Feb. 23, 2011
Ryan Graney, Texas Media Relations
With the indoor track and field season reaching its pinnacle, the Texas men's track and field team is optimistic. Throughout the program there is an excitement building for what's to come. That excitement is evident heading into the Big 12 Indoor Championships this Friday-Saturday, Feb. 25-26 in Lincoln, Neb.
"The thing that has me excited is that this fall the team made a commitment to change the direction from where we were," Thornton said. "Because of the fall and this commitment they've made, we've made giant steps as a team to perform when we get to the indoor championships. I'm really proud of the guys for that."
The change of direction starts at the top. Thornton and his staff made a concerted effort to change the culture of the program. The staff believes that it's the little things that make a difference within a team.
"I think the biggest thing we changed was the moment," Thornton said. "When I talk about what the moment is, is that we had won four of the last five indoor championships. I'm going to put myself at the top of the list because I am the head coach. You start to assume and taking for granted certain things. Maybe a guy being a couple minutes late. It wasn't that we made a change of how we were doing things, we just brought back the importance of doing everything, the timing of doing everything. It wasn't just the athletics; it was the academic and social aspects too."
With the adjustments he's made, Thornton and the Texas track and field staff have noticed a difference in the team's demeanor.
"What we do for workouts hasn't been different," Thornton explained. "There have been some small changes but that's to fit the guys that we have now. The real change was bringing back the purpose. It starts with being on time. What a lot of young people don't realize in the process is that once this moment has passed by, we cannot go back and get it. That's what we did this past fall; we made them aware of the time and the importance of time and when we did that, we got the intensity and work ethic we wanted. That's what the fall was about. We can't go back and capture those moments."
So far in this indoor season the changes have been apparent. The team as a whole has grown and athletes are adopting this new attitude. Thornton attributes much of the team's progress to leadership among the athletes.
"I think as the younger guys have watched the older guys through this fall and then when we got through the fall they really trusted the older guys in that process," Thornton said. "Then the marks that some of the younger guys were getting helped them get confidence in what they've been doing to perform at a high level."
Ranked No. 8 in the nation, the men's track and field team is doing just that. Boasting two national leaders and a host of others near the top of their respective events, Thornton and his team understand that if they perform at the level that they expect, there is no reason to not expect great results.
"First, we know it's an honor to wear the burnt orange and represent the university," Thornton said. "To win is not the unexpected here, it's the norm. The norm is because we've done the work and we've put ourselves in the position to win. It's a nice mix. There's no pressure on just one athlete. One or two athletes cannot win this for us. It's the whole group. Whether it's a point or 10 points, it all adds up at the end of the day."
As they travel to the Big 12 Indoor Championships this Friday and Saturday, Thornton and his squad are prepared to take on some of the nation's best.
"I feel really good about the 26 guys that are on this team heading to Nebraska," Thornton said. "I think they understand what they have to do. It's time."