Texas track and field heads to Iowa State for conference championship meet

Jenna Jaffray, Sports Reporter

The No. 1 women’s and No. 3 men’s Texas track and field teams head to Ames, Iowa, this weekend for the Big 12 Indoor Championships hosted by Iowa State. 

Expectations are high for athletes. Texas looks to sweep the men’s titles for the second year in a row and 10th time ever. The women’s team aims for its fifth title in a row and their 13th since 1997.

Texas boasts an impressive resume going into the meet, claiming at least one spot in either the men’s or women’s Big 12 Indoor Athlete of the Week Award every week this season. The team has also made multiple new school records that highlight the success of the Longhorns, including freshman Ackelia Smith in triple jump, senior Jonathon Jones in the 800-meter and Brooke Jaworski in the 800-meter. 

Despite their success, Texas is not going to Iowa State at full strength, as multiple athletes are out of competition due to injury. 

“I still think that overall as a team, we’re strong enough to prevail,” head coach Edrick Floréal said. “Hopefully we’ll get them back for the NCAA (meet).” 

The teams have faced other challenges this season, including canceled flights while traveling to their New Mexico meet and another surge of the omicron COVID-19 variant.  

“The closer your team, the more time they spend together, the better they perform,” Floréal said. “But that’s the ‘Catch-22’ during COVID because the more time they spend together, the more likely they get and give each other that disease, so we were trying to be cognizant of that.”

Despite his difficulty building a championship culture due to the restrictions of COVID-19, Floréal said he is confident that the team will “raise their game” this weekend. 

Texas Tech is close on the heels of Texas, ranked No. 5 and No. 6 for the men’s and women’s teams, respectively. Tech performed well at meets where Texas was also competing, claiming two of three podium spots in the men’s 600-yard and 200-meter finals, as well as a podium in the women’s 60-meter hurdles invite finals, at the Red Raider Open in January.

Oklahoma State is ranked No. 21 on the women’s side, another close competitor considering multiple Texas athletes will be out of the competition. The Cowgirls fell short of claiming the title in 2021, taking second to Texas. 

“The competition’s a little bit tighter,” Floréal said. “We’re going to have to have a pretty good lead to win.” 

Although the Longhorns have performed well in meets this season, they’ve yet to compete against multiple Big 12 teams. This leaves room for other schools to potentially claim podium positions in events Texas has dominated this season. 

Even though the outdoor season is right around the corner, kicking off in Austin with the Longhorn Invitational on Saturday, March 5, Floréal says that he keeps the two seasons separate for athletes. 

“They don’t have to drag disappointment of one into another,” Floréal said. “Sometimes you’re not successful, but you still have to proceed to the next.” 

There will be some overlap, though, since the NCAA Indoor Championships take place the weekend after the outdoor season starts. 

“I just want them to do the absolute best they can and compete like Texas Longhorns,” Floréal said. “I’m expecting that we’ll contend for a conference championship on both sides and that the kids will perform to their very best ability.”

The conference championship meet will kick off with the multi events and preliminary rounds Friday before the finals and other multi events Saturday.