Track and Field preview: NCAA Midwest Regional
IN THE POLLS: Texas has been a mainstay in the Trackwire 25 since the initial poll was released on April 5. Here is a look at their week-by-week rankings so far this season:
TEXAS REGIONAL HISTORY: During the first two years of regional competition, the Texas men recorded a sixth-place finish in 2003 and a fourth-place finish last season. In 2003, UT scored 39 points, which was highlighted by a victory in the 4x100-meter relay. The Longhorns also got a second-place finish from Aaron Collins in the 200 meters. In 2004, Texas increased its total to 56.25 points. Brendan Christian won the 100 meters and Jermaine Cooper took the 110-meter hurdles. Christian went on to earn second place in the 200 meters. The Texas women were the runner-ups in 2003 and won the Midwest Regional in 2004. UT scored 50 points in 2003 to finish 14 points behind LSU. Sanya Richards won the 400 meters and anchored the 4x400-meter relay to victory, while UT went one-two in the 400m hurdles behind Raasin McIntosh and Keasha Downer. In 2004, the Longhorns won the team title on the last race of the competition, the 4x400m relay. UT trailed Nebraska by five points, but the Cornhuskers did not have an entry in the 4x4. Texas won the 4x4 and overtook Nebraska, 110-105. The Longhorns were victorious in the 100 meters (Marshevet Hooker), the 200 meters (Ashlee Williams), the 400 meters (Sanya Richards), the 400m hurdles (Raasin McIntosh), the shot put (Michelle Carter) and both the 4x100 and 4x400m relays.
2005 BIG 12 OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: The Texas men's track and field team scored 100.5 points to finish third at the 2005 Big 12 Outdoor Championships behind Texas Tech (149.5 points) and Nebraska (136 points). The Longhorns brought home three conference titles behind Leonel Manzano (1,500 meters), Brian Robison (Shot Put) and Zach Zeller (3,000m Steeplechase). They also recorded three runner-up finishes (Jeff Cutrer, 3,000m Steeplechase; Donovan Kilmartin, Decathlon; 4x100m Relay) and three third-place finishes (Joseph Davis, Triple Jump; Andra Manson, High Jump; Brian Robison, Discus). The Texas women's track and field team scored 117 points to finish second to Nebraska (126.66 points). Sophomore Marshevet Hooker set a conference record for points scored at a championship meet with 32.5. She won the 100 and 200 meters, the long jump and anchored the 4x100m relay to victory. In addition to her three individual wins, UT's Melaine Walker (400m Hurdles) and Michelle Carter (Shot Put) also earned conference crowns. The Texas women continued their dominance in the relays, winning the 4x100 and 4x400m relays and have now won 17 of 18 relay titles at Big 12 meets.
BIG 12 HONORS: Two Longhorns claimed Big 12 honors after the conference meet. Sophomore Marshevet Hooker earned Women's Outdoor Performer of the Year, while freshman Leonel Manzano was named Men's Outdoor Freshman of the Year. Hooker set the record for points scored at a conference meet with 32.5. She won the 100 and 200 meters, the long jump and anchored the 4x100-meter relay to victory. Her time in the 100 was the nation's fastest, and she is now ranked second nationally in the 200 meters and the long jump. With the honor, UT has now won the outdoor performer award three consecutive years (Sanya Richards: 2003 and 04). After being named the Indoor Freshman of the Year for winning the mile, Manzano claimed the outdoor honor after winning the 1,500 meters. He became only the second Longhorn to sweep the mile and the 1,500 meters, as Sammy Unberhagen did it in 1995. Manzano is the second consecutive Longhorn to win the freshman award after Andra Manson did it last season.
DUAL THREAT: Juniors Brian Robison and Michael Huff have been extremely busy during the indoor and outdoor track seasons in 2005. Both athletes were instrumental in Texas' 38-37 victory over Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl. Robison is a defensive end during the fall, while Huff is one of the nation's top safeties. Robison won the Big 12 shot put title on the final throw of the competition with a personal-best 64-7.75, which ranks him second in the region. He went on to finish third in the discus. Meanwhile, Huff ran the first leg of the 4x100-meter relay at the conference meet and helped Texas earn a second-place finish. UT now has the sixth-fastest qualifier (39.80) in the Midwest Region. Huff also notched a qualifier in the 100 meters (10.48), but will focus on the relay at the regional meet.
