Distance runners make trek to West Coast


Rebeca Rodriguez

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

Kristin Otto

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