Women's Track and Field signs nine to National Letters of Intent
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas head coach Bev Kearney announced the signing of nine student-athletes to National Letters of Intent for the 2008-09 academic season.
"Myself, and assistant coaches Rose Brimmer and Steve Sisson, we went to work with this class," Kearney said. "We hit the ground hard to build our foundation in the sprints and hurdles, and add to the depth in our distance and field event areas."
The incoming class includes five Texas UIL state champions and two additional UIL state qualifiers, the 55-meter dash Connecticut high school record holder and one California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) relay champion.
"We balanced out our recruiting this year," Kearney commented. "We enhanced our foundation -- which is the sprints and hurdles. Most importantly, we wanted to add to the field events and the distance group. They have been a vital part of our success over the last few years."
Texas signed sprinters Angele Cooper (Signal Hill, Calif.), Alexandria Pegram (McKinney, Texas), Stacey-Ann Smith (Bloomfield, Conn.), Ashley Starks (Lancaster, Texas) and LaKeidra Stewart (Arlington, Texas).
The Horns also added a trio of Texas UIL state champions to the field events. Pole vaulter Jessica Doyle (Buda, Texas), high jumper Victoria Lucas (Midland, Texas) and thrower Amanda Van Dyke (Pflugerville, Texas) will enroll at UT in the fall of 2008.
Texas UIL state qualifier Julie Amthor (Bulverde, Texas) will join the distance group.
Cooper is a sprinter and jumper from California track powerhouse Long Beach Wilson High School. Cooper captured the gold medal as the leadoff leg of the 4x400-meter relay champion (3:44.72) at the 2006 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Championships. As a freshman at LBWHS, she anchored the 4x100-meter relay that won the 2005 California Interscholastic Federation State Championship in 44.84 (that time became the fifth-fastest all-time in the state). She also finished fourth in the open 400, posting a time of 55.48 at the 2007 CIF state meet. Cooper is also a talented triple jumper as she won the event at the California Relays in 34-9 (10.59m). Cooper has an outdoor-200 best of 24.49 and outdoor-400 best of 54.50 from the 2007 CIF state meet.
"Angele Cooper is a phenomenal athlete," Kearney said. "She comes from a high school that has had phenomenal success. She has a range from the 100m to the 400m, and she can also run the 400-meter hurdles."
Smith is the Connecticut state record holder in the 55-meter dash (7.00 seconds). She is a two-time New England Interscholastic Track and Field Champion in the 100 (11.83) and 200 (24.97) from the 2006 season. She also won the 55 in 7.15 and 300 in 40.17 at the 2006 Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) Indoor State Open. Smith finished fifth at the 2007 USATF Junior National Track and Field Championships. She has a lifetime best of 11.83 in the 100, 24.54 in the indoor 200 and 24.00 in the outdoor 200.
"She is a very talented athlete," Kearney said. "She also has a range anywhere from the 100 to the 400m. That versatility is going to be vital to the overall development of our sprint group. She is an awesome athlete, and is just now getting her stride.
Starks was named the 2007 Dallas Morning News Girls Athlete of the Year and to the newspaper's all-area first team. She is a three-time Texas UIL state champion as she won the 300-meter hurdles in a lifetime best 42.60 seconds, and ran on the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter state champion relays in 2007. Last year, her trio of medals helped the Lancaster High School girls' track and field team to its record-setting seventh consecutive class 4A state title.
"Ashley is one of those athletes who plays a number of sports," Kearney said. "We feel she is one of those underdeveloped athletes who plays other sports, and then comes into a shortened track season and competes at a high level. We know that she can run the 100-meter hurdles but also the 400-meter hurdles. People will be surprised at how good she is in those events as well as the sprints."
Pegram is one of Texas' top sprinters as she finished third in the 100 (11.85) at the 2007 Texas UIL state championship. En route to her top-three performance at state, she won the 2007 Region 2-5A championship in the 100 (11.85) and added a third-place finish in the 200 (24.73). Pegram competed for Dallas Gold track club at the 2006 USATF Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.
