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MU women get set for NCAAs

May. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Marshall Thundering Herd women's track and field team is sending a record number of athletes to NCAA competition.

But at this point it's hardly a surprise for a Herd team that had its best Conference USA meet performance in school history, finishing fifth, and has attained its highest ever NCAA ranking at No. 40.

To put that into some perspective, the University of Kentucky is ranked at No. 34 while Ohio State is No. 50, and West Virginia is No. 123.

"The great thing about our sport is how measurable it is," Marshall head coach Jeff Small said. "Everything is measured in inches and hundredths of a second and when you put all of that through a computer, it doesn't matter if you're from a power conference or not.

"There's no difference between big conferences and small conferences like in some other sports. There's no bias."

The NCAA East Preliminary Round is Thursday through Saturday at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C.

Small said this year's performance that has eight athletes headed to North Carolina is a testament to how hard the athletes and assistant coaches have been working.

The team is represented by Vanessa Jules in the long jump, 100-meter hurdles and high jump; Amanda Kennedy in javelin; Jasia Richardson in the triple jump; Crystal Walker in the long jump and triple jump; and the 4x400 relay with Loren Dyer, Kearra Haynes, Shanice Johnson and Amber Pierson.

"That relay team is made up of two freshmen and two sophomores," Small said. "So that bodes well for the future of our program."

Jules has already qualified for the NCAA national competition at the University of Oregon in June in the heptathalon, which is not a part of the opening regional rounds.

"The whole group is very excited, and we've had real good practices this week," Small said. "I think that they think they can all go into this and hold their positions, and we're just doing what we can to try and get them to Eugene, Oregon next week."

All of the programs accomplishments might seem startling given that Marshall University has no track and field facilities.

The program will be getting a 300-meter track (100 meters short of a regulation track) with the new indoor sports complex that is in the works, but for the past few years has been practicing at Huntington High and in the Cam Henderson Center concourse.

"We kind of use that as a bit of a chip on our shoulder," Small said. "We try to focus that in a positive way. And I think we've shown through what we've accomplished and through our recruiting that you can get it done here. We're certainly looking forward to having a facility to put us on par with other programs, but in the end it doesn't come down to facilities, it comes down to the athletes and their coaches."

All the athletes Marshall has in Greensboro are regionally ranked in the top 50 of their events.

From the preliminary round, 12 competitors from each individual event and 12 teams from each relay advance to the June 5-8 national finals in Oregon.

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