Texas Track and Field Sweeps Big 12 Outdoor Championships

(Image via TexasSports.com)
(Image via TexasSports.com)

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AMES, Iowa – Texas Track and Field completed the double sweep of the Big 12 Conference Championships on Sunday as the men and women claimed the outdoor titles to go with their indoor wins in February. It marks just the fourth time in Big 12 history a team has swept all four track and field team titles.

The men's team won with 151 points and held off Texas Tech, which had 126.75 in three-day event held at Iowa State's Bergan Track. Oklahoma was third with 107.

The women bested K-State with 141.5 points to the Wildcats' 129.5 during the 21 events. Texas Tech was third with 103. It marks the ninth Big 12 outdoor title for the women and the sixth for the men. No school has more Big 12 women's outdoor titles and the men tied Nebraska for the all-time lead.

Texas also is the only school from one of the five power conferences to sweep indoor and outdoors for the men and women in 2015.

The last time a Big 12 school claimed the double sweep in track and field was 2006 when Texas accomplished the feat. Texas also pulled it off in 1999, and Nebraska did it in 2000.

"We talked about from the first team meeting back in September that the step indoors or out was to be winning the conference title," said Head Coach Mario Sategna. "I think the greatest thing about the conference championships is it takes a complete team to win. From top to bottom, it didn't matter the event area. People stepped up across the board."

The men used four runner-up performances from individuals to help build an insurmountable lead against Texas Tech. The women used sheer numbers in the sprints events to come from behind and then saw an impressive win from Sandie Raines in the 5,000 meters, clocking a time of 16:13.21 to help put the team in the driver's seat heading into the 4x400 meter relay, the final event of the three-day meet.

With the women up three points going into the 5,000 Raines was able to secure 10 points. Kansas State scored five points to put the Longhorns up 131.50 to 123.50 going into the final event of the evening. The Longhorns needed to finish no worse than sixth in order to secure the women's title and proceeded to run away with the win in the relay. The foursome of Courtney Okolo, Morolake Akinosun, Ariel Jones and Ashley Spencer posted a time of 3:30.61. Oklahoma was second in 3:33.98 and Kansas State third (3:35.15).

Akinosun played a huge role in the women winning the title as she was victorious in the 100 and 200 meters. She clocked a wind-aided time of 11.00 in the 100 and then came back and hour later to post a time of 22.68w in the 200.  She also ran on the winning 4x100 and contributed 25 points to the team scoring.

"Morolake is the utility player. I cannot say enough about her. Today was her birthday and her family came to watch," Sategna said. "She keeps everybody calm. She knows what's at stake and the way that she handles herself in terms of her preparation on meet day, she's a leader by example."

Ryan Crouser won two titles repeating in both the shot put and discus. Courtney Okolo won her second straight title in the 400 meters (51.55) as she led a group of Longhorns in scoring 17 points in the event.

On Sunday, freshman Ariel Jones won her first conference title as she took the 400-meter hurdles and teammate Melissa Gonzalez finished second.

Also winning titles for Texas earlier in the meet were Kaitlin Petrillose and Reese Watson in the women's and men's pole vault, respectively. It was the sixth overall conference title for Petrillose. Johannes Hock won the decathlon over the first two days of the meet with Wolf Mahler finishing second.

"On Day One we got off to such a phenomenal start with Kaitlin winning the pole vault. That was her sixth conference title, and we've got some great people that are returning in that group. Reese winning his first conference title was great there as well," Sategna said. "Those things set the tone from Day One."

With the wins the track and field teams won the eighth and ninth Big 12 Championships during the 2014-15 season. In addition to the two Sunday and two indoor titles for track and field, Texas won conference titles in volleyball, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving, men's golf and women's rowing.

Texas will now turn its attention to qualifying for the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon.  The first step to that is advancing through the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds, which Texas will host May 28-30 at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

Raines Wins 5,000 to Ensure Championship
With the meet winding down, sophomore transfer Sandie Raines jumped to the lead in the women's 5,000 meters from the gun and led for the entire race. She claimed the first Big 12 women's 5,000 title title in school history when she crossed the finish line in 16:13.21 and put Texas in a comfortable lead to secure the team title.

The Longhorns only led K-State by three points going into the 5,000, event No. 20 of the day. With the win by Raines and the finish of K-State's Laura Galvan (fourth in 16:52.76), Texas led by eight points heading into the final event of the meet, the 4x400 meter relay.

"Sandie went out there in that 5,000 and took a ton of pressure off the relay," Sategna said. "For her to go wire-to-wire and get 10 points was huge. Everybody could take a deep breath and relax a little bit."

Texas needed to finish no worse than sixth in the 4x400 to win the championship thanks to the performance by Raines. The Longhorns entered the meet with the No. 1 nationally-ranked 4x400 squad.

Crouser Repeats Double
After winning the shot put title on Saturday, Ryan Crouser successfully defended his conference crown in the discus with a throw of 58.92 meters (193-4). That gives him the shot put and discus double for the second straight year.

Crouser also had a pair of his teammates step up for the Longhorns and score valuable points in an event Texas was up against Kole Weldon of Texas Tech. Will Spence finished fourth and Clint Harris took fifth to bring UT's point total to 19 for the event, all scored by seniors.

Spence posted a throw of 54.71 meters (179-6) and Harris threw 54.38 meters (178-5). Redshirt freshman Alan Zapalac came in ninth place and seniorBlake Jakobsson was 10th.

