Steve Sisson

Womens Track Weekend Recap

Texas earned a bid to the NCAA Championships with a second-place finish the South Central Regional Championship on Saturday.

“I am very glad that we met our objective of qualifying for the NCAA Championships,” said coach Steve Sisson.
The Longhorns finished second to Arkansas in the 6K race in Waco.

“Arkansas came out and had an amazing day so credit goes to them,” Sisson said.

Texas finished 20 points behind the Razorbacks for second place, ahead of Texas A&M, SMU and Rice.

Two sophomores led Texas, with Sara Sutherland finishing fourth and Marielle Hall finishing seventh.

“I felt like today was a good day for me,” Sutherland said. “I got to run the race with three of my teammates which gives great energy to everyone.”

Megan Siebert, another sophomore, had the third-best time for the Longhorns, with a 13th overall finish.

“I am very happy with Sara’s race,” Sisson said. “She executed a perfect race plan, one that we designed for her. She has become one of the best runners in the country, and we expect great things from her at the national championships. I also thought Marielle and Megan ran solid races.”

Texas had two more runners in the top 25, with seniors Laleh Mojtabaeezamani finishing 22nd and Mia Behm finishing 23rd. Junior Julie Amthor finished 31st, and sophomore Brittany Marches finished 40th.

“We are looking forward to NCAA Championships and an opportunity to improve on last year’s performance and compete with the best in the country,” Sisson said.

The NCAA Championships will take place on Nov. 21 at the Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind.

Printed on Monday, November 14, 2011: Sophomores help team finish second

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.”

———

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

The Longhorns finished 20th on Monday in their first NCAA Championship meet since 2003. Junior Mia Behm led the team, finishing 35th and earning all-American status.

“There were 31 teams and another 50-plus individuals,” said head coach Steve Sisson. “Every one of the people there belong on the starting line.”

The women were coming off a strong win at the South Central Region meet in Waco on Nov. 13. The NCAA Championship meet took place in Terre Haute, Ind., where the women raced for ISU pre-nationals on Oct. 16.

The preparation and overall fitness helped prime the team for the competitive nature of the NCAA Championship meet. Still, not all of the team was able to fully perform at the competitive stage.

“We got ourselves fit enough that even when we have a disappointing day, we are still competitive,” Sisson said. “In the middle of the race, you have to keep your head about you and pick people off. Megan and Mia were able to do so but the rest of the girls had difficulty moving up the field.”

The warm conditions in Terre Haute worked in the team’s favor, but the windy weather and high density of competitors in the race slowed down the runners.

Overall, Sisson was happy with his team’s effort and excited for Behm’s success.

“We are real proud to be a top-20 team in the country, and we are extremely proud of Mia being an all-American,” he said.

The NCAA Championship marks the end of a season-long goal to prove the Longhorns’ talent and worth.

“We are more of a track team than a cross country team, but I am happy with what we accomplished,” Sisson said. “We took the first step in being on the national stage.”

Much of the team’s success in the 2010 season can be credited to Sisson’s solid coaching, leading to a talented young team with determination that runs deep.

“For me, I think the biggest thing is we made it to the national championships and got a feel for it with a very young team,” Sisson said. “The key now is to take this and turn it into something better.” 

The Longhorns placed first at the NCAA South Central Regional Championship meet in Waco on Saturday. The win earned Texas an automatic bid to the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

“I think winning the regional is the first step of a long process that we started here four years ago,” said head coach Steve Sisson. “This is a step in part of a long extended push in this program to be the best in the country.”

The team placed four runners in the top 10, leading to a 46-point victory. Rice followed with 71 points, and then came Arkansas, Baylor and Texas A&M.

There was laughter and smiles all around at the 6K’s finish line, where Sisson called his runners rock stars.

Junior Mia Behm led the Longhorns with a second-place finish in 20:20.5. Freshman Marielle Hall finished in fifth 20 seconds later. Julie Amthor took sixth, Sara Sutherland ninth, Laleh Mojtabaeezamani 25th, Megan Siebert 27th and Allison Mendez 38th.

