Two weekends ago, the Longhorns placed a disappointing seventh at the Big 12 championships. With five conference championships to their name since 1996, the poor performance was uncharacteristic. Now, as Friday’s NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., approach, the team is looking to get back into its usual championship form.
“Whatever happened yesterday, you have to move on,” head coach Beverly Kearney said about the team’s outlook.
Although the Big 12 championship may be in the past, some of the problems that hindered the team at that meet linger. The Longhorns are still short on depth — only four individuals and one relay team will make the trip to Fayetteville.
“We just have less room for error, so we’re going to have to maximize on what we’ve got,” Kearney said about overcoming this shortage of competitors.
Luckily for Kearney and the Longhorns, history is on their side. The team is currently riding a seven-year streak of top-10 finishes. More importantly, they have finished fourth the past two years with teams that only consisted of three individuals and one relay.
This past success, which has come without a lot of depth, can partially be attributed to the difference in scoring systems between the national and conference meets.
According to redshirt junior Betzy Jimenez, the conference meet awards the most points for placing a lot of athletes, but the national meet awards the most points for placing these athletes in top positions. So, the Longhorns’ concerns about depth can be overcome if each individual places well.
“At nationals, it’s about quality, not quantity,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez, a distance specialist who will be competing in the 3,000-meter and the mile, missed all of the 2009 season due to injury. If this weren’t enough, a recent illness forced her to miss a week of practice prior to the Big 12 championships. With her illness now under control and her health intact, Jimenez says she’s ready to let loose.
“When you battle all these obstacles, it just makes you want it that much more,” Jimenez said. “I’m ready to go out and have some fun.”
Joining Jimenez will be senior shot putter Jordyn Brown, junior long jumper Chantel Malone, and sophomore sprinter Angele Cooper. Malone and Cooper, along with Judy Nwosu and Stacey-Ann Smith, also make up the 4x400-meter relay team that will be competing.
Brown, the team’s only individual All-American, will bring the most experience to the meet.
She heads into the meet ranked 13th, but she placed fourth at last year’s national championship.
Though not as seasoned as the senior shot putter, Malone and Cooper have also been tested on the national stage. The two were both members of last year’s outdoor 4x400-meter national championship team. Malone will come in as the reigning Big 12 long jump champion, and Cooper placed second in the 400-meter at the conference championship.
“We can’t hold ourselves back by thinking too much,” Cooper said. “We’ve been practicing everyday for this. Now it’s just time to go out there and fight for Texas.”
What: NCAA Championships
Where: Fayetteville, Ark.
When: All Day Friday/Saturday
Tickets/On Air: N/A