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Track & Field Review

Texas’ Isaac Murphy looks to clear a hurdle during 110-meter hurdles in the decathlon at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Longhorns’ spring track and field season came to an end this weekend at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. The men’s team started strongly, but finished tied for ninth place with 22 points on the weekend while the women’s team finished in 11th place with 20 points.

Junior Marquise Goodwin, also one of the Longhorns’ football stars, set the pace for men’s team, winning his second national championship in the long jump on the first day of competition. Goodwin dominated the long jump leader board, posting the top four jumps of the day and ending with a lengthy 8.23m (27-0) jump on his final attempt.

“It feels great,” Goodwin said. “It was a great day to compete out here. There were a lot of great competitors out here jumping that beat me before, but I just felt it today and went out there and got it done.”

On the women’s side, sophomore Shanay Briscoe also came close to a national championship after leaping a career-best 1.90m (6-2.75) in the high jump. The mark was enough to capture second place, an improvement on her third-place finish in 2011.

“Shanay is really evolving into an amazing competitor,” women’s head coach Beverly Kearney said. “She is still learning how good she is. She has learned to be a fighter and a competitor this year, which will help her next year.”

The youth on Texas’ roster contributed to the strong start by the men with All-American performances by underclassmen. Sophomore Ryan Dohner finished seventh in the 10,000m run, while freshman Ryan Crouser finished fourth in the discus throw.

A pair of sophomores, Danielle Dowie and Christy Udoh, also performed well for the women’s team, taking matching sixth place finishes in the 400m hurdles and 200m dash, respectively. Dowie, along with Angele Cooper, Briana Nelson and Kendra Chambers, also earned a fifth place finish in the 4x400m relay despite some handoff confusion during the event.

Additional All-American finishes included junior Isaac Murphy in the decathlon and senior Jacob Thormaehlen in the shot put, who both took seventh place in their events. Junior Keiron Stewart also placed eighth in the 110m hurdles.

“It’s good to be an All-American again,” Thormaehlen said. “As Texas, we’re a Division I institution and we’re top of the line athletics, so it’s expected of us. We did what we expected. It’s a good thing to be an All-American, but it sucks not to win.”

Fresh off two separate tournament wins, the Longhorns are poised to win a third straight when they begin competition in the 103rd annual Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

After UT divided and conquered last week at the Mt. SAC Relays and the Longhorn Invitational, a reunited and improved No. 10 Texas is geared up for a forge into the final regular meet of the outdoor season.

Hosted by Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa — the site of the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships — the 103rd Annual Drake Relays draws athletes from across the country to compete in 120 events.

While today marks the first day of multiple individual events at the meet, two dozen Longhorns are scheduled to compete in 12 track and field events over the course of Friday and Saturday.

As Texas has not made an appearance at the Relays since the meet’s centennial celebration, it will be up to the team veterans who found success as freshmen, along with head coach Beverly Kearney, to lead the less-experienced Longhorns to victory in Des Moines.

“We know it will be good competition. We are looking for good relay performances from the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter. We are also going to be focused on the jumps and other individual areas,” Kearney said.

Burnt orange will make its first appearance at the Drake Relays tomorrow morning in the first University division event of the day. With two wins under its belt, a powerhouse Texas quartet will take on the 4x100-meter relay prelims.

Later in the afternoon, four Longhorns will also come together to run in the prelims of the 4x400-meter relay — a race in which UT currently occupies the top national seed.

Four years ago, Texas claimed victories in both events at the Drake Relays with NCAA-qualifying marks. Consequently, a lot of pressure is riding on standout Longhorns like Allison Peter, Christy Udoh and Chalonda Goodman, the three of whom will also be competing in the 100-meter prelims tomorrow afternoon, to lead UT to both relay finals on Saturday afternoon.

Rebounding from an injury with a first-place, personal-best performance at the Longhorn Invitational, Angele Cooper, who ran a leg in the 4x100-meter in 2009, will return to compete in the 400-meter hurdles.

In the field events, two seniors that will be returning to the Drake Relays include Amanda Van Dyke in the shot put and Okwukwe Okolie in the discus.

