2009 82nd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays presented by State Farm sets the stage for stellar careers
April 1, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- The decathlon and heptathlon events are set up for stirring finishes on Thursday at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays presented by State Farm, which means that this year isn't different than any other.
Some of the world's very best have used this grand stage to set the tone for stellar careers. Former Texas standout and Beijing Olympian Trey Hardee competed at the Texas Relays last year for the first time as a professional and reached the Olympic qualifying standard at the April meet.
When he was at UT in 2006, he set the NCAA decathlon record of 8,465. It was a coming of age moment for Hardee, who transferred to UT from Mississippi State, and it was at the Texas Relays as a Mississippi State freshman that Hardee competed in his first-ever decathlon.
"It feels like every time I do a decathlon here, something is on the line or it means something," Hardee said.
Hardee trains full-time in Austin with UT assistant coach Mario Sategna, and this year will only compete in the pole vault, long jump, javelin and 400-meter hurdles. He chose those events specifically because they were spread out and will use them to gauge his fitness level as the outdoor season takes off.
But Hardee relishes the opportunity to test his limits in such an electric environment.
"It's a coming out party. This kicks off the outdoor season for most everybody across the country," Hardee said. "And it's a grand stage. I don't think I realized what it was until I didn't compete in it one year. It still means a lot to be a Texas Relays champion or to run for Texas in the Texas Relays."
One of Hardee's full-time training partners is Diana Pickler, who starred at Washington State. She finished second in the heptathlon in the 2007 U.S. Outdoor Championships and made her Olympic debut last summer in Beijing.
Pickler moved to Austin in November to train with Sategna, but isn't a stranger to the track -- or the Texas Relays. Pickler is from the Dallas area, and competed in the relays starting when she was a sophomore in high school and all through college.
"It's definitely the biggest meet. I remember in high school, the hurdles final was right before the 4x100 with Maurice Greene," Pickler said. "He was in the corner, and I was right there and my adrenaline was going crazy.
"I had a breakthrough heptathlon score (at the Texas Relays). That was the coolest thing."
Pickler will compete in the hurdles, long jump and javelin but will also be an interested spectator when her training partners are competing -- including Hardee.
"With them, I've been challenged to a different level," Pickler said. "Guys are different. They give each other a hard time to get each other pumped up. I had to adjust to that, but I've seen improvement in myself where I wanted to because of that."