Women’s Track and Field reaping towering rewards
Like all University of Texas fans, alumni and staff, UT women’s track and field coach Bev Kearney welcomed the lighting of the UT Tower in January after the Longhorns football team captured its fourth National Championship. After all, Kearney and her Longhorns had lit the Tower themselves on five occasions prior to Texas’ thrilling BCS Championship victory over USC.
The UT Tower lighting that spanned several nights in January meant two things to Kearney. The burnt orange hues drenching the campus landmark represented a Longhorn national title, but they also served as a directive to Kearney that more was left to be accomplished.
“I told Mack Brown that I have to win just to get women’s track and field back in the conversation again!,” Kearney joked. “When you have that many great champions here, you have to stay in the mix.”
Let’s just say Bev Kearney and UT women’s track and field are in the mix…again!
Kearney and the Longhorns captured the program’s sixth NCAA indoor track and field championship on Saturday, March 11 in Fayetteville, Ark. Texas never relinquished the lead on the event’s final day, as the Longhorns outdistanced second-place Stanford, 51-36.
The euphoric feeling of winning a National Championship was familiar to Kearney, even if the roads to the 2005 NCAA outdoor and 2006 NCAA indoor titles bared few resemblances.
“The thing that makes this championship different is that we were more of a target during the 2006 indoor season than we were during the 2005 outdoor season,” Kearney explained. “We had more qualifiers for the 2006 indoors than the 2005 outdoors, but we knew that wouldn’t matter unless we competed in the way we knew we were capable of performing.”
Junior Marshevet Hooker did more than her share to ensure the Longhorns’ national-title victory. The nine-time All-American opened the Championships by winning her first NCAA long jump title. A busy evening session landed Hooker a fourth-place finish in the 200 meters and a qualifying time for the 60-meter final, where she edged UNLV’s Ashley Owens the next day. Hooker led all NCAA competitors with 25 points but was more satisfied by the team’s NCAA-title victory than her two NCAA individual titles.
“Winning is much more rewarding when you do it as a team,” Hooker said. “Winning this championship was something we wanted to do for Bev. It had been a few years since she won an indoor championship, so we were glad to win it for her.”
Seniors Sheretta Jones and LaTashia Kerr added on to Texas’ NCAA point total as members of UT’s third-place 4X400-meter relay quartet. Participating in their second Tower-lighting ceremony, Jones and Kerr relished the opportunity to celebrate their second consecutive NCAA team title and light the Tower once again.
“It’s wonderful to do this again and share another championship with the UT campus,” Jones said. “It feels just as good to light the Tower again as it did our first time last year.”
“It’s so special to have another celebration like this one, and we hope to do it again,” added Kerr, who alluded to the unique opportunity to close out her college career with three consecutive NCAA titles.
The winning athletics culture at UT is something Kearney has embraced since first setting foot on the Forty Acres as the Longhorns’ coach. Since attending her first UT Tower ceremony in 1993 after the Texas Women’s Tennis team won its first NCAA Championship, Kearney has been to six UT Tower ceremonies as a participant. The Tower-lighting tradition is something Kearney enjoys each time, whether it is her team or another at UT that lights the Tower.
“It’s addictive,” Kearney said of lighting the UT Tower. “I get excited when our baseball team lights the Tower, and before you know it, our football team lights the Tower.
“We lit the Tower tonight, and when we get another opportunity, we will light the Tower again. It is just something that has become very addictive. Success breeds success. This was my sixth Tower lighting, and it feels like my first!