Longhorns look to send A&M off to SEC by winning Big 12 in College Station

Kristin Otto

As the Longhorns head to College Station this weekend for the Big 12 Championships, the meet is more than just another conference championship. This is the last time the team will face Texas A&M in conference play. The Longhorns are determined to send the Aggies off to the SEC with a bitter taste in their mouths.

“It’s [going to be] hand-to-hand combat … the Big 12 conference belongs to the University of Texas,” head coach Beverly Kearney said.

Sporting a record of 19 out of 30 conference UT team titles, Kearney has declared conference war. Armed with some of the nation’s most dangerous athletes, she will lead her team into College Station this weekend to compete in the Big 12 Indoor Championships.

In the latest national poll, five Big 12 women’s teams rank in the top 15: No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 7 Kansas, No. 11 Texas, No. 12 Texas Tech and No. 13 Iowa State.

However, as the Longhorns have continued to improve in their individual performances throughout the season, Coach “Bev” and the team consider national ranks to be irrelevant going into the Big 12 Championships.

“I don’t pay attention to national ranking,” Kearney said. “The main thing I’m focusing on is moving my team forward each week, and every week we’ve gotten better. We can’t control what happens nationally. We’re going in [to College Station] to go after that conference championship because we’ve got A&M at their last indoor conference championship at A&M … it’s going to be a battle.”

As a conference-parting gift, Texas is on a mission to buck Texas A&M off its high horse and out of the top of the national ranking. And winning the last Big 12 Championships held in Aggieland would be icing on the farewell cake.

Unlike any other meet during the season, the Big 12 Indoor Championships requires individuals to win points for their respective teams by placing in the top 8, with first place earning a team the maximum 10 points, down to eighth place which adds one point to a team’s cumulative score.

“Conference is always about the team … period. [This is] that one meet in the year when it’s not about you,” Kearney said.

Kearney, a 15-time Conference Coach of the Year at Texas, has mapped out the meet’s roster with a strategy guided by a this-team-comes-first mentality. Some Longhorn athletes will even sacrifice the opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships in certain races this weekend and instead compete in the events in which they are confident they can rack up the most points for the team.

Texas’ three returning indoor conference titleholders — 600-yard champion Kendra Chambers, 1,000-meter winner Marielle Hall and last year’s Big 12 high jump victor Shanay Briscoe — are prepared to promote the selflessness they know is crucial to securing a win in College Station.

“At the end of the day it’s going to be more exciting if we get a team title than if I improve a couple of seconds,” said Hall, a New Jersey native. “I’ve never been to A&M and I’m from out-of-state so the tradition of the rivalry [at the Big 12 Championships] — especially being at A&M for the last time — will be interesting [to experience].”

Chambers, a junior indoors, is looking forward to earning points for her team with a repeat 600-yard victory as well as with a first place in the 4×400-meter relay. However, she is determined to clench more than wins in her events — she wants tangible proof that Texas is the best in the Big 12.

“[The Big 12 Championships] is the first time we get to come together as a team and win something collectively,” Chambers said. “It’s a big deal because [we’re competing] at A&M for the last time. It’s for [the] conference and we want to be able to show Texas pride and come back to Austin with something … like a trophy.”

The Longhorns aim to send them off without a conference championship.

Printed on Friday, February 24, 2012 as: A&M rivalry inspires team even further to win meet