Big 12 Championships preview: Distance group
Feb. 23, 2010
The Longhorn distance runners have made big strides this season. They've trained hard and are reaping the rewards of their work.
Every member of the distance team has set a personal record in at least one event they have competed in this year, and many of them are taking the title in their events.
Redshirt junior Betzey Jimenez has captured four first place finishes this season and posted the fourth-fastest mile in school history with her second-place and NCAA provisional qualifying time of 4:44.95 at the Big-12-SEC-Conference USA Challenge meet (Jan. 30). The mark was Jimenez's second NCAA mark of the year and a personal-best. Along with provisionally qualifying twice this season, Jimenez has also posted personal-best marks in all five events she's competed in.
In the season-opening Leonard Hilton Memorial (Jan. 15) event, sophomore Mia Behm placed first in the mile with a then personal-best time of 4:59.42. A few weeks later at the Big 12-SEC-Conference USA Challenge (Jan. 30), Behm blazed to her second sub-five minute mile of the season with a PR of 4:54.38.
It isn't just the individual distance runners that are benefiting from the hard work they've put in, the entire women's track team is enjoying it as well.
At the A&M Dual Meet, the Longhorns took home the title, beating the No. 1 ranked Aggies. The distance medley relay (Mia Behm, Kennetra Jones, Julie Amthor and Betzy Jimenez), helped set up the win with a first place finish. Behm also contributed by winning the mile with a time of 5:03.02. Sophomore Laleh Mojtabaeezamani crossed the line just after Behm in a personal-best 5:05.10 for second, taking nine seconds off her previous personal best. Jimenez added the Longhorn's final score by finishing first in both the 800 and 5,000m.
With the Big 12 Indoor competition on the horizon, the distance runners and their coach, Steve Sisson, are gearing up to emulate the success they've experienced thus far in the 2010 season.
Sisson recently chatted with TexasSports.com about the distance group and where they're at heading into the Big 12 Indoor Championships.
On the distance group going into conference: I am really excited for the distance group this year going into conference because I think we have a solid group. I like to say many times that we are small, but mighty. We're only taking seven girls, but all of them are in the position to score in a given event. I am really excited to be in the situation we are in now. I think each one of our distance girls is in a position to score or score significantly.
On who the team leaders are: They are led by Betzy [Jimenez], who has had a great indoor season. The expectation for her is to score some points to take some of the pressure of the sprinters and the field events athletes. Mia [Behm] is also in a great position. Her fitness has been rounding out pretty well and she is a fighter and really steps up at conference championships. She is one of those girls who was bleeding burnt orange before they got here and they just love to compete for Texas.
On the young age of the team: I think the fact that we have competed at a pretty high level at the meets that we have had already is a good indication of what I think the athletes can do. They are peaking right. They're trained correctly. I do always think that there is that stress about a freshman or a sophomore going into a Big 12 meet, but with the support they have around them, they figure out how to balance their own fears, worries, and nervousness with what is required for the team. Bev [Kearney] has always said that the NCAA Championships is for the individual and the Big1 2 Championships is for the team. I think that really resonates with our kids. They want to be impact players and they want to be a position where they help. That is what we have been recruiting to do and that's what we have been training to do. I think we are in a situation where they step up and perform.
On having Betzy Jimenez this year: What I have noticed with Betzy in her career up to this point in time, as she will be going into her third Big 12 Championship indoors, is that she always steps up on race day. I think the other girls have responded to her work level and to her experience level and I think they will perform well too.
On who could surprise him at Big 12s: I think we have two athletes that I am really looking forward to them making a splash at Big 12- Julie Amthor and then Jena Cuellar. A lot of the way our meet goes is going to be dependent on Julie stepping up and racing. Her racing always seems to go well and she shows up on race day and she gets it done. I think being in a Texas uniform at the Big 12 Championships, she should step up for that. We're happy to get Jena back who has had some injury issues and has been out the whole year. She seems to finally be rounding into some good fitness and we are excited.