May 18, 2014
HOUSTON, Texas ---- UAB track and field athletes Elinor Kirk and Neal Tisher combined for victories in three events - all in record-breaking fashion - to highlight the Blazers' performances Sunday on the final day of competition at the 2014 Conference USA Outdoor Championships.
Kirk, who has had a remarkable year with a combined six conference cross country and track titles, won a pair of races Sunday and achieved both in record times. Kirk captured first in the 1,500-meter run and two hours later, claimed the 5,000-meter run to become the first C-USA athlete to double in those events since 2005.
The Swansea, Wales native, who had not run the 1,500 this season until this weekend, won the event with a time of 4:15.93, breaking the 16-year-old C-USA mark (4:17.99) held by Tulane's Hanne Lyngstad set in 1998. She also broke the UAB mark of 4:19.31 set by Sarah Hudak, who won C-USA 1,500 titles in 2012 and 2013, with her performance.
This is the third consecutive year that a UAB runner has won the 1,500-meter competition at the conference outdoor meet. Sarah Hudak won the 1,500 titles in both 2012 and 2014.
Kirk also set a conference record in the 5,000 as she won the event by more than 34 seconds. She finished with a time of 16:05.29 and shattered the record previously held by Tulsa's Paula Whiting of 16:17.48 (2010).
Including the 2013 C-USA cross country crown won by Kirk, the Blazers' graduate student has won six league individual titles this year. And she didn't compete this weekend in the event in which she ranks No. 1 collegiately in 2014 -- the 10,000-meter run.
"UAB Track and Field represented at a very high level today," said head coach Kurt Thomas. "I'm so proud of this group of athletes for so many reasons. Eli Kirk is such a tremendous talent, and she showed that tonight with two C-USA records in the 1500m and the 5000m. It's been a pleasure being around her and watching her grow as an athlete. Coach (Tony) Houchin has done an amazing job preparing her for each race. Eli has gone out and performed like few can on all stages. We're excited to watch her keep her season going in two weeks at NCAA Prelims.
Tisher joined the 14-foot club as she claimed first place with a vault of 14-0 ½. She broke the six-year old record held by Rice's Rachel Greff. On Sunday, she easily won the competition as Rice's McKenzie Johnson was second at 13-4 1/2.
"Neal also had an amazing day," Thomas said. "She's been trying to get over the hump of jumping 4.05, 4.10 and she did it in a big way. Winning a conference title, setting a C-USA record and setting a very big PR and getting into the 14 foot vault club. All were very impressive. She then turned around the literally jogged over to the javelin run way and threw, and ended up seventh in that event. She has lots of guts, toughness and a great attitude to compete. She was awesome."
The Blazers finished with 46 points to finish eighth in the meet. East Carolina was the women's winner with 140 points while UTEP placed second with 88.
"The team scores are deceiving for us, because we knew coming in we could be better," Thomas said. "But we had a slew of illnesses, injuries all this week that you never plan for. That hurt the team score. But we had lots of those athletes suck it up, overcome and compete anyway, not quite 100 percent, and for that I couldn't be more proud. This was a great lesson in perseverance. I'm very proud of the way these ladies competed this weekend, and we'll be back."