2009 82nd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays presented by State Farm set to open competition
March 31, 2009
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Back before Men's Track and Field coach Bubba Thornton ever thought about coaching the Longhorns, he thought about the Texas Relays.
Thornton, who hails from Keller, would relish the drive south. Soon enough, the bluebonnets and the rich, green landscape of the hill country would start to peek above his dashboard.
Now in his 14th season with the Longhorns, Thornton gets to experience the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays presented by State Farm in a different capacity, but the annual excitement is the same, as thousands of athletes -- from the high school, college and professional ranks -- start pouring into the city for the track and field meet that runs Wednesday to Saturday.
"It's one of the best weeks in Austin. It's one of the best things that The University sponsors," Thornton said. "We bring in all of the great high school athletes in the state, and the city just gathers them up and makes them feel at home. It's fantastic."
It also represents a unique challenge for the Longhorns. As the track and field teams transition from the indoor to the outdoor seasons, they get to start their outdoor training in earnest in front of a raucous home crowd.
"It's an amazing weekend. We look forward to, with reservation, the Texas Relays because it's a hectic home meet," Women's Track and Field coach Beverley Kearney said. "One thing we tell (the athletes), is that we're at home. Don't look up in the stands -- stay focused on the batons. The minute those young kids look up in the stands and see 20-something thousand people screaming, it can be a bit intimidating."
But the Longhorns always seem to prosper in the electric environment. Just last year, former UT All-American Leo Manzano set a meet and school record in the Jerry Thompson Mile with a blistering time of 3:56.98. In 2005, former UT All-American Marshevet Hooker set a meet record in the long jump (21-10) on her way to earning Most Outstanding Performer honors.
UT senior Jacob Hernandez, fresh off his NCAA Indoor national title in the 800 meters, is hoping to muster the same momentum as his former teammates, as well as enjoy the weekend spectacle that has become the Texas Relays.
"If I said everybody was here for just track, I'd be lying. The whole city goes crazy," Hernandez said. "It's almost a circus - I go to this school, and I can't even get parking.
"There are so many events, and I love watching them. The open mile is always nuts. If the weather is right, there can be some amazing times. Hopefully, we can all go fast."Tickets to the Texas Relays can be obtained at the Mike A. Myers Stadium Box Office during the event or can be purchased in advance at TexasBoxOffice.com or by calling the UT Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 982-2386 or (512) 471-3333. Admission on Wednesday and Thursday are free to the public. All-session passes are $30 for reserved seating and $20 for general admission. On Friday and Saturday, general admission is $10 and reserved seating is $15 each day.