Feb. 18, 2013
By Megan Fontenot, Texas Media Relations
The four runners in the distance medley relay represent some of the strengths for the Texas Men’s Track and Field team.
“You always want to try to focus on the best people and how they would fit at the university,” said head coach Bubba Thornton. “At this time, much like it was five years ago, the circle is back around with strong middle and long distance athletes.”
The Longhorns roster includes 22 distance runners, and the best in their respective events have combined to make up the nation’s top-ranked distance medley relay.
Freshman Zack Bilderback is the top Texas runner in the 400 meters with a personal-best time of 47.60. Senior Patrick McGregor has the No. 1 time in the 1,000m (2:25.09), while senior Joe Stilin is the school-record holder in the mile (3:58.66) and 3,000m (7:56.07).
“I will guarantee we will always put our best order and people in the race to give us the best chance,” says McGregor. “We know what we are comfortable with. I am more comfortable with the 1,200-meter leg, I could probably run the 800 but it would not be smart to put a strong miler runner on the that leg when you already have a strong 800 runner.”
McGregor opened the 1,200-meter segment of the relay at last month’s Razorback Team Invitational. He exchanged with Bilderback, who sprinted the next 400 meters. Kyle Thompson took the baton from Bilderback and ran the 800-meter segment. Stilin anchored the final stretch to give Texas the quartet a victory in 9:31.82, the fourth-fastest time in Texas history.
The Longhorns have had tremendous success in the event in recent years.
The foursome of Kyle Miller, Danzell Fortson, Jacob Hernandez and Leo Manzano own the collegiate record, blazing to a time of 9:25.97 at the 2008 Tyson Invitational. Fortson, Hernandez and Manzano were also on the unit that won the NCAA indoor title later that year.
This year’s group is looking for similar results despite a lineup which does not have a lot of experience in the event.
Both Bilderback and Thompson were new to running the DMR, but have quickly adapted. Thompson is a skilled 800 runner, having earned All-America honors at last year’s NCAA Indoor meet.
“They understand that we are counting on them,” McGregor says. “They are not those guys who cross their fingers and hope that it gets done, they know that we and the coaches expect them to get it done so they work hard.”
Though Stilin is new to the team, he is a veteran at running relays, especially the anchor leg.
“The anchor leg is where the race happens,” says Stilin, who graduated from Princeton last year and was a member of the Tigers’ 2011 Ivy League Champion DMR. “The 1,200-meter leg will get out, and everyone will come in together, then the 400 and 800 legs will go but those legs are not what we call tactical. The anchor leg is tactical. If everyone is coming into the last leg together, it is the anchor that finishes the race, determines who is first or second. The anchor is not all about fitness, that person has to be smart and fast.”
The four members of the DMR understand their role in achieving the team goal, making it to nationals. As long as the Longhorns remain with one of the top 12 times in the nation, they will find themselves at next month’s NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
“The DMR this year is better because we are all on the same page about what we want this year,” said McGregor. “ That is a national title.”