By Steve Lansdale
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The University of Texas track and field teams are heading east this weekend, to compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships at the Birmingham CrossPlex. The men’s and women’s teams each qualified a relay team, and 11 Longhorns will represent UT at the event.
The meet begins Friday morning and concludes Saturday evening.
“This weekend our goal is to compete to the level that we know that we are capable of,” head coach Edrick Floréal said. “Whatever our best is this year, works. If we can do better, great, but the expectation is to just stick with what got you here all year. Do exactly what you’ve done all year and if we do that, we’ll be in good shape.
“Right now, our mindset is ‘one day at a time.’ We will deal with the meet when the meet comes, but we just want the student-athletes to deal with one moment at a time. We don’t need them to get ahead of themselves, so we won’t talk about the meet until tomorrow. We will find some time to R&R tonight before the meet comes in a few days.”
The men’s team is sending a diverse group of athletes to Birmingham, including:
- John Burt will compete in the 60-meter hurdles, an event never won by a Longhorn at any NCAA Indoor Championships. Burt’s Big 12 title-winning time of 7.73 seconds in the event is the 13th-fastest time in the country.
- Jonathan Jones has the fifth-fastest time (45.38) in the country in the 400 meters. The time, which he ran at the Texas Tech Shootout, is the second-fastest ever clocked in the event by a Longhorn. Also the owner of the third-fastest and ninth-fastest times in program history, Jones will try to join Zack Bilderdack as the only Longhorns ever to win the national championship in the 400. Bilderdack won the event in 2016.
- Steffin McCarter won the Big 12 title in the long jump with a winning leap of 25-8.25 feet, the 12th-longest leap in the country this season.
- Tripp Piperi’s heave of 67 feet, 6 inches at the Charlie Thomas Invitational in College Station is the fourth-longest in the country this season. With a victory in Birmingham, Piperi would become just the second Longhorn to win a national indoor title in the event; 2016 Olympic gold medalist Ryan Crouser won the NCAA indoor championship in the event in 2014 and 2016.
- The program record holder in the 3,000 meters, Alex Rogers qualified in the No. 10 spot in the event. Rogers has broken the four-minute barrier in the event twice this season.
- UT’s O’Brien Wasome is the reining national champion in the triple jump after winning the NCAA Indoor Championship in the event last year with a jump of 55-2.25. Wasome became the No. 8 qualifier in the event for this year’s Championship with a leap of 53-9.25 last month at the Texas Shootout. If he successfully defends his title, Wasome would be the first Longhorn to win any event in consecutive years since Leo Manzano, who won the mile in 2007 and 2008.
- Sam Worley qualified ninth in the mile after he broke his own school record at the Husky Classic in 3:57.98. With a victory in Birmingham, he would join Manzano as the only back-to-back champions in the mile in Texas history.
The Texas women’s team will include:
- Senior Gabby Crank already has the second-, third- and fourth-fastest times in program history in the 800 meters, and qualified for this weekend with the No. 9 time in the country this season. A victory would make her the first Longhorn ever to win a national title in the event.
- Teahna Daniels will run the 60 meters on the same track where she ran the event in 2016 … and all she did then was win the national title in the event in a school-record 7.11 seconds. She won the Big 12 title in the event two weeks ago with an NCAA-qualifying 7.22. A victory would be UT’s third in the event; in addition to Daniels’ 2016 championship, Marhsevet Hooker won the event in 2006.
- Big 12 Freshman of the Year Kynnedy Flannel brings the nation’s third-fastest time (22.88) into this weekend’s 200 meters. A Flannel victory would extend UT’s extraordinary streak of success in the event; five Longhorns have won the event before.
- Pentathlete Astin Zamzow already has a pair of Big 12 titles on her résumé, and enters the event with the No. 10 mark (4,183) in the country this season. This year’s Indoor Championship marks the first time she has qualified in the event, which no Longhorn ever has won.