For the past weeks, the Longhorn track and field athletes have focused more on their individual performances. But now, with the Big 12 Indoor Championships at hand, the focus is on defending their team titles.
“In our previous meets throughout the year, it’s about performing in your best in your individual events,” senior sprinter Morolake Akinosun said. “But at the conference meet, the team aspect of track and field really comes out.”
Longhorn men won last year’s championships by a historic margin of 44.5 points, tallying 140 points total. Senior sprinter Zack Bilderback emphasized their desire to light the Tower orange once again.
“I feel like everyone is willing to do whatever is necessary to win,” Bilderback said. If they told me to go run the mile or the 800, I would say, ‘OK, sure, if it’s what I got to do.’ Whatever it takes to win the trophy.”
Bilderback, who holds the school record in the 400-meter at 45.98 seconds, will be looking for a 1-2 finish with teammates junior A.J. Bailey Jr. or junior Chris Irvin in the 400. Byron Robinson will join the group in the men’s 4×400 meter relay, which currently stands at No. 13 in the NCAA.
On the field, the men hope to claim titles in long jump and shot put. Freshman jumper Steffin McCarter currently stands 9 centimeters behind the conference leader, Kansas State jumper Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye. Senior thrower Ryan Crouser hopes to become the first collegiate to throw 70 feet in the shot put.
Last year, the Texas women seized the title with the final event, the 4×400 meter relay, overtaking Kansas State in an overall tally of 139 to 132.5 points.
This year’s 4×400 meter relay team consisting of Morolake Akinosun, Chrisann Gordon, Ariel Jones and Courtney Okolo currently ranks No. 1 in the NCAA. Akinosun is also looking for a 1-2 finish alongside freshman Teahna Daniels in the 60-meter.
Looking to add more points to the board are senior Courtney Okolo and junior Chrisann Gordon in the 400-meter. Okolo currently holds the fastest time in the world at 51.16 seconds, while Gordon stands at No. 3 in the Big 12.
The Big 12 Indoor Championships are the first step towards the NCAA Championships on March 11 and 12. But head coach Mario Sategna said they’re not looking ahead.
“The goal that we first talk about in our first team meetings is first and foremost the conference championship,” Sategna said. “We are not looking ahead to the NCAAs, it’s really solidifying and adding to that history and tradition.”