NCAA Championships Start Thursday for Women's Track & Field

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PHILADELPHIA - Five members of the University of Pennsylvania women's track and field team are set to compete at the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday and Friday. Victoria Strickland, Paige Madison, Kristen Judge, Jillian Hart and Morgan Wheeler will represent the Red and Blue at Hodges Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida.

Madison and Strickland - both senior captains for the Quakers - will compete in the NCAA First Round on Thursday along with Wheeler, while the remaining two will begin their respective events on Friday.

In each event, the top 48 marks qualified for the NCAA Preliminary Rounds. The top 24 finishers in the first round will advance to the quarterfinals where the top 12 then advance to compete in the semifinals and finals of the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, June 7-9.

Madison, who is set to make her second career NCAA appearance in the 400-meter hurdles, will race Thursday at 5 p.m. If she advances to the NCAA Quarterfinals, she will run at 7:45 p.m., on Friday for a spot at the NCAA Championship meet in Des Moines, Iowa. As a sophomore, Madison finished just seven-tenths of a second short of the NCAA Quarterfinals. The only woman in Penn history to break 60 seconds in the event, Madison enters this weekend ranked 25th with a season-best mark of 59.21.

Strickland's NCAA First Round race is at 8:35 p.m., on the first day of competition. The Chevy Chase, Md., native was NCAA Quarterfinalist in the same event last year and if she reaches that stage again in 2012, she will compete Friday at 7:15 p.m. Strickland ranks second all-time at Penn in the event with a career-best mark of 2:06.88.

Wheeler joins Strickland at the NCAA East Preliminary site for the second straight year. The junior finished 35th in the javelin in 2011 and has since improved to fourth all-time at Penn in the event with a personal-best toss of 45.04 meters (147 feet, 9 inches) on April 7. She will look to post a similar number on Thursday when competition begins at 4:30 p.m.

Hart will be the first member of the Red and Blue to begin on Friday when the pole vault starts at 11 a.m. This will be the first NCAA appearance for the junior, who continues the best season of her collegiate career after posting the second-best vault in program history. Hart's effort of 3.85 meters (12-07.50 ft.) to win at the Penn-Princeton dual is only topped at Penn by her current vaults coach, Sam Crook.

Judge will also be making her NCAA Championships debut. She earned the trip to Jacksonville with a school-record performance in the high jump on April 14. Judge cleanly passed 1.75 meters (5-08.75 ft.) to match an 18-year old record. The senior has similar aspirations this weekend when the high jump begins at 5 p.m.

The NCAA Championship meet extends over two weekends in a three-week span at three different sites. The first weekend is now known as the NCAA Preliminary Round and is broken up into two different sites - East (Jacksonville, Fla.) and West (Austin, Texas), which host the NCAA first round and quarterfinal round in each event as well as some of the NCAA semifinals in the field events.

A full recap will be available at shortly after the conclusion of each day's events.