Points were totaled using the top five finishers from each team. The five Texas scorers posted 6K career best times. The Longhorns had aimed to put as many runners in the top 15 as possible — four of the top five scorers finished in the top 10.

“My five, six and seven were not very strong today,” Sisson said. “Mia and Marielle did the lion’s share of work throughout the race, and I was really happy with their run. But really, it was a full team effort.”

The Longhorns had a disappointing finish at the Big 12 meet Oct. 30, and used the regional meet as an opportunity to prove their strength as a team.

“It’s the road to the NCAA Championships, and it’s a process where we can get ahead of ourselves,” Sisson said. “So, I spent the last two weeks making sure everyone knew what the region meet meant.”

The Longhorns were able to accomplish their goal of winning the meet, and now they are preparing for their first NCAA Championship meet since 2002.

“It was a tough competition and definitely a testament to our team,” Sisson said. “We turned a corner in the program today and we’re beginning to prove that we belong on the national stage.” 

The Longhorns will compete in the NCAA South Central Regional in Waco on Saturday, a meet where the team’s performance will determine whether they are able to compete in the NCAA Championships later this month.

Texas is coming off a disappointing finish at the Big 12 meet on Oct. 30. Head coach Steve Sisson said that individual athletes struggled at the conference meet, but those struggles are part of how the sport of cross country works.

“Fifth place is just not acceptable for us, to be in the top 15 in the country we should do better than that and we need to continue to do better,” Sisson said. “I think we learned from this, and we will do better at the regional meet.”

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association predicts the Longhorns will place first at the region meet. The association has Arkansas, Rice, Texas A&M and Stephen F. Austin following Texas.

The South Central Region includes the eastern part of Texas, all of Louisiana and Arkansas. Eight other regions in the U.S. will also be having meets to determine which teams can go on to the NCAA Championships.

In order to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, the Longhorns must place in the top two in the Region meet. There are also 12 at-large bids in play, so if Texas finishes third they still have a possible bid.

“My goal is to win,” Sisson said. “My goal is to win in such a way that folks go, ‘Oh my goodness, Texas is really that good.’ It is an important statement as a team to make.”

Junior runner Mia Behm said that the team’s difficulties at the conference meet could actually benefit them at the region meet.

“We are really pumped knowing we are so highly ranked going into the region meet,” Behm said. “But I think conference is good because it is kind of a reality check for us and we realized if we don’t stay focused we won’t always perform at our optimal level.”

The team hopes to make a statement at the region meet, then go for their ultimate goal — a national championship.
“We are just really excited to have a good long distance program,” Behm said. “That combined with the fact that we are really fit and really want it combines to make the perfect storm.” 

When Steve Sisson considered where he would go to college, he wanted more bang for his buck. A Texas state high school champion in the 3200 meter run, Sisson had plenty of options — West Point, UCLA, Oregon and Dartmouth among them. In the end, he decided to attend Texas.

“There is this power to Texas, that if you grow up in the state, and you aren’t already an Aggie, you want to go to Texas,” Sisson said.

Sisson has returned to Texas as a track and field assistant coach and the head coach of the Texas cross country team.

“I bring to the table a lot about Texas, the spirit, the attitude and what I call bleeding orange,” Sisson said.
Sisson was a three-time All-American. In 1993, he finished third in the 5,000 at the NCAA indoor meet and fifth in the 10,000 meter run at the NCAA outdoor event.

“I know the pressure. We are a team that is always vying to win a national championship,” Sisson said. “I can bring to the table an understanding of the pressure.”

After graduating from UT in 1993, Sisson moved to Colorado to train with legendary coach Joe Beehill. Sisson competed in the International Association of Athletics Federations World Half-Marathon Championships in Brussels.

“He has said that going from high school to college is exponentially more difficult, but going from college to the world level is unclassifiably different,” Sisson’s long-time friend John Schrup said. “In that one particular race, even though it takes a little more than an hour, you blink and that hour is gone.”

But training was intensive and led to a severe case of anemia for Sisson.

