WICHITA, Kan.- The 23rd ranked Wichita State Track & Field women's team and the Shocker men's team will send athletes to meets at both Air Force and Iowa State this weekend.
The majority of both the men's and women's teams will travel to Colorado Springs. However, Wichita State's distance runners will avoid the altitude as they travel to Ames, Iowa, for what is expected to be a very competitive meet.
"It is definitely a distance meet," explained Kirk Hunter, WSU Distance Coach. "We're trying to get some high level performances to move up on the conference list, to get some school record marks, or top 10 performances, and to get some more NCAA qualifying marks. "
Led by nine- time NCAA All-American, Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, the Wichita State's women's team has earned its highest ranking in school history. Tuliamuk-Bolton will compete in what is expected to be a very fast 5,000m run at Iowa State.
Tuliamuk-Bolton transferred to Wichita State after running her freshman year at Iowa State. Now she returns to Ames looking to qualify for the NCAA National Indoor Meet and race against her former teammates.
"I want to be able to go run with them, and right now I feel good," Tuliamuk-Bolton said. "I think it's going to be one of the most interesting races for me."
One of those former teammates is defending cross country and indoor 5,000m national champion, Betsy Saina. Competing against Saina will help Tuliamuk-Bolton prepare for the 5,000m race at nationals.
"Nationals this year is going to be very challenging," Tuliamuk-Bolton said. "This week is going to be great preparation for nationals. I'm going to know how strong I am compared to last year. "
In 2012, Tuliamuk-Bolton finished third in the 5,000m at nationals. She will face two of her fellow top five finishers this weekend.
"They're all talking about personal records," Hunter explained. "And when you're talking personal records with this group of women, you're talking world class performances. We look to see some really high performances, and we hope Aliphine is one of those."
While Tuliamuk-Bolton and the distance athletes try to qualify for nationals in Iowa, the Shockers hope to have some national qualifying performances at Air Force, as well.
J'Lynn Ledesma has narrowly missed clearing the bar at 6-0 in the high jump at several meets this season. The junior has that elusive 6-0 mark in her sights.
"It would mean the world to me," Ledesma said. "I'd be nationally ranked. It would be an awesome experience to go to indoor nationals. It would just be a great feeling to get over that bar."
Ledesma has a history of success in Colorado Springs. She set a personal record in her freshman year at Air Force.
"It's just a great place to jump," Ledesma explained. "You get really good pop. The air is thinner. They say it doesn't help, but I think it does. I'm just hoping for that 6-0 jump."
Tuliamuk-Bolton, Ledesma and the rest of the Shockers will compete at the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships in two weeks at Northern Iowa. Both women are ready for the conference meet today.
"I'm always pretty confident about conference," Tuliamuk-Bolton said. "The race I'm going to this weekend is more competitive than conference. If we were to race conference this week, I would still be ready."
Ledesma, Tuliamuk-Bolton and the rest of the Shocker women will try to win their third MVC Indoor Championship in four years when they, along with the men's team, travel to the conference meet Feb. 22-23. Watch the above video for more insights from Coach Hunter and Ledesma.