Stewart anchored the Texas UIL state champion 800-meter relay group that posted the top high school time (1:36.37) in the nation in 2007. She anchored the Dallas Morning News' Relay Team of the Year and earned a spot on the newspaper's all-area track and field second team. She ran the state's fifth-fastest 200 time (23.65) and the 10th-speediest 100 time (11.76) in 2007. She earned All-America honors as the 2007 Nike Indoor National Championship as she placed sixth in 7.78 in the 60 and seventh in the 200 in 25.12. She also ran in the short sprints at the 2007 USATF Junior National Olympic Championship and helped the Dallas Gold track club to the U.S. junior national record in the 4x100-meter relay (44.43).
"Alexandria (Pegram) and LaKeidra (Stewart) are both summer track club teammates," Kearney said. "Both are fantastic athletes from strong programs in the Dallas area. They have a passion for running, and they will add the depth and quality to the Texas sprint group and uphold the tradition of excellence in that area."
Doyle is the 2007 Texas UIL Class 4A state champion in the pole vault. The three-time state qualifier won the pole vault at the state meet, vaulting a lifetime-best 12 feet, nine inches (3.89m) for the ninth highest height in the nation in 2007. Prior to winning the title, Doyle brought home the silver medal as a freshman at the 2005 state championship and a bronze as a sophomore in 2006. En route to capturing the 2007 state championship, Doyle captured the Region 4-4A championship (12-6/3.81m). She finished as a Nike Indoor All-American during her freshman season with a fifth-place finish and seventh at the Nike Outdoor Championship as a junior in 2007.
"Jessica is a Texas state champion and a die-hard Longhorn," Brimmer said. "She's one of the best pole vaulters in the state of Texas at 12-9 already."
Lucas is a talented state champion high jumper and hurdler. The 2007 Texas Class 5A champion cleared a lifetime best height of 6-1 (1.85m) for her first title. She also won the 2007 Region 1-5A meet crown with a clearance of 5-10 (1.78m). Lucas is a three-sport standout at Midland High School where she also competes in volleyball and soccer.
"Victoria Lucas is a great high jumper," Kearney said. "When you have an athlete like [NCAA champion] Destinee [Hooker], it's hard to replace her and what she brings to the team. Victoria stands in a long line of high jumpers from the state of Texas. She should do great things for us."
Van Dyke is a Texas UIL state champion in the shot put with a personal-best toss of 43-1.5 (13.14m) and a bronze medalist in the discus at 132-0 (40.25). She also won both events at the 2007 Region 4-4A championship, tossing 122-8 (37.40m) in the discus and 42-11 (13.08m) in the shot put. The Pflugerville Connally High School standout also competed for the state-power basketball and volleyball teams, earning 2007 All-Central Texas Volleyball Team honors.
"When you look at Brimmer's success with the throws, you can't help but be excited about the support the field events are going to give to the overall team in terms of capturing a championship," Kearney said. "Amanda, Jessica and Victoria are going to be valued commodities as we begin to move into becoming a well-rounded team."
Amthor is a Texas UIL region champion in the 800 and a state qualifier in the 800 and 1,600. She clocked personal bests at the 2007 state meet, running the 1,600-meter in 5:09.97 for seventh and the 800 in 2:14.59 for sixth. She also took home the 2007 Region 4-5A championship in the 800 (2:16.80) before taking second in the 1,600 in 5:12.70. Amthor had a strong performance at the 2006 Texas UIL meet as she finished third in the 800 (2:14.89) and eighth in the 1,600 (5:17.94). On the cross country course, she carries a personal best mark of 11:34.10 in the two-mile from the 2006 Texas UIL championships.
"We saw her running early," Sisson commented. "She has a nice balance of speed and strength. We're looking for an 800-meter/miler type who could run cross country effectively for us but still run between 2:10 and 2:12 on the track. That's a range that's important to have as a middle distance runner."