After giving up on professional running, Sisson taught English in Japan and worked at a subsistence farm in Ecuador before returning to Austin.

Since his return, Sisson worked for RunTex and then started his own company, Rogue, which trains older runners. His own difficulties as a professional runner have inspired him to coach a post-collegiate team of athletes that are working toward Olympic and national goals.

“Only a handful of runners in the world are considered millionaires,” Schrup said. “You are talking about running a couple of hours a day, every day for years. That means you don’t get to go out and party, you have to live this monk-like existence, and running becomes an hourly rate job.”

After founding Rogue, Sisson began coaching at Texas on a volunteer basis in 2005. He was hired full-time in August 2006 and compromised the amount of time he spent coaching older runners.

“I jumped in as a collegiate coach at the age of 36, which is very unconventional because you don’t usually get to jump into an assistant coaching position at a school like Texas,” Sisson said. “I said this is something I want, and I’ve always been someone that follows my heart.”

Pursuing his goals with heart is something Sisson hopes to instill in his athletes.

“The most important piece of my job is making sure these girls walk out of this collegiate experience being wonderful human beings and tougher women,” Sisson said. “Life is similar to distance running, you have to put a goal out there, work for it every day and fight over the tough points.”

His proudest moment as an athlete came during his senior year, when he returned after a year off to place in three events and helped his team win the conference meet. Now his goals include an NCAA Championship and encouraging his team to pursue what they think is impossible.

“He has been known to have a quiet motivation,” said runner Mia Behm. “He makes you feel confident in yourself, he builds you up and makes you feel like the work you put in will bring you success.”

After all the ups and downs of his career, and juggling coaching at Texas and running his own business, Sisson still feels as though he is living the dream.

“Personally it is a pride issue. I feel so proud to have been able to represent my University as an athlete, a student and now as a coach.” 

Although Mia Behm has already had two successful years as a Longhorn athlete, the junior from Tyler isn’t focused on her past achievements — she is looking toward new goals.

“There is a lot left for me to try and accomplish,” Behm said. “But I feel like what I have done so far is good because it has given me the confidence to accomplish new goals.”

Both Behm and cross country head coach Steve Sisson say that Behm’s competitive nature and perseverance make her a unique contributor to the 15th-ranked Longhorn team.

“She is not a quiet girl but she brings a quiet intensity to the team,” Sisson said. “She keeps her goals and ambitions to herself and that allows her to keep really focused.”

Behm said a competitive attitude plays a role in every part of her life — from playing the Wii to running a race. Her competitive nature, coupled with her close relationship with her teammates, has helped many of the runners improve. An example of this dynamic is freshman runner Marielle Hall, who has battled with Behm all season for the top spot on the team.

“I enjoy that Marielle is challenging me,” Behm said. “I am competitive, but I’m glad because it is improving both of us.”

Sisson said that Behm has always been an extreme competitor at the team’s meets, but more recently, her spirited attitude has benefited her in practice as well.

The relationship between Behm and Hall has increased the intensity of Behm’s workouts — something Sisson believes will benefit her in the highly competitive meets the team will be facing soon.

“This year I have noticed that Mia and Marielle run side by side, stride by stride almost in every workout,” Sisson said. “What they have done best for each other is to be able to motivate from a training perspective. Mia has never trained as hard as she has this year and that is thanks to Marielle.”

The Longhorns are currently a young team, with many of the top competitors being freshmen. Sisson said this has allowed Behm to step into the leadership role she was meant to fill.
“Mia is quiet in her way of being a leader,” Sisson said. “She brings a consistency, a constancy and a guarantee that she is going to get the job done that the girls can sort of lean on. She has sacrificed and everyone else has to sacrifice.”

Behm, however, credits her teammates for keeping her motivated.

“When you are on a team together and you suffer through pain together you are pretty much required to be friends,” Behm said. “We get along so well, which is something I think we have on other teams.”

Sisson takes some credit for the spirit of camaraderie among his athletes.

