Men's Track and Field teamwork key in strong Big 12 and NCAA indoor finishes
· 2007-08 Men's Track and Field: |
If he was still alive and Hollywood was looking for an actor to play the part of Men's Track and Field coach Bubba Thornton, John Wayne would have been the perfect selection.
Like Wayne, Thornton has a no-nonsense demeanor and a soft side, too.
That was apparent when the man who has guided UT's track and field fortunes since 1996 talked about claiming the Big 12 Indoor Championships and recording a third-place finish in the NCAA Indoor Championships, tying the best mark ever in that event for UT.
At the Big 12 Indoor meet in Lincoln, the distance medley relay team won in a conference-record time. Leonel Manzano, Erik Stanley, Jacob Hernandez and Danzell Fortson were clocked in 9:47.13.
This was the third straight Big 12 Indoor title for the Horns.
"You go up to Lincoln and do that, well, that was something," said Thornton of his men nudging the host Cornhuskers.
In Fayetteville, Ark., for the NCAAs, Manzano defended his mile run title and became the first Longhorn to win two NCAA titles in the same meet.
"We felt that we always were a part of the top five in the nation," Thornton said. "We were pleased with our finish. It was not a dream or luck."
It was the second straight third-place finish in the NCAA Championships and the fourth top-five finish in the last five years.
"I want to talk about the guys because they were just awesome," Thornton began. "Each of them did their job in their event. Each of them knew how important their event was to the success of the team. And I am talking about my (coaching) the staff, too. The effort everyone put forth for the good of the team (in the Big 12s and the NCAAs) was awesome."
Thornton was quick to praise the staff of Dr. Randa Ryan, the senior associate athletics director for student services, as a part of the "team" success.
Before the season started, Thornton said he thought the chemistry of this team would be its strength.
He has not been disappointed.
The mixture of upperclassmen such as Manzano, Stanley, Jake Morse, Joel Hargett, Jacob Hernandez, Raymond Harris, Kyle Miller and Tevan and Tevas Everett, as well as underclassmen Maston Wallace, Danzell Fortson and Chris Krychev have been a great blend of young and old.
Thornton admitted to getting "a little emotional" as he spoke of the young men who have enjoyed tremendous success in the first half of the track and field season.
"It's a special group, I will tell you that," Thornton began. "These are guys who have worked very hard and who have done what we have asked of them. I am extremely proud of them. I am proud of them, too, because the titles are not who they are, but what they have done. They are all so much more as people. They are people who have been fun to be around."
Thornton also was quite pleased about the recognition accorded to senior Leo Manzano and Associate Head Coach Jason Vigilante by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCA). Vigilante was named the South Central Regional Assistant Coach of the Year, while Manzano was awarded the Track Athlete of the Year honor for the region.
Now Thornton and his men await the Texas Relays, which is the real start to the outdoor season.
Senior Donovan Kilmartin, a three-time NCAA Champion, returns for the outdoor season and the Longhorns welcome back 12 All-Americas as the outdoor season begins.
"Of course, I have to convince them to put this (the Big 12 and NCAA successes) in their pocket," Thornton says, with a laugh. "I have to remind them to keep working, to keep the focus they have had already this year because the season is only half over."
However, Thornton knows with this group that will not be a problem.