Julie Amthor

Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan file photo Senior hurdler Angele Cooper focuses on her footwork during the 85th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Nine of UT’s most developed middle and long distance runners are set on striking gold at the renowned 54th Annual Mt. SAC Relays.

In 1959, Hilmer Lodge founded the Relays with the intent of creating opportunities. In particular, Lodge wanted a meet that offered female athletes equal opportunities as their male counterparts. Over the years, the event has evolved into a unique opportunity to showcase an aspect of track that is too often overlooked.

“[The Mt. SAC Relays] is going to be more of a distance-based meet. It’s rare that you find some of your top middle-distance and distance runners in one place,” head coach Beverly Kearney said. “And the weather in California is really conducive to the distance events.”

With a forecasted temperature of about 80 degrees and clear, sunny skies, the Mt. SAC Relays will commence at 2 p.m. with the university/open women’s 1500-meter. Longhorns Julie Amthor, Connor Ward and Anne Jones are among the 160 competitors scheduled to compete in the first event of the three-day meet.

At last weekend’s Texas Invitational, Amthor had a season-best performance that earned her the top collegiate finish in the 1500-meter. Slicing over eight seconds off her time from Texas Relays, she is gaining momentum as a team leader as well as a major threat to the competition.

Although she ran in the 1500-meter last weekend, Brittany Marches will take on the daunting open 3000-meter steeplechase. The sole athlete representing UT in the event, the redshirt freshman will aim for her second steeplechase win this season.

At 9:15 p.m., senior Laleh Mojtabaeezamani will wrap up the first day of competition with the last women’s event of the night, the Olympic development elite division of the 10,000-meter run. Last weekend, Mojtabaeezamani had a notably improved performance, the fastest collegiate finish in the 3000-meter. However, tonight will be the first time for her to compete in the 10-kilometer this season.

On day two of the Mt. SAC Relays, four more Texas middle and long distance runners will participate in three races (the 800-meter as well as in two divisions of the 5000-meter) in the afternoon and into the late evening.

The Olympic development elite division of the 5000-meter will feature a pair of sophomores who are currently among Texas’ top athletes, Marielle Hall and Sara Sutherland. Hall found success in the event early with a first-place finish at the Texas Relays.

Although Sutherland has yet to compete in the 5-kilometer this outdoor season, she held the fastest Longhorn time in the race last year as a freshman.

The Mt. SAC Relays is tailored to highlight the talents of these Texas runners and is a special occasion for them to take pride in their events. But they must remain focused, as Kearney holds high standards with the postseason quickly closing in.

“[The athletes] going out to California, we’re expecting great performances that will set them up not only for Conference, but for Nationals as well.”

Printed on Thursday, April 19, 2012 as: Mt. SAC Relays upnext for UT

Womens Track and Field

T?he Longhorns have moved up to take the No. 3 spot in the nation according to a new poll by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. This honor can be attributed to the hard work of all the athletes, but also to the contributions of distance runners.

The distance women competed last weekend at the highly competitive Husky Invitational in Seattle. Other teams that participated included No. 1 Oregon, No. 6 Tennessee, and No. 10 BYU.

At the Husky Invitational, junior Mia Behm automatically qualified for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships with a time of 15.58.34 in the 5000m. Behm raced the second-fastest time ever at the University of Texas for the 5000m.

In the 3000m at the invitational, redshirt senior Betzy Jimenez posted a season-best 9:20.26 to finish 10th overall in the 3000m race. Other contributors included Sara Sutherland (26th), Julie Amthor (32nd) and Laleh Mojtabaeezamani (56th).

“It’s awesome because I feel that the team couldn’t rely on distance in the past to be contributing,” Behm said. “It’s nice to feel like part of the team, like we are actually doing something to help them.”

Distance coach Steve Sisson said the track season has been on the team’s mind since the summer. The cross country season helped his team prepare, he said.

“The successes we had in cross country transferred into track,” Sisson said. “The way I designed what we are doing is around the outdoor National Championships. Our program, our attitude and our approach is to make sure we are ready to race but also for us to perform late rather then early. We still have room for improvement, but we are about where we need to be in terms of progress.”

Behm agreed that the high level of success the distance runners achieved during cross country has encouraged them through the start of the track season.

“I think it set the bar higher for us going into track,” she said. “Which is good, we like a challenge and it is awesome that people expect us to do things now instead of expecting us to do nothing.”

Behm said that the transition to track has been an easy one for the distance runners. She said many of the athletes were relieved to train and compete on a flat surface, a track with a more predictable terrain.

They feel their best performances will happen at the outdoor meets.

“I think we have at least six girls that could score for indoors and even more for outdoor,” Behm said. “Outdoor we are going to be pretty phenomenal. We have some 10K runners that are going to shine outdoors and can’t contribute indoors.”

All of the women on the team are gearing up for the ultimate goal — a national title.

“That should be our goal because that is the top of all aspirations, but it’s not far off for the University of Texas,” Sutherland said.
Despite their success , the long distance runners all agree that in the quest for a national title, it is most important that they contribute to the team as a whole.

“Scoring points for the team, that’s our goal,” Sisson said. “We are just one part of the track team, the distance program is just one small part. We have all kinds of athletes and the distance runners are just trying to play their part and have an impact.”

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Mia Behm 5000m 15:58.34
Betzy Jiminez 3000m 9:20.26
Sara Sutherland 3000m 9:30.60
Julie Amthor 3000m 9:38.95