“I look for balance, a level of focus and commitment to running but also a fun-loving, positive, almost looseness and confidence that there is in the group of girls,” Sisson said. “Their friendship brings to the table an amazing feel.”

The team is well balanced but also highly competitive. Sisson says each athlete has individual goals, goals that they encourage each other to reach.

Behm hopes this season she will achieve her ultimate goal — becoming an All-American. To accomplish this, a runner must place in the top 40 at the NCAA Championships.

Sisson says he does not typically make goals for individual runners on his team but makes an exception for Behm.

“My basic belief is that Mia is one of the best collegiate runners in the country,” Sisson said. “You will see much better performances from her coming into the Big 12 and regional and national meets — this is the stage that Mia likes.”

The Longhorns will split up this weekend, with seven runners competing at the ISU Pre-Nationals Invitational in Indiana and six running at the Concordia University Invitational in Round Rock.

The Pre-Nationals Invite will feature runners from 80 teams competing between two races. Each school is only allowed to send seven runners.

With the Big 12 Championships taking place in two weeks, it’s important for head coach Steve Sisson to have the rest of the team compete this weekend.

“The idea is to basically have them run the same day, keep them on the same training schedule and go into the Big 12 meet with the best nine athletes on the starting line,” Sisson said.

The Longhorns posted perfect scores at the first two meets — placing runners in all top five spots. Sisson, however, feels that the smaller initial meets are too different from Pre-Nationals for him to accurately predict how his team will do.

“We are happy with the races we have had,” Sisson said. “We are running a little blind on where we are at from a racing perspective. You have to get into the storm and see how you respond to the storm. I am confident they will do well but I am interested to see how it turns out.”

Sisson said that Pre-Nationals differs from the season’s previous meets in the mental challenges it presents. Although the team has not used strategy so far in the season, for Pre-Nationals each athlete will have their own individual race plan.

Sisson believes that the most significant tests of this weekend are going to be mental challenges.

“Are you ready to go through fire. Are you ready to fight? Are you ready for this to be difficult and to respond to it?” Sisson asked his team.

Despite the difficulties ahead, Sisson feels his team has the potential to be massively successful.

“This is the best cross-country team I have ever coached,” Sisson said. “I believe these girls are primed and ready to exploit that and show the country that they are a good team and they deserve to be on the conversation about a team that can make it to the national championship.”

The Longhorns will split up this weekend, with seven runners competing at the ISU Pre-Nationals Invitational in Indiana and six running at the Concordia University Invitational in Round Rock.

The Pre-Nationals Invite will feature runners from 80 teams competing between two races. Each school is only allowed to send seven runners.

With the Big 12 Championships taking place in two weeks, it’s important for head coach Steve Sisson to have the rest of the team compete this weekend.

“The idea is to basically have them run the same day, keep them on the same training schedule and go into the Big 12 meet with the best nine athletes on the starting line,” Sisson said.

The Longhorns posted perfect scores at the first two meets — placing runners in all top five spots. Sisson, however, feels that the smaller initial meets are too different from Pre-Nationals for him to accurately predict how his team will do.

“We are happy with the races we have had,” Sisson said. “We are running a little blind on where we are at from a racing perspective. You have to get into the storm and see how you respond to the storm. I am confident they will do well but I am interested to see how it turns out.”

Sisson said that Pre-Nationals differs from the season’s previous meets in the mental challenges it presents. Although the team has not used strategy so far in the season, for Pre-Nationals each athlete will have their own individual race plan.

Sisson believes that the most significant tests of this weekend are going to be mental challenges.

“Are you ready to go through fire. Are you ready to fight? Are you ready for this to be difficult and to respond to it?” Sisson asked his team.

Despite the difficulties ahead, Sisson feels his team has the potential to be massively successful.

“This is the best cross-country team I have ever coached,” Sisson said. “I believe these girls are primed and ready to exploit that and show the country that they are a good team and they deserve to be on the conversation about a team that can make it to the national championship.”

