(image via TexasSports.com)
AUSTIN, Texas – The 2015 track and field season will begin with Texas Track and Field (women and men) ranked in the top 10 of the USTFCCCA Preseason Rankings. After the women finished second at both the indoor and outdoor national championship meets last season, the Longhorns are No. 5 in the preseason. The men's squad is not far behind with a No. 8 ranking heading into the season.
Texas has one of the strongest groups in the nation in any one event with its runners in the women's 400 meters. Ashley Spencer finished second at the NCAA Indoor Championships and Courtney Okolo took fourth while then-freshman Kendal Baisden claimed fifth. A year later, all three return and also represent three legs of the 4x400 meter relay team that finished just .02 of a second behind Oregon for the national title while posting the No. 2 time in collegiate history.
Pole vaulter Kaitlin Petrillose is the favorite in her event after breaking the collegiate record last year with a clearance of 4.60 meters (15-1.00) to win her first NCAA title.
Sprinter Morolake Akinosun is the women's other individual ranked in the top 10 in her event. She enters the season at No. 6 in the 60 meters. She clocked 7.23 seconds at the NCAA Championships last year to finish fourth. She also won the Big 12 Championship while finishing runner-up in the 200. She stands 22nd in the 200 meters according to USTFCCCA. Spencer, Okolo and Baisden are all also ranked in the top 25 in the 200.
In total the women's team has 13 rankings in events counting toward the overall team rankings formula. Six of them are ranked seventh or better in their respective event, and four of those are third or better.
The Texas men have two NCAA champions returning in Ryan Crouser and Johannes Hock. Crouser swept the shot put crown last year both indoor and out. He will enter his junior season indoors as the favorite to win again as he was the only thrower to register a mark over 21 meters last year.
Hock won the decathlon title outdoors as a freshman and claimed sixth indoors in the heptathlon that season as well. After competing in just sprints and jumps last indoor season, Hock is still among the top athletes in the heptathlon. He is No. 4 in the event based on his score of 5,873 points from his freshman year.
Zack Bilderback also is ranked in the top 10 in his individual event for the men. Bilderback earned first team All-America honors last year in the 400 meters and he enters the season ranked No. 7.
The men have 14 marks ranked among the nation's best. In addition to the three marks in the top 10, another five are in the top 20 in their respective events.
Distance runner Craig Lutz has already competed once this season in the 5,000 meters. His time of 13:47.09 at the Hoosier Open ranks second in school history and puts him at No. 11 in the preseason rankings, but he is currently No. 2 in the nation in times ran this season.
The first full team meet of the season is next week when the Longhorns face Arkansas in a dual meet in Fayetteville on January 16. Arkansas' men are No. 3 in the preseason rankings with the women ranked No. 7 for dual pitting top 10 teams against each other.