Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

The road to Paris: Texas women’s track and field stars set sights on Olympics

Skyler Sharp
Senior Kristine Blazevica jumps over a hurdle during the 100-meter hurdle event of the heptathlon. Blazevica placed third in the heptathlon with 5,662 points.

With the 2024 Olympics on the horizon, current and former stars of the Texas women’s track and field team are in the midst of their journeys to achieve Olympic glory. The stakes for the current outdoor season could not be higher, from veteran Olympians to those new to the international stage. Meet the Longhorns who will be looking to compete in Paris this summer. 

Tara Davis-Woodhall

Tara Davis-Woodhall has incredible momentum heading into preparation for her second Olympics. The California native clinched the long jump world title at the Indoor World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland last month. The gold medal was a breakthrough for her, as she was edged out of a gold medal at the 2023 World Championships by Serbia’s Ivana Španović. There are question marks surrounding Davis-Woodhall’s health after she announced via Instagram stories that she developed a minor achilles injury and an allergic reaction, but assured fans that she is on her way to a full recovery. 

Julien Alfred 

Bowerman Award winner Julien Alfred will look to make a big impact in Paris after she was forced to sit out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to injury. Her performance in Glasgow in March secured Saint Lucia its first ever world indoor medal, as she claimed the 60-meter gold. The 60-meter is not an event at the Olympics, but Alfred is in good position for a top-five finish in the 100 and 200-meter events. At last year’s World Championships in Budapest, Alfred placed fourth in the 200-meter and fifth in the 100-meter events. Alfred will once again face a tremendously formidable talent pool with the likes of Shericka Jackson, Gabrielle Thomas, Sha’Carri Richardson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. However, the margins in both events are incredibly thin, and Alfred has beaten the aforementioned athletes in prelim and semi-final races. The four-time NCAA champion has all the right skills to stand on an Olympic podium. 

Lanae-Tava Thomas

Former Longhorn Lanae-Tava Thomas will look to transform heartbreak into victory. After a third place finish in the 200-meter event at the Jamaican national championships last year, Thomas believed she had secured a spot for the World Championships. At the time, however, her nationality transfer had unknowingly not been completed, and she was off the team. With her transfer from the United States to Jamaica completed in October of 2023, Thomas has eyes set on repeating the same success as last year. A podium placement, a probable feat, at Jamaican nationals in June will secure her spot for the Paris Olympics. Her personal best of 22.38 seconds in the 200-meter would have earned her a 10th place semi-final finish at the 2023 World Championships, just behind fellow Jamaican and Longhorn Kevona Davis.  

Ackelia Smith 

Ackelia Smith, the reigning NCAA champion in long jump and junior, has an uphill climb to Paris. Smith was the clear favorite to win the NCAA indoor national title, but a hamstring tear prior to the meet led her to prelim knockout and a 12th place finish. Since then, Smith has yet to open up her outdoor season, but is expected to return to competition before Jamaican nationals. Despite uncertainties, Smith is still considered a shoe-in to represent Jamaica in the long-jump in Paris, as she competed in both the long and triple jumps at the last two World Championships. If she is injury-free, Smith is expected to make the final round in the long jump in Paris. However, she must improve her triple jump personal best by one centimeter in order to meet the Olympic qualifying mark. 

Kevona Davis

Senior and NCAA champion Kevona Davis had a quiet collegiate indoor season due to injury, not competing at conference championships and placing 14th in the 200-meter event at the indoor national championships. Davis competed at the 2023 World Championships and qualified for the semi-finals. She missed out on the finals by 0.04 seconds. Davis has yet to compete at an outdoor meet this season, indicating that she is easing back into training and competition to not risk reinjury. Like Thomas, a top-three finish is a probable outcome for Davis, but it’s just a matter of staying healthy. 

Kristine Blazevica 

Senior and Big 12 champion Kristine Blazevica eyes an Olympic debut to represent Latvia in the heptathlon event and the pressure is on this outdoor season to meet the Olympic qualification standard. Blazevica’s personal best score of 6,146 points is under the Olympic standard of 6,480 points. Blazevica isn’t unfavorable in any particular events, but in order to increase her personal best, she needs to start producing more consistent results across the event spread. She tends to drop in the rankings of just one or two events, so much so that it hurts her overall score.

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