Big 12 Indoor Championship on line

Sam Bellessa

With the NCAA Indoor Championship meet looming, the Longhorns have one final statement to make before looking ahead to nationals.

The Texas track and field team will travel to Ames, Iowa, this weekend to compete in the Big 12 Indoor Championships. Trophies will be on the line for the first time in a season that started all the way back on Dec. 7, 2019.

“There’s a lot more at stake,” senior sprinter John Burt said. “It’s not just another meet.”

Texas is one of the favorites to win the Big 12 title. Both the men’s and women’s teams are the highest-ranked squads of the conference in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association rankings, but it isn’t a forgone conclusion that Texas will hoist the team trophy.

Texas Tech steadily climbed the national rankings this season and is now only a few spots behind the Longhorns on both the men’s and women’s sides. While the Texas women have the Big 12 lead in the Conference Track and Field Rating Index, the men are in second behind Texas Tech.

The individual performances will be almost as important as how the team fairs. The conference championship is the last chance for athletes to put up a mark that qualifies for the national championships in March. Only the top 16 athletes and top 12 relay teams in the country get to compete at nationals. As of now, nine athletes and three relay teams from Texas would qualify.

“Everyone’s still trying to get marks,” sophomore sprinter Kynnedy Flannel said. “It’s just more intense because indoor is coming to an end, and everything counts now.”

There’s plenty of confidence surrounding the team going into the weekend. The Texas women are two-time defending conference champions and have won five of the last six. The men won the title back in 2017 and have a chance to win their fourth conference championship since 2013. Texas has three individual defending champions: Burt in the 60-meter hurdles, Flannel in the 200-meter dash and junior Tripp Piperi in the shot put.

Other names to watch include sophomore sprinter Julien Alfred and senior jumper O’Brien Wasome. Alfred ran the fastest 60-meter time in the country this season and is just behind Flannel at sixth in the 200-meter. Wasome leads the conference in the triple jump and is second in the long jump.

Heading into the weekend, the message Texas head coach Edrick Floréal is sending around the team has been about staying focused on the goal of a championship.

“Put ourselves in a position to win a national championship and the conference,” Burt said. “One of the main things (Floréal) was saying is as long as you can be top three in your event, that’ll probably get us enough points to be able to win.”

Texas will either continue its dominance over the conference or have to shift focus to the few that will make it to nationals. The more Longhorns that prove they belong among the elite, the better chance they have to achieve their ultimate goal of a national championship. This weekend is the final opportunity the Longhorns have to show they deserve to be ranked at the top.