Women's cross country

In third grade, Megan Siebert made a promise to her coach and mentor that one day she would be a Longhorn. In return, he promised her he would do everything in his power to help get her to Austin. Ten years later, Siebert is a University of Texas cross country runner that has already contributed to the Longhorns’ early-season success.

“In 16 years of teaching, she is the one student that kept her word,” said Siebert’s former coach James Graham. “She made a promise and she kept a promise. No matter the situation she stayed on course and that speaks a lot for her character.”

Texas posted perfect scores at the first two meets — placing runners in all top five spots. Siebert, a freshman, came in fourth at the Ricardo Romo/Six Flags Texas Classic on Sept. 17 and finished second at the Johnny Morris UH Invititational on Sept. 3.

For Graham, Siebert’s success this early in her career is even more impressive considering her background.
Siebert first found a mentor in Graham when she began attending the Shelton School and Evaluation Center — a school that specializes in ‘learning differences’ — in her hometown of Dallas.

“She was very shy and had some learning differences you could say, and she was struggling to fit in,” Graham said. “In an attempt to find success with her, we adapted some of the programs in physical education and it took off. That developed into a continuous deal; there was a trust built up and a relationship that went on until she graduated.”

When she started attending Shelton and met Graham, nobody expected much from her. Graham was the exception, he had her do timed miles and jump rope competitions, during which she often beat the boys that participated.

Graham’s work with Siebert helped her develop and increased her interest in athletics.

“I had just been moved to that school and a lot of people were concerned about my abilities because I didn’t really talk,” Siebert said. “[Graham] would bring the best out in me; he brought out something I never knew I had.”

When Siebert started public school at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson she continued to train and exercise with Graham.

“He would pick me up in the mornings and help me train,” she said. “He put me in competitions and helped me through those and really encouraged me.”

In high school Siebert continued to run, in addition to playing volleyball and basketball. She was dedicated to athletics — often going above and beyond the normal training schedule.

“Whenever everyone else was dragging into school she was already in the weight room for an hour,” Graham said. “She would stay after school with me, but she never had the coaching that most kids have that go to a big school in Texas.”

Siebert’s determination and hard work, paired with her dedication to the University of Texas appealed to Longhorn head coach Steve Sisson.

“Megan made sure that I was aware of her,” Sisson said. “She is an athlete I say bleeds orange. Her desire to be a Longhorn is one of the key attributes that I look for in an athlete. I am always looking for the kind of athlete that is highly motivated to give back to the school — that is something that Megan really showed.”

Being an athlete at Texas has been dramatically different from the long days she put in with Graham.

“It has been a completely different training environment for her,” Sisson said. “She came from an environment where she had to do a lot of training by herself. It has allowed her to settle in and run.”

Sisson said the new environment and team atmosphere helped Siebert perform well at the first two meets. He said he expects her to be different from a typical freshman.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to work with her for four or five years,” Sisson said. “My guess is that she is going to continue to defy the odds. She is making an immediate impact and I think that bodes well for her.”

Siebert and Graham have continued to stay in contact throughout her time on the 40 Acres. Graham now works at a school in San Antonio and it is written into his contract that if she ever needs him, he will leave work.

“If she calls, I go,” Graham said. “That is an ongoing promise I have had since she was in third grade; I will be there without hesitation.”

Graham said that Siebert’s success in becoming a Longhorn is a testament to her dedication and hard work. As she grew up, he said, she never failed at achieving a goal. Siebert, however, credits him for helping her achieve her ultimate goal — being a Longhorn athlete.

“I have always wanted, first of all, to go to Texas,” Siebert said. “I would always say, ‘I want to go to Texas and I want to run.’ People would tell me it was impossible and coach Graham would always keep my mindset up and say I could do it.”

Initially Sisson was not too confident in Siebert’s future success as a Longhorn, but her performance thus far has changed his mind.

“She was more interested in us than we were in her, but luckily I came to my senses,” Sisson said. “I am really happy that we did pay attention to her because this cross country season she has done well.”

Siebert is just happy that she has fulfilled her dream.

“Running at UT has always been a part of what I wanted,” she said.