MEET PREVIEW: Texas Relays
NEW ORLEANS — There’s an adage as old as the day is long and it goes something like this, "Everything is bigger in Texas."
Take one look at the wealth of talent scheduled to compete this weekend at the 89th Nike Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays and you’d probably agree with that statement 100 percent.
What makes this iteration the largest one yet? Outside of it providing athletes with an electric atmosphere that would rival the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, 2016 is an all-important Olympic year.
"It’s getting better and better each and every year and this being an Olympic year, I know that from the professional athletes to the colleges as well as the high school athletes, we’ve got record numbers," Texas coach Mario Sategna said in a press release. "You can’t put a price tag on this type of environment because the pressure is on."
The focus of the weekend will be on the relays and justifiably so, because it’s the namesake after all.
One of the biggest events each year is the Cleburne Price Jr. 4×400 and 2016 is no different. Seven of the 12 teams that qualified for the 4×400 at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships are entered in Saturday’s race. Champion LSU will be joined by third-place Baylor, fourth-place Texas, seventh-place Purdue, eighth-place Texas A&M, ninth-place Texas Tech and caboose Arkansas.
Don’t forget about the Sayna Richards-Ross 4×400 either. Indoor champ Texas with outdoor collegiate record holder Courtney Okolo faces runner-up Taylor Ellis-Watson-led Arkansas, Purdue and Baylor, among others.
Five other relay events will thrill the crowd as well throughout the course of the weekend — 4×100, 4×200, 4×800, Distance Medley (1200-400-800-1600) and the Sprint Medley (200-200-400-800).
But what about the individual events? We’re glad you asked.
Here are six events you should look out for in chronological order of their final.
You can watch most of the action live on the Longhorn Network.
Men’s Invitational 800 Meters
Thursday, March 31 | 7 p.m.
Before the 2015-16 academic year even began, collegiate track & field fans knew the name Jonah Koech from what he did as a youngster on the track in Kenya. Koech, the 800-meter specialist, didn’t disappoint during the cross country season (11th place) or in the mile at NCAAs last month (6th).
Now Koech will go head to head with Akron’s Clayton Murphy, who is no slouch to the 800 either.
At the same NCAA meet where Koech ran the mile, Murphy won the 800 in a tactical race over a host of contenders. Murphy edged Middle Tennessee State’s Eliud Rutto at the line and captured NCAA glory.
Now Koech and Murphy race each other with a talented professional (Leo Manzano) thrown in the mix.
Friday, April 1 | 11:30 a.m.
Two weeks ago Texas A&M senior Maggie Malone launched the javelin 198 feet. That left Malone third on the all-time list behind Irina Kharum (202-10) and Kara Patterson (201-11).
Can Malone become just the third woman in collegiate history to eclipse the 200-foot barrier? Only time will tell, but she’ll have the competition to push her to do so this weekend.
Malone, ranked No. 1 in the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings, squares off against Oklahoma’s Elizabeth Herrs (No. 3), Texas Tech’s Hannah Carson (No. 4), Oklahoma’s Avione Allgood (No. 7) and LSU’s Rebekah Wales (No. 8).
Carson finished runner-up at NCAAs last year behind Virginia Tech’s Irena Sediva. Herrs took third, Wales was fourth and Malone fell in at ninth.
Men’s High Jump
Saturday, April 2 | 2:45 p.m.
Texas Tech’s Bradley Adkins and Texas A&M-Kingsville’s Jeron Robinson both have a case if they want to call themselves the best high jumper in collegiate track & field.
So does Adkins’ teammate Trey Culver.
Now we’re going to find out once and for all who’s better when they compete against each other this weekend.
Adkins, tabbed No. 1 alongside East Carolina’s Avion Jones in the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings, finished second at NCAAs last June.
Robinson, however, won two of the last three DII titles and is a five-time champ in the event. Don’t forget Robinson is also the DII record holder at 2.31m (7-7) and owns three of the top-4 jumps of all-time.
Culver won the DI high-jump crown in February after clearing a career best of 2.23m (7-3¾).
Adkins and Robinson both had the same best from the indoor season (2.29m/7-6) and Culver wasn’t too far behind.
We’ll see if Saturday can push them to new heights.
Women’s 100 Meters
Saturday, April 2 | 2:55 p.m.
The championship section of the 100 meters could be lightning quick.
Here’s a glance at those women who are entered in the prelims — Texas’ Morolake Akinosun (No. 2 USTFCCCA Individual Rankings), Texas A&M’s Aaliyah Brown (No. 3), LSU’s Mikiah Brisco (No. 9), Clemson’s Sabria Hadley (t-No. 12), Purdue’s Devynne Charlton (No. 21) and Texas A&M’s Krystal Sparling (No. 23).
Texas’ Teahna Daniels, the NCAA 60-meter champ, has yet to be ranked. Daniels clocked a 11.21 last week to finish second at the Power Conference Cardinal & Gold Challenge in Los Angeles, California.
Men’s Invitational 100 Meters
Saturday, April 2 | 2:55 p.m.
Blink and you’ll miss this race.
Two of the fastest men in NCAA history at 60 meters — TCU’s Ronnie Baker and Houston’s Cameron Burrell — will duke it out at 100 meters on Saturday. Baker, the two-time 60-meter champ, ran the third fastest time in collegiate history (6.47) at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Burrell, the runner-up, ran the fourth fastest (6.48).
If they’re in the same heat, there will be fireworks.
If they share the track with either Marquise Goodwin or Wallace Spearmon, it could be a classic.
Women’s Pole Vault
Saturday, April 2 | Noon (College), 4:45 p.m. (Elite)
The Mike A. Myers Stadium record of 4.55m (14-11) will fall this weekend.
That’s a given based on the incredible fields culled together in the collegiate section and the elite portion of the event.
But what about the collegiate record (4.72m/15-5¾), set by Sandi Morris last year? Now we’re talking.
All eyes are obviously going to be on the elite section as Stephen F. Austin’s Demi Payne faces American record holder Jenn Suhr and former Longhorn Kaitlin Petrillose, among others. During the indoor season, Payne vaulted 4.90m (16-¾) for her second career clearance of 16 feet.
Earlier in the day, NCAA champ Lexi Weeks of Arkansas jumps against Memphis’ Carolina Carmicheal (No. 2 USTFCCCA Individual Rankings behind Payne), Baylor’s Annie Rhodes (t-No. 4), Auburn’s Jessie Johnson (t-No. 5), Indiana’s Sophie Gutermuth (t-No. 5), Arkansas’ Ariel Voskamp (t-No. 8), Miami’s Alysha Newman (No. 9) and BYU’s Anginae Monteverde (No. 10).