GRADUATE SCHOOL: Senior Mark Nichol joined the Longhorns as a graduate student and has made his presence felt. Nichol earned the Big 12 Cross Country Newcomer of the Year award during the fall and then finished third in the 5,000 meters at the Big 12 indoor meet. At the outdoor conference championships, he finished fourth in the 10,000 meters and came back two days later to finish 10th in the 5,000 meters. Despite being ranked fourth in the region in the 5,000 meters, Nichol will focus on the 10,000 meters and will use this weekend to prepare for the national meet. He is ranked 18th in country with a time of 28:54.70. Nichol took a year off from running while finishing his degree at Dartmouth. He is using his final year of eligibility at Texas while he pursues a master's in accounting.
DYNAMIC DUO: Junior Trey Hardee and sophomore Donovan Kilmartin are two of the top multi-event performers in the country. Both Longhorns have posted automatic qualifiers to the national meet in the decathlon. Hardee holds the nation's top score at 7,839 points, while Kilmartin is ranked sixth with 7,650 points. Hardee led the decathlon at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships before having to withdraw due to an injury. Kilmartin finished second at the event with 7,472 points. Because athletes do not compete in the decathlon at the regional meet, Hardee will use the time to prepare for the national meet, and Kilmartin will take part in the open pole vault and long jump competitions.
STEEPLE CHASING: The Longhorns' steeplechasers finished one-two at the conference meet for the second consecutive season. Senior Zach Zeller and junior Jeff Cutrer went one-two this season, while Zeller and Mark Floreani, who is redshirting this outdoor season, went one-two in 2004. Zeller used a career-best time of 8:51.41 to earn his second straight championship, while Cutrer finished just behind him in 8:52.40. The Longhorns have now won the conference steeplechase three years in a row after Kevin Barra won it in 2003.
MARBLE FALLS MILER: Freshman Leonel Manzano became just the second Longhorn to run a sub-four-minute mile (3:59.86) indoors, en route to winning the Big 12 Indoor Championship. His time broke both the school and meet record, and he was named Big 12 Indoor Freshman Performer of the Year for his efforts. Manzano followed up that performance with a victory in the 1,500 meters at the outdoor meet to earn his second Freshman Performer of the Year honor. He became only the second Longhorn to win conference crowns in both the indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500 meters (Sammy Unberhagan, 1995). Earlier in the outdoor season, Manzano became the first Texas athlete to win the Jerry Thompson Mile at the Texas Relays since Paul Craig did it in 1977. He went on to record the nation's 11th-fastest time in the 1,500 meters (3:42.84) on his way to winning the event at the Oregon Invitational. He also became a United States citizen on Dec. 16, 2004. Manzano is originally from Guanajuato, Mexico.
DISTANCE DEVELOPMENT: The Texas men's distance team has 13 runners qualified for the NCAA Midwest Regional. There are five Longhorns qualified in the 5,000 meters (Andrew Middleton, Matt Munoz, Mark Nichol, Erik Stanley and Joe Thorne), four in the 1,500 meters (Matt Caterisano, Leonel Manzano, Kyle Miller and Ryan Ponsonby) and four in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (Jeff Cutrer, Charles Hampton, Jake Morse and Zach Zeller). Last year, in those same three events, the Longhorns had only three participants. In addition, both Middleton and Nichol have qualified for the national meet in the 10,000 meters. Nichol is an automatic qualifier and is ranked 18th in the nation, while Middleton missed an automatic qualifier by just .85 seconds and is ranked 28th in the nation. Both will skip the regional 5,000 meters to prepare for the 10,000 meters at the national meet.
ONE FOR THE THUMB: Sophomore Andra Manson won his fifth championship while at Texas after winning the 2005 Big 12 Indoor Championship in the high jump with a leap of 7-5 (2.26m). Manson swept all four titles (Big 12 indoor and outdoor, NCAA indoor and outdoor) during his freshman campaign and became the first Texas athlete since Mark Boswell (2000) to win both the indoor and outdoor national championships in the high jump. At the 2005 Big 12 Outdoor Championships, Manson cleared the same height as the champion (7-3.75, 2.23m), but finished third in the standings due to failed attempts. He is currently tied for third in the region and is tied for fifth on the national descending order list.
