June 1, 2013
“The Road to Eugene” takes a look at the individual competitors or relays that will be competing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 5-8 in Eugene, Ore. We will review their season both indoors and outdoors, look back at TCU’s history in the event, who are the top contenders that will be in Eugene and what the future holds for TCU for those athletes and in those events.
The road to redemption for Lorraine Ugen makes its next stop in Eugene. The road to this final stop has been anything but smooth, but like all the stops before it an opportunity awaits. It has not been done in the most traditional straight-forward fashion, but the Londoner has been one of the nation’s very best in the long jump this season.
The journey, and the bumps that would go along with it, began right away with TCU’s first indoor meet at the Auburn Invitational. Her second jump in Birmingham, Ala. netted her a 20-4 ¼ (6.20m), but also brought a nagging injury to the forefront. That would be Ugen’s last competition for a month, as she would not make her return to the track until the Big 12 Indoor Championships, needing a performance to get herself into the top-16 nationally for the NCAA Indoor Championships. She was able to do just that with her indoor season-best of 20-10 3/4 (6.37m) and a third place finish that secured her ticket to Fayetteville.
Then the first chance at redemption. One year earlier at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Nampa, Idaho, Ugen came in as the No. 3 ranked long jumper in the nation with big ambitions. However, while her teammate Whitney Gipson celebrated an NCAA title and a share of an NCAA record, Ugen missed out with three fouls.
The fears of déjà vu began to rise as she fouled on her first attempt of the evening. She was able to finally get on the board with a 19-7 1/2 (5.98m), but was 11th needing to get to ninth for three more jumps. Ugen was able to do just that and posted a jump of 20-6 1/2 (6.26m) to move on up. After a poor fourth jump, and a solid but not improving fifth jump she was in eighth and on the bubble to get bumped out of the scoring range. She was able to rise to the occasion again with a final jump of 20-10 (6.35m) to finish fifth, and at last earn her first first-team All-American award.
The outdoor season would present new challenges. There was very little room to rest with her obligations to the women’s 4x100 relay. She needed to compete in each event, because there was literally no one else to join in on the relay. She finally made her outdoor long jump debut at the UCLA-LSU double-dual meet, and was able to post a wind-aided 20-5 (6.22m) at the Texas Invite going into the Big 12 Outdoor Championships.
In Waco, Ugen got into a distracting scheduling situation with the prelims of the 100-meter dash going on at the same time as the long jump finals. While she was able to make the 100 final, she posted three straight fouls and ended up a disappointing eighth in the long jump.
While the East and West Preliminary meets can be cruel endings to extraordinary regular seasons, they also offer another chance to those who have the talent to star in the final rounds. Ugen came in as the No. 16 seed, but was able to quickly silence the doubters with a second jump of 20-9 3/4 (6.34m) to finish sixth and earn an individual berth in Eugene.
She will now have a chance to put behind another three foul performance from last season’s NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. If one can be put in the past, why can’t another?
TCU History at the NCAA Championships
The history of the Horned Frogs in the women’s long jump at the NCAA Championships was totally re-written last season by Whitney Gipson. She did an indoor-outdoor sweep of the NCAA long jump titles to win the first two national titles in TCU women’s track and field history. Gipson finished fourth at the outdoor national championships as a junior and made trips to the final rounds as a freshman and sophomore.
Prior to Gipson, TCU’s last female outdoor top-eight finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships came in 1985 via Donna Thomas, who took eighth.
Ugen has benefitted from taking on some of the best in the country within the Big 12 Conference. Kansas boasts three of the best long jumpers in the nation, but will not be with their highest ranked jumper. Francine Simpson, who had the nation’s No. 2 mark at 21-10 3/4 (6.67m), finished 19th at West Preliminaries. Her teammate Andrea Geubelle is the No. 1 seed after a jump of 21-4 3/4 (6.52m) in Austin. The nation’s top mark belongs to Christabel Nettey of Arizona State, who recorded a 22-1 3/4 (6.75m) earlier this year.
Ugen comes in as the No. 6 seed though in the all-outdoor season rankings her best mark puts her in 14th among those competing in Eugene. However, she is jumping the best she has all year, and has demonstrated in the past her ability to put up huge numbers. During her first year at TCU she recorded a best legal jump of 22-1 1/2 (6.74m) and a wind-aided 22-5 (6.83m).
Another challenge for Ugen will be a busy day one schedule. She will anchor the women’s 4x100-meter relay in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Pacific Time before moving to the long jump pit to focus on that event, which is slated to start at 4:15 p.m.
Ugen still has time left at TCU to continue to produce All-American performances, but she will have new training partners next season that will add depth to the TCU program. Incoming freshmen Anna Robinson (DeSoto) and Jazzmine Folston (Cocoa, Fla.) both rank in the top-25 among high school competitors in 2013. Folston picked up a state title in the long jump in Florida while Robinson finished second in the Texas 5A championship.