Kearney, Thornton point toward Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships
The opinions of Texas Track and Field head coaches Beverly Kearney and Bubba Thornton are clear when it comes to the Big 12 Conference Indoor Championships, which will be held at Iowa State University in Ames in late February.
"The Big 12 Indoor will let us know where we are," said Kearney, who is in her 15th season with the Longhorns. "The Big 12 Indoor -- there is no hiding there. It tells you where you stand."
Kearney's women were second in this event to Nebraska a year ago. That is not significant today, according to the coach.
"If we're worried about beating Nebraska," said Kearney, "then several other teams will pass us by. We just need to do well ourselves. What I expect of the student-athletes is for them to perform to the best of their ability."
Thornton also notes that it is important his team does well in the Big 12 Indoor.
"The Big 12 is as competitive as any conference in the country," said Thornton, who is in his 12th season at UT and whose team captured the Big 12 Indoor in 2006.
"That's nice," Thornton said of that victory. "But that was last year, and last year is last year. It doesn't mean anything now."
"It is important that we do well," Thornton continued, referring to the Big 12 Indoor. "But, really, what is most important is that we continue to improve each day."
Toward that end, both the men's and women's track and field teams were stymied in mid-January because the icy conditions in Austin shut down the school for two days.
"So, we were definitely a little bit behind," Kearney said. "I do feel as though we're catching up."
The performance of sophomore high jumper Destinee Hooker in the Leonard Hilton Memorial Meet in Houston last month sparked the Longhorns. The performance -- a 6-0.5 in the high jump -- also qualified Hooker for the NCAA Indoor Championship with her effort.
Other key performers on the women's team include senior Michelle Carter in the shot put and sophomore Alexandria Anderson in the 60-meter dash. Another standout is transfer Chauntae Bayne, who came to UT from Stanford.
"Definitely Michelle and Destinee are our veterans," Kearney said. "It's odd to call Destinee a veteran since she is only a sophomore, but she comes in with a veteran-like mentality. Michelle is on a mission. Our entire field events area is on a mission.
"Our overall goal is to maximize the performance of all of our student-athletes."
Thornton sees the strong veteran leadership on this year's team -- there are 16 seniors on the roster -- as an asset.
"Senior leadership is always a good thing," said Thornton. "Those young men know what is necessary and what it takes to win, but we still have to do it."
Trey Hardee, Trey Griffin, Donovan Kilmartin, and Andra Manson are among the sterling seniors performing for Thornton, who also has junior All-America Leo Manzano doing the distances.
"Every year we have high expectations," Kilmartin said. "We try to set a goal to do better than the year before. Our goal in the Indoor is to be a dominant force."
Griffin, a sprinter, said of 2007, "We need to come out with a bang and finish really strong."
Thornton expects to compete for the Big 12 title and earn a top-10 rank nationally.
"We certainly have an opportunity to do well," he said. "I think they understand what we are able to do."