DO IT ALL: Sophomore Marshevet Hooker has done it all for the Longhorns during the 2005 season. She was UT's top scorer at the Big 12 Indoor Championships with 26 points thanks to a victory in the long jump and two second-place finishes in the 60 meters and the 200 meters. She one-upped herself at the outdoor conference championships by scoring 32.5 points, the most ever at either an indoor or outdoor meet. She scored 30 points thanks to victories in the 100 and 200 meters and the long jump. She added the other 2.5 for her role in the 4x100-meter relay's championship. Hooker now holds the nation's fastest time in the 100 meters (11.12), the second-fastest time in the 200 meters (22.73) and the second-best long jump (21-10, 6.65m). She is ranked first in the 100 and 200 meters and second in the long jump according to Trackwire's most recent release.
IN THE GENES: Following a stellar indoor season that saw her win the Big 12 Championship and finish second at the national meet in the shot put, sophomore Michelle Carter has continued to dominate the shot put at the conference level. She became the first Longhorn since Eileen Vanisi in 1994 to sweep the indoor and outdoor conference shot put titles. She broke Vanisi's indoor school record in the shot put with a throw of 58-6.50. Vanisi held the record of 58-1.75 for 11 years prior to Carter's throw. Now, Carter has Vanisi's outdoor record of 60-0.50 in her sights. So far this spring, Carter has posted qualifiers in the shot put at every meet and qualifiers in the discus in four of her last five events. She is first on the regional list in the shot put (57-4.75) and sixth in the discus (171-0). But, it is no wonder that she is such a success in the shot put considering her father Michael's accomplishments. He was the silver medalist in the shot put at the 1984 Olympic Games and still holds the national high school record in the event. He set the record in 1979 and since then, no one has come within five feet of his throw (81-3.50). Michelle also holds the national high school record in the shot put with a throw of 54-10.
JAMAICA, ESSEX, TEXAS: Junior Melaine Walker has blazed an interesting trail on her way to the Forty Acres. While in high school at St. Jago in Kingston, Jamaica, Walker set the junior national record in the 400m hurdles with a 55.62. She went on to win the high school girls 400m hurdles at the Penn Relays in both 2001 (57.85) and 2002 (58.88). She moved on to Essex County, where she became a five-time NJCAA national champion and 11-time NJCAA All-American. Now, at Texas, Walker has found her groove. She recorded seven personal bests during competition at the Big 12 Indoor Championships, while finishing second in the 60-meter hurdles, third in the 60 meters and fourth in the 200 meters. Walker continued her rise during the outdoor season, which culminated in a victory at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships in the 400-meter hurdle. Her 55.09 clocking is the 11th- fastest in the world and bettered her previous national-leading time of 55.37. She also has the nation's 11th-fastest time in the 100-meter hurdles.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES: After spending her first two seasons at Texas as one of the top middle distance performers in the Big 12, junior Sheretta Jones has turned her attention to the 400-meter hurdles. The Houston, Texas native has bettered her time in each of her five races. In her first race at the Texas Invitational, Jones recorded a 1:00.55. She then broke the minute-mark in just the third hurdle race of her career with a 59.67 at the Texas Relays. Now, she is ranked eighth in the midwest region after posting a 58.45 at the Michael Johnson Invitational. On top of her new role in the hurdles, Jones runs the leadoff leg on the nation's fourth-fastest 4x400-meter relay team and is also a second-team Academic All-Big 12 performer.
RELAY UNIVERSITY: Since coming to Texas, head coach Bev Kearney has had great success with the relay events. Under her guidance, the Texas women have produced 12 relay titles. After victories in both the 4x1 and 4x400-meter relays at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships, Texas has now won 17 of a possible 18 relay titles at the conference meet. The only time they didn't win was the 4x400m relay in 1998, when they went on to win the national championship both as a team and in both relays. The Longhorns clocked the nation's fastest time of 43.25 in the 4x100-meter relay behind juniors Ashlee Williams and Melaine Walker and sophomores Jerrika Chapple and Marshevet Hooker. UT has the fourth-fastet time in the 4x400-meter relay (3:30.68) thanks to juniors Sheretta Jones, LaTashia Kerr, Walker and Chapple.