Longhorn men, women bring the storm at Texas Relays

Leah Vann

Quietness of anticipation never seemed so desolate. Over 7,500 athletes are entered in the Texas Relays, yet not one of them was in Mike A. Myers Stadium on Friday morning. The morning rain glazed the track with a shiny finish as athletes anxiously waited to break the surface.

Athletes crowded the football stadium and Manor garage, shivering in the cold, jumping and jogging to stay warm for their races. Texas athletes stayed calm as they took cover in the fieldhouse.

“There’s never a clear-cut time on when the events will start in these situations," head coach Mario Sategna said. "That’s part of the anxiety. Our men and women need to learn how to deal with the adverse conditions. They stuck by their guns and they did what they had to.”

When the storm passed, the athletes poured into the stadium, kicking their legs and jumping up and down to warm up for their greatly anticipated races. Spectators packed the stands with blankets and sweatshirts, anxious to watch their athletes.

Freshman Teahna Daniels dug her spikes into the freshly-washed track as the first leg of the 4×100 meter relay began, kicking into the lead around the bend as she handed off to senior Courtney Okolo. Sophomore Shania Collins rounded the bend at third leg, handing off to senior Morolake Akinosun, who crossed the finish in first. The women took third overall in prelims after LSU and Texas A&M.

Akinosun walked away from her sprint relay to prepare for her 100-meter prelim.

“It’s so many emotions,” Akinosun said. “My whole family is here and it’s a lot of fun for me. It’s bittersweet.”

Akinosun had to remain mentally strong when she saw she was one of three runners left running her heat of the 100 meter dash. Many runners had dropped out to avoid injury.

Akinosun qualified for the 100-meter dash final with the top time of 11.25 seconds, Daniels following close behind at 11.53.

“It’s my home track, so I just took it as running at practice all the time on that same straightaway,” Akinosun said.

On the men’s side, junior Charles Anumnu exploded out of the blocks, immediately claiming first in the 4×100 meter relay. Junior Aldrich Bailey took charge on the first straight, making the Longhorns lead more clear out of lane five. Senior Zack Bilderback quickly took the stick around the curve to Senoj-Jay Givans, a previous NCAA qualifier in the 100 meters. The men’s victory earned them the top-seeded time going into tomorrow’s final.

“The men of Texas have not really been looked upon as doing a lot of really great things in the past couple of years,” Bailey said. “I remember when I was at A&M, it was just A&M and LSU, but now Texas is here. Texas is in the mix.”

In addition to the relays, Givans, Bailey, and Anumnu all earned spots in tomorrow’s 100-meter dash final. Also earning spots in tomorrow’s finals were freshman John Burt in the men’s 110 hurdles, senior Mobolaji Adeokun and freshman Ashley Miller in the women’s 100 hurdles.

The cold wind didn’t phase the Texas jumpers. Redshirt sophomore Spencer McCloud reached new heights in high jump, clearing his first seven-foot bar, surpassing it with a jump of seven-feet one-quarter inches to take second overall.

“I’ve been going after that seven foot bar since high school,” McCloud said, “I don’t even know how to explain it. The rush was so exhilarating, and I knew I wasn’t done, so I had to keep my composure to get ready for the next bar.”

At the other end of the stadium, freshman Asa Garcia leapt to No. 1 in the NCAA with a triple jump of 13.29 meters in the A Division. Despite not qualifying for nationals in indoor, Garcia showcased her talent at the beginning of outdoor season by winning at the TCU Invitational two weeks ago and earning Big 12 Athlete of the Week. Her performance on Friday showed more technical improvement.  

“I usually run with my legs behind me and my chest forward, which makes me slower and puts me in a bad position off the board,” Garcia said. “Today, my mechanics were better and I was fast off the board.”

Concluding the night was the finals of the women’s 400 meter hurdles, where No. 1 sophomore Ariel Jones would take the stage.

Jones finished on top with a time of 57.17 seconds. Junior Byron Robinson took the stage against professional runners in the 400 m hurdles invitational after failing to qualify for the collegiate division in a devastating fall on Thursday. Robinson finished first overall with a time of 50.48.

“I got advice from the older guys I ran with," Robinson said. "One of them told me if I ever come up to that last hurdle again, just go ahead and use my other leg, not try to overstretch or stutter it."