlete for the Cajuns in the mid-1990’s, Badeaux returned to his alma mater after spending the previous 12 seasons at Arkansas State, serving as head coach the last four seasons.
“This is my first conference meet as the head coach at UL which means a lot to me,” Badeaux stated. “This is home. Granted most of these kids were here before I got here, but it really doesn’t matter. I have put a lot of pressure upon myself. I want to have the team perform well for the administration and the fans. We are going to be competitive every time we get on the track.”
The Cajuns are paced by a trio of athletes presently ranked in the Top 25 of the NCAA performance list. On the men’s side, Albert Fournette ranks ninth in the country in the shot put with a throw of 63-7 ½, while Chris Roy is 12th in the pole vault with a mark of 17-8 ½. On the women’s side, Jasmine Manuel ranks sixth in the triple jump with a mark of 43-7 ¼.
“It was good to get the team back on the track yesterday after having a week off with exams,” Badeaux said. “We are healthy and I think we are in really good shape. You don’t have to set the world on fire at conference. You just have to be competitive and do what you’ve done to this point. That is how you are successful in these meets. You aren’t going to see a whole lot of surprises; you just have to do what you normally do.
“People are starting to notice that we mean business here at UL. There are a lot of people that want to be a part of what’s going on here.”
Fournette has been solid for the Cajuns in the shot put. The Sun Belt’s performance list leader posted a string of six consecutive events with a distance of 60-plus feet earlier this season. At the 85th Annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays he landed a toss of 19.39m/63-7 ½ which shattered his previous outdoor best of 18.07m/59-3 ½ set at the 2011 NCAA East Region Preliminary Round and set a new school outdoor record.
Roy, who has won the SBC Outdoor pole vault twice in his career (2009 and 2010) and finished runner-up once, is back in the league event after missing the 2011 season (academic reasons). Roy notched a season-best clearance of 5.40m/17-8 ½ at the Texas Relays which surpassed a vault of 5.38m/17-7 ¾ accomplished at the LSU Twilight during the indoor season. Roy was within a couple of inches of the school outdoor record of 17-10 ¼ which he set at the Sun Belt Conference Outdoor Championships during the 2010 season.
Manuel has dominated the Sun Belt triple jump landscape going all the way back to the indoor season where she claimed the indoor individual title for the second straight season. The defending SBC Outdoor Champion has leaped further than 13.00m/42-8 her last four outings, a streak that dates back to the Sun Belt Indoor Championships in February.
Others to watch include Justin Jones who is coming off a pair of personal record times in the Cajuns’ last outing. Jones’ time of 10.43 in the 100-meter dash during the Cole-Lancon Invitational (April 28) is the third-fastest time in the Sun Belt this year. Jones also recorded the eighth-fastest SBC time in the 200-meter dash running a time of 21.38.
Michael Vani, a transfer from the University of South Florida, provides the Cajuns with a solid one-two punch alongside Chris Roy in the pole vault. Vani is coming off a clearance of 17-1 in the Cole-Lancon Invitational, which marked the first time in his career – at any level of track and field – vaulting above 17 feet.
Sander Maes, the Sun Belt’s Most Outstanding Freshman at the indoor championships, is expected to represent Louisiana in the decathlon. Maes set a school-and Sun Belt-record with 5,368 points in the heptathlon at the SBC Indoor Championships.
“We are always excited about Sander,” Badeaux said. “We think he has a big upside, and this should be the first multi-event that he will hopefully complete.
“Michael Vani has come around in the pole vault, and Justin Jones has turned out to be a pretty good sprinter. I think he has a chance to do well and be a big part of our success.”
Amanda Roberts will be the Cajuns top athlete in the women’s 200 meter and 400 meter dash. Roberts posted a first place finish in the 400 meter dash at Southeastern Louisiana on April 20 with a time of 55.92 seconds. She set her personal best, eclipsing her previous best of 56.26 at last season’s Sun Belt Outdoor Championships.
“Our women’s 400-meter runners are also doing well and the women’s throwers are coming around,” Badeaux mentioned. Right now our throwers are sitting in the eighth and ninth place spots. If they can get the jump that you usually get at a conference meet, that could go a long ways for us in doing well.”
Freshman Mayme Cook, a product of Notre Dame High in Crowley, has performed well in the women’s javelin throw this season notching a distance of 40-plus meters each time out. Her top two throws have come at the Ragin’ Cajuns Track/Soccer Facility throwing 46.58/152-10 in her facility debut (Louisiana Classics) and posted a mark of 45.70m/149-11 at the Cole-Lancon Invitational (April 28).
Another name to look out for on the women’s side is Kacey Elphage. Elphage is the Cajuns’ featured runner in the women’s 100 meter hurdles. The redshirt junior college transfer has been clocked under 14 seconds in the event five times this season, the last a 13.65 recording at the LSU Alumni Gold (April 21).
For a complete schedule of events and information on the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championship visit meet central by clicking here. Heat sheets, live results and final results are available on the meet central page.
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