Mario Sategna already knows he’s going to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — the track and field head coach is an assistant on Team USA. He just doesn’t know which of his former athletes will join him.
Starting on June 30, a mix of 10 current and former Longhorns will compete for spots on the Jamaican and U.S. Olympic teams. Team USA will host its trials in Eugene, Oregon, while Jamaica’s will take place in Kingston, Jamaica.
“We really tried to hype it up with the alumni at Texas Relays to show what this year meant,” Sategna said. “Anytime an Olympic year rolls around we know it’s going to be big in our sport of track and field.”
Juniors Senoj-Jay Givans and Chrisann Gordon currently stand as top-five runners in Jamaica going into the trials. Gordon has international experience after running on the Jamaican team at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, but Givans hopes to be a newcomer to the global competition. If Givans makes the 100-meter finals, he will line up against the world’s greatest: Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake.
“I’ve just gotta do what I always do,” Givans said, “Line up and run with the wind. The first, second and third fastest guys in the world will be in that final and if I think about that it’ll slow me down.”
Three former Longhorn women have a chance to represent the U.S. in the 400-meter: Sanya Richards-Ross, Ashley Spencer and Courtney Okolo.
Okolo, who just graduated, recently set the collegiate record 400-meter time of 49.72 at the LSU Alumni Gold Invitational. She stands as one of the favorites to make the team at the Olympic trials.
“My mindset is that I’m an underdog” Okolo said. “Some of these women have been to the Olympics and have more experience than me, but I consider being the underdog a good position to be in.”
Joining Okolo as recent Texas graduates are sprinter Morolake Akinosun and thrower Ryan Crouser. Akinosun was part of the team that took first in the 4x400-meter relay at the NCAA Championships, along with third in the 100-meter and fourth in the 200-meter. Crouser is a four-time NCAA shot put champion and currently holds the collegiate record with a throw of 21.73 meters.
Former Longhorns Trey Hardee, Leo Manzano and Richards-Ross have all medaled in the Olympics before, but have to qualify again in Eugene. In addition, former Longhorn and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin will seek to qualify and potentially earn his first Olympic medal.
“You go into every Olympics thinking you have a chance,” Manzano said. “You have to think like that. You also got to be realistic. You have to know who your competitors are. Everybody competing at that level is extremely good.”
There are no guarantees at the Olympic trials, but assistant coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said that’s part of the experience.
“I don’t know who is going to Rio,” Buford-Bailey said. “There were times where I shouldn’t have been on the team and I was because other people didn’t have a good day. Everybody has an equal chance in the finals at trials.”