May 20, 2003
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - This season, in a change from years past, track athletes must first pass through the NCAA Outdoor Regional Championships if they want a shot at qualifying for the national championships. The Terps, located in the East Region, will take on their regional meet May 30 and 31 at George Mason.
The competition will be held at George Mason Stadium in Fairfax, Va.-a site Maryland is familiar with after competing there in the Patriot Open on May 3. Although the Terps recorded multiple top 10 finishes in that meet, they will face much tougher competition at the upcoming regional competition.
Two Terps began the outdoor season with a bang, both breaking school records and qualifying for NCAA Regionals at the Alabama Relays. Freshman Kierra Foster jumped a distance of 20-8 that earned her first place in the event and qualified her for regional competition. Also qualifying was senior Natalie Dye who vaulted a 12-6 that earned her fourth place. Dye went on to break her school record three times this season, culminating in a 12-9.5 vault at the Penn Relays.
Also surpassing NCAA Regional qualifying standards at the Penn Relays was the 4x400 meter relay team, with a time of 3:41.92. A veteran group of runners, the squad consisted of seniors Devenn and Dionne Hamilton and juniors Toni Jefferson and Teyarnte' Carter.
The final athlete to throw her name into the regionals ring was junior Heather Houston, who jumped a 19-5.75 long jump at the Patriot Open. The jump marked a season best as well as her only first-place finish of the year.
Looking at national and regional ranking lists, Dye and Foster are seated near the top of their events. In the NCAA descending order list for the East, Dye currently holds the No. 8 spot in the pole vault and Foster is ranked 12th in the long jump. In the Team Power rankings, Dye is ranked 26th nationally and Foster is at No. 17.
Dye's top competition will be from Florida State sophomore Lacy Janson, the ACC outdoor pole vault champion. Ranked first in the East and second in the nation, Janson's top mark of the season came at the Florida Relays where she vaulted a 14-4. Coming to George Mason to face Foster will be Maine's Viktoriya Rybalko, the ECAC long jump champion. The senior set a program record of 21-6.75 at the Penn Relays and is currently ranked first in the East in her event.
This elite group of seven Terps will take on the nation's best track athletes, from Maine to Florida, with visions of reaching the NCAA Championships in June. The last Terp to qualify for the NCAA Championships was Ruth Kura, who went on to win All-American status in the hammer throw competition in 2002.