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"Ryan has been a main pillar in this program and not just within the throws but with his work ethic and the things that he does to prepare himself for the conference and national championships," Sategna said. "The conditions weren't great today for the discus, but he knew that beating Texas Tech and some of these other schools was going to be key. And he led the charge once again."

Women Continue 4x100 Dominance
The Texas women again claimed the Big 12 Conference title in the 4x100 meter relay on Sunday as the Longhorns crossed in 44.11 seconds. The team of Morgan Snow, Caitland Smith, Morolake Akinosun and Kendall Baisden gave Texas its 12th Big 12 title in the event.

On the men's side, the group of Senoj-Jay Givans, Carlton Anumnu, Zack Bilderback and Charles Anumnu ran 39.82 to finish third and score six points. Texas was able to finish one spot ahead of Texas Tech to ensure the Longhorns scored more points than the Red Raiders in their first head-to-head battle of the day.

Raines Battles NCAA Champion
Sophomore transfer Sandie Raines went toe-to-toe with the defending NCAA champion in the 1,500 meters Sunday and put up a fight down the stretch to finish second in her first Big 12 Conference Outdoor Championship.

Raines led Oklahoma State's Natalja Piliusina throughout the entire race until the NCAA champ used a late kick to run by with 150 meters to go. Raines crossed in 4:28.98 and Piliusina ran 4:26.70.

For the Texas men, Brady Turnbull finished fifth in the 1,500 meters to grab four points for the championship scoring. He crossed the line in 4:08.14.

Also in the mid-distance events, the pair of sophomores Derrell Manhertz and Robert Uhr contributed three points in the 800 meters. Manhertz finished seventh in 1:53.76 while Uhr took eighth.

Longhorns Score Big in Hurdles
Texas went 1-2 in the women's 400 meter hurdles to snag 18 points as freshman Ariel Jones claimed her first Big 12 Conference title. Jones crossed in a new personal best 57.87 seconds after running 57.96 during the prelims. Jones was followed closely by Melissa Gonzalez with her time of 57.94 to tie her personal best.

The women's squad also scored nine points in the 100 meter hurdles led by senior Morgan Snow. She finished third in a time of 13.15 seconds. Sophomore BJ Adeokun took sixth as she finished in 13.52 seconds.

"Today is was a very special time to watch a true freshman in Ariel Jones win the 400 hurdles," Sategna said. "Her confidence is just getting better and better. Ariel going into the regional meet I think has a shot at advancing to the national finals. She's what we would consider a wild card. You get her to the national meet and she's going there to place, and it's going to be performances like that that are going to help us make a run at the national title."

Spencer Dunkerley-Offor added eight points for the men in the 110 meter hurdles, clocking in at 13.86 seconds, and Byron Robinson finished eighth in the 400 hurdles.

Texas Sprinters Play Role in Victories
The Texas women scored in bunches in the 100, 200 and 400 meters while winning all three. In addition to Akinosun winning the 100, senior Morgan Snow finished seventh to give the women 12 points in the event.

Akinosun was joined by Courtney Okolo, Kendall Baisden, Caitland Smith and Shania Collins in the final of the 200 and they combined to score 23 points. Okolo, Baisden and Ashley Spencer joined forces to score 17 points in the 400.

The men scored 21 points in those three events with runner-up finishes from Zack Bilderback in the 400 and Senoj-Jay Givans in the 200. Givans also finished fourth in the 100.

Lutz Seals Win with Veteran Performance
Texas held a significant lead over Texas Tech with two events to go. Senior Craig Lutz knew his team could put the trophy in the bag with a strong showing in the 5,000 meters and proceeded to lead his teammates in a tactical race to win the championship.

Lutz led most of the way and slowed the pace to ensure his teammates could close the gap between he and Oklahoma State's Kirubel Erassa. After the Horns closed that gap, they were able to hold Texas Tech's runners out of the scoring positions and ensure the Longhorns would win the title by a significant margin.

Texas scored 13 points in the event with Lutz finishing second and the tandem of Mark Pinales and Eduardo Rodriguez finishing 7-8.

Lutz ended the meet with two runner-up finishes as he finished second to Erassa in the 10,000 on Friday night as well.

Moore Executes in Steeplechase
Nate Moore made sure to follow up on the coaching staff's plan of defeating runners from Texas Tech heads-up to stay in the lead on Sunday.

With a Red Raider runner five meters ahead of him coming out of the final water jump of the 3,000 meter steeplechase, Moore chased him down to move up to fourth place on the home stretch.

The Texas coaching staff believed Texas Tech was its main threat to take the title away from the Horns' grasp. If the Horns could approach each race with the idea of defeating the Red Raiders in head-to-head competition on the track, it would mean Tech could not catch up in scoring.

Moore executed that gameplan perfectly and contributed five points for the team. Zach Hamstra just missed scoring for the men as he finished ninth after falling earlier in the race. He nearly came from behind and leaned into eighth place but could not complete the move.

Phynn Contributes in Triple Jump
Sophomore triple jumper Nick Phynn came through for the Longhorns in the field events as he finished in eighth place on Sunday afternoon. He posted a 14.64 meters (48-0.50) to earn a point for the team down the stretch.


James Schleicher

James Schleicher is the publisher of Horns Illustrated magazine. He's also a fifth generation Texan and lifelong Austinite. Follow @HornsIllus twitter to keep up with all things Horns Illustrated.

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