AUSTIN, Texas – The excitement of the 89th Nike Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays was building to the conclusion of the 4x400 meter relays and they did not disappoint. Texas came away with a dominating win on the women's side and the men narrowly missed winning one of the tightest races of the week while shattering the school record.
Another record-performance came from senior Morolake Akinosun in the 100 meters as she became the only woman to win three straight titles in the 100 meters at the Texas Relays.
In total over the four days of action at this year's meet the Longhorns tallied six victories and two school records. Over those four days more than 7,500 athletes competed and more than 43,000 fans watched the exciting action.
"With the way that the weather was yesterday – James Barr as the Meet Director this is in my opinion the best meet that he has put together. Our facility guys went above and beyond and it makes our job a lot easier so that we can focus on our team. It helps to have performances like we did from Wednesday on. When we are able to have meets like this – where we have over 7,500 athletes compete – there's a ton that goes into it. Anything that I can do to help bolster the best athletes in America and their efforts, we will do."
Saturday's 4x400 action got the crowd of 21,006 off its feet as the Longhorns battled LSU's men around the track. The two teams exchanged the lead a couple of times over the final two legs, but it was the Tigers that edged out the Longhorns with a time of 3:01.83. Texas ran 3:02.18 with the group of Chris Irvin, Byron Robinson, AJ Bailey and Zack Bilderback besting the previous record of 3:03.33 set back in 1983.
"To end the meet like that is what the fans come for," said Head Coach Mario Sategna. "You have the local Westlake product in Chris Irvin, who leads it off, and then a senior in Zack Bilderback bringing it home. We had some phenomenal performances today."
Despite the disappointment of being unable to catch LSU on the final straightaway, Bilderback said he and his teammates were proud of the record and have their sights set on lowering their time even more.
"We knew coming off indoors that we were going to break that record because we were close at indoors already," Bilderback said. "This is our first time running the relays (outdoors), so to break it right now is a good sign."
The women's team of Chrisann Gordon, Ariel Jones, Morolake Akinosun and Courtney Okolo clocked 3:26.54 for an easy win as Okolo pulled away on the anchor lap. The time ranks sixth in school history and currently leads the nation.
Texas' only other win on the final day of the meet came in the 100 meters with Akinosun winning in a blazing 11.07 seconds. The race was run with a legal wind and is No. 1 in the world this season. The win also makes Akinosun the only woman to ever win the 100 meters three straight years at the Texas Relays. She is the second woman to win three times overall as well.
"I wouldn't say it was my expectation, but it was definitely the goal," Akinosun said of winning the 100 meters a third time. "I realized midway through the training season that I could be the first one ever to do that. We've had some of the greatest track & field athletes come through both the University of Texas and this meet, so it's incredible for me."
The impressive performances were not limited to those.
Junior Senoj-Jay Givans ran a wind-aided 10.08 seconds to finish second in the 100 meters. That time puts him at No. 3 in the nation, trailing only TCU's Ronnie Baker at 9.95 and Clemson's Tevin Hester, who Givans lost to on Saturday at 9.99 seconds.
The men's 4x100 meter relay also had a solid showing for the Longhorns. Texas finished second with a time of 39.18 seconds with Charles Anumnu, Bailey, Bilderback and Givans getting the baton around the track. That time also ranks fourth in school history.
In keeping with the excitement of the relays, the women's 4x200 group finished second in 1:32.60. The team of Teahna Daniels, Okolo, Gordon and Akinosun fell to LSU by 1.30 seconds after a poor exchange kept the Longhorns from keeping pace with the Tigers.
Fast times also were run by some distance runners for the Longhorns.
Freshman Alex Rogers proved he likes running at the Texas Relays with a second-place finish in the Jerry Thompson Invitational Men's Mile. He crossed the finish line with an incredible time of 4:01.11. Rogers lost to Jonah Koech of UTEP by just .29. Rogers is no stranger to success on the track at Mike A. Myers Stadium as he saw great success as a high school star at this meet. Last year he won the boys' 3,200 meters and 4x800 meter relay as a senior.
On the field events side of things for the Longhorns, senior Basil Fares posted a new outdoor personal best in the long jump. He leapt 7.40 meters (24-3.50) to finish 10th in Section A of the men's long jump in his final Texas Relays in uniform.
Kally Long cleared 4.20 meters (13-9.25) to keep her strong sophomore season going consistently. She has now cleared that height or better in each of her last five competitions, including indoor season.
Redshirt freshman Lauryn Caldwell took fourth place in Section B of the women's discus with her throw of 46.83 meters (153-7).
The Longhorns will take next week off from competition and return to the track on April 16 for the Texas Invitational on their home track.
Head Coach Mario Sategna
On Morolake Akinosun's victory in the 100 meters: To run that fast this early in the year – that's one of the great benefits of these collegiate athletes. They get a lot of races in towards Olympic Trials and that's a definite benefit. Last night we had nearly 300 people at our alumni dinner. At it, I identified people who were going to make another run at The Olympics, but I also identified people like Morolake (and others). Morolake is definitely in the mix. If you can get through the Trials and get to the final, anything can happen.
On getting honored in front of the crowd as a member of Team USA's Olympic Coaching Staff: We were very fortunate to start earlier in the day by highlighting our seniors. What a phenomenal class when you think about what we've done in a short amount of time. Obviously honoring President Fenves as the honorary referee and his support of the program and of this department. You can see the vision happening around campus as a whole for The University of Texas. For me personally, like an athlete, to be affiliated with the Olympic Games is a pinnacle as an athlete and definitely as a coach. To be a part of The United State of America (Team). I'll approach that position – whether it's grabbing the tape, chalk, whatever they need – you want to do everything you can to help out the United States. Many of the athletes will have their personal coaches, but this is something you don't get a second chance to do. I'm super excited to be a part of it, obviously.
On future Longhorn and girls high school discus and shot put champion Elena Bruckner: That was great to see. I mentioned her in our alumni dinner last night. She's a bundle of joy. She's very vibrant and very outgoing. She has aspirations to go to med school. It was great to see her make the trek from San Jose to what is soon to be her future home.
Senior, Morolake Akinosun
On her performance: It's great, it's my third time running here as a Texas athlete and it feels phenomenal. I've been training for the 100 a lot, it's my best event. It just feels great.
On running 11.07 early in the season: It's fantastic, that was my second 100 of the year. It can only get better from here.
On her goals for the upcoming season: I want a spot on the Olympic team. The way track & field works is who has the best race on that day, so everyone's close. It would mean the world to me. It's something you dream about from the time that you're really little: to see yourself actually on an Olympic team. To know that it's a reachable goal for me, it means a lot.
Senior, Zack Bilderback
On the final stretch of the race: Coming around the corner I just tried to hang onto his hip, because I knew that he was going to start kicking. And then at the end I was trying to feed off the crowd.
On him not seeming that excited by the school record time: I'm just real tired right now. We were just really confident that we were going to break that. It's not a surprise that we broke it, I'm happy that we broke it this early.