Texas athletes must remain focused at the “mega-meet” if they want a chance to return to Des Moines to compete at Nationals come June.

Printed on Thursday, April 26, 2012 as: Longhorns return to Des Moines, compete in 103rd Drake Relays

Xi Jinping | China’s Vice President

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — The last time China’s soon-to-be leader visited Iowa, he slept in a bedroom with green shag carpeting and Star Trek character cutouts on the walls. He ate eggs with a spoon because his host forgot the chopsticks.

But apparently Xi Jinping remembered the 1985 stay fondly because he insisted on returning this week to Muscatine, a small farming community he toured to learn about crop and livestock practices.

Back then, he was a young Communist Party leader seeking ideas to help his agriculture-rich region of northern China. Now the nation’s vice president, he made certain to add Muscatine to his jam-packed itinerary so he could reunite with the same Americans who showed him around the region’s hog and cattle operations and its abundant corn and soybean fields.

“I’m flabbergasted that he would take time out of his busy schedule and come back to Muscatine,” said Eleanor Dvorchak, whose family hosted him for two nights.

Although Dvorchak and her husband have since moved to Florida, they planned to return Wednesday for Xi’s hour-long visit, and several other local farmers and residents he encountered will be there, too.

Some local officials were encouraged that specifically Iowa agriculture was to play such a prominent part in a trip by the future leader of the world’s most populous country.

“It sends a signal that the new leader is not a stranger to the U.S. and that he has experience and familiarity with America by reaching right into the heartland,” said David Shorr, a foreign-policy specialist at the Stanley Foundation.

Xi is expected to ascend to the nation’s highest office next year and could lead China over the next decade. His schedule called for him to meet with President Barack Obama on Tuesday in Washington before flying to Iowa.

China has become an increasingly important trading partner for the United States. It purchased $20 billion in U.S. agriculture exports last year, making it the top buyer of farm goods.

In 1985, Xi stayed with the Dvorchaks, their 15-year-old daughter, and their dog in a four-bedroom ranch home. The Star Trek-themed room had been left unchanged after the couple’s sons went to college.

Eleanor Dvorchak, now 72, recalled a handsome 31-year-old man who was calm and intensely focused on learning as much as possible during his brief trip. He kept busy until late each day, so all he needed when he returned in the evening was peace and quiet, she said.

“My job was to provide him with breakfast and a quiet place for him to relax and think, to give him time to pull his thoughts together for the next day,” she said. “It was just a pleasure to have him in our home. He was very undemanding.”

The language barrier made conversation difficult, but Xi was interested in touring the home and seemed impressed with the two-car garage and large concrete driveway that had a basketball hoop, she said.

She speculated that Xi wanted to return because volunteers in Muscatine were generous with their time as they showed the Chinese delegation their farms and the community, and invited them into their homes.

Cynthia Maeglin, who hosted two men who accompanied Xi in 1985, said she and her husband were accustomed to inviting overseas guests into their home since they hosted exchange students after studying abroad in high school.

Xi and the Chinese guests would have breakfast, then leave for the day to visit farms and businesses. The men got an up-close look at small-town life, and Maeglin believes it stuck with them.

“I think from just being in our home, they could see how we lived,” Maeglin said. “At the time, our youngest son was still living at home. They could see how our family life was.”

Sarah Lande, whose family hosted a dinner during that visit, is organizing the reunion at the request of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. She plans to gather about 16 people for tea or champagne to reminisce.

After the Muscatine visit, Xi is to fly to Des Moines for a reception with political and business leaders and a dinner hosted by Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

On Thursday, he was scheduled to attend the first U.S.-China Agriculture Symposium in Des Moines. China’s minister of agriculture, Han Changfu, was also expected to attend.

Branstad compares the significance of Xi’s visit to the 1979 Iowa visit of Pope John Paul II and the 1959 farm stop by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

“The fact that he’s going to be the leader of China, he obviously has a very friendly and positive feeling about Iowa,” Brandstad said. “It could be a tremendous asset for us going forward.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 as: China's future leader revisits Iowa town with fond memories