• Isaac Murphy finishes decathlon campaign with third-place finish

    Texas Relays action kicked off Thursday with the second half of the decathlon. Senior Isaac Murphy had a great start, taking fourth  place in the 400-meter hurdles and following that up with a second place finish in the discus, but finished third in the standings when all was said and done.

    Curtis Beach of Duke and Murphy stayed neck-and-neck through the first seven events in the decathlon, but Murphy was unable to overcome a 137-point gap that Beach created with a win the pole vault.

    Although Beach — and Murphy — showed some weaknesses in the javelin that allowed Romain Martin to leapfrog them into first place, the lead over Murphy once again exploded into 253 points after Beach’s best event — the 1500 meter run.

    Part of the blame for the performance has to go to the layoff Murphy experienced in the indoor season due to his expired eligibility.

    “I’m not as sharp as I was last year at this time, but that’s the plan; I want to be sharp in June.” Murphy said, “I’ve got a long time to go back to the chalkboard and work."

    Though he could be forgiven for moping around after falling into third and failing to repeat as Texas Relays decathlon champion, Murphy is pleased with his performance with in the event.

    “I feel good. I got a score that will get me into nationals.” Murphy said, “[I can] keep on moving with my season. I feel great

    Junior Jake Wohlford, who also competed in the decathlon, wound up in 14th place.

  • Don't think NASCAR is a sport? Think again

    Just because catching a ball isn’t involved in racing doesn’t mean NASCAR drivers aren’t athletes. Here are a few reasons why NASCAR is a sport:

    Pit crew members and NASCAR officials lining up to congratulate Dale Earnhardt Sr. on his 1998 Daytona 500 victory exemplifies sportsmanship.

    The athleticism and mental acuity required is absurd. Could you drive for 500 miles at 200 mph, inches from other cars and walls, with two to three G-forces on you in every turn? And have the temperature of the inside of your car be about 120 degrees?

    Just because there is only one driver in each car doesn’t mean there aren’t teams. Good races start with engineers in each shop and go all the way to the pit crews – who change four tires, fill up the car with fuel and make handling adjustments in 16 seconds or so. Precision and communication are key. Teams are what win races, not drivers.

    Sports today are about business, and NASCAR is a huge one. It has 75 million fans. Each race can draw crowds of 200,000 to the track. A 2012 Forbes article said NASCAR gets about $3 billion year in sponsorship money, which is twice what the NFL earns.

    All of the traditions. A sport steeped in running moonshine, NASCAR has a rich history that it still observes. It’s a modern sport, but it respects its history. “Gentlemen, start your engines,” burnouts, victory lane celebrations, Speedweeks, kissing the bricks in Indy. It goes on and on.

    The excitement alone is enough of a reason to view NASCAR as a sport. Take last weekend’s race in California as an example. There was a last-lap crash between the first and second place drivers and then there was a brawl on pit road, followed by an angry Tony Stewart rant to the media. Drama is forever present in this sport.

  • MLB predictions: Who will win the AL West?

    The West looks to be a three-team race in 2013 between the Angels, A’s and Rangers.

    The Astros…well…The Mariners could put together a decent .500 season on the strength of their solid rotation and bullpen. Although the lineup has serious power, it also has run production issues. Until that issue is addressed, it will be hard for the Mariners to compete with the top dogs in the AL.

    I believe the Rangers will encounter more difficulty than they have over the past few seasons. They will rely heavily on Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Lance Berkman and Ian Kinsler to make up for the runs they lost with the departure of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli. The lineup includes lots of aging talent, but talent, nonetheless.

    Meanwhile, look for the A’s and the Angels to battle it out for the division crown. Maybe Billy Beane and “Moneyball” have convinced me to subconsciously believe in the A’s, even though they may not boast the star power other teams do. Their never-say-die style of play and extremely talented, young pitching staff has also made me very optimistic about their future.

    The Angels are coming off a very disappointing season, in which they missed the playoffs after making two huge deals. This year - after the addition of Hamilton to a lineup that already includes all-stars Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo - I don’t see how the Angels don’t win the division and make the playoffs easily. The rotation will rely heavily on stars Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, but I see it being enough to get the job done.

  • MLB predictions: Who will win the AL Central?

    The division looks to be Detroit’s for the taking in 2013, much like 2012. The Twins are in complete rebuilding mode. The Royals are at least a couple years out from making a playoff push, but could put together a solid, winning season. The White Sox are getting old like the Yankees, but unlike the Bronx Bombers, Chicago does not have the proven talent the Yankees do.

    Adam Dunn and Alex Rios are the top White Sox bats. But the pitching rotation, outside of Chris Sale, is questionable. Cleveland will be an interesting team to watch this season. It made some solid moves during the offseason, with the additions of infielder Mark Reynolds and outfielders Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Drew Stubbs.

    Those additions to a lineup that already included Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana should make the Indians' offense exciting to watch. Unfortunately, the pitching staff is not of the same caliber as the offense. Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson headline the rotation, but both are huge question marks after their performances in 2012.

    Expect this year’s Detroit Tiger team to eclipse its 2012 win total of 88 and push for the best record in baseball. With Cabrera, Fielder, Jackson, Martinez and Hunter pacing the offense and Verlander, Fister, Scherzer and Sanchez forming one of the best rotations in baseball, it’s pretty apparent Detroit is the class of the Central.

  • MLB predictions: Who will win the AL East?

    To every baseball fan’s delight, the first pitch of the season is scheduled for this Sunday in Houston, as the Rangers meet their new division rivals, the Astros. As a lifelong Astros fan, it pains me that one of the easiest predictions to make for the upcoming season is that the Astros will finish in last place in the AL West. Having already made my prediction for the 2013 NL Champion (Washington), it’s only fitting that this week I predict the 2013 AL Champion and each American League division winner.

    I’ll start with trying to tackle what looks to be the toughest division to predict in 2013. Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, I see Boston finishing last for the second consecutive year.

    I believe that John Farrell was a solid choice to get the Red Sox back on track and they will finish much better than their 69-93 record in 2012, but I don’t see him making the club World Series relevant again within his first year. I believe in 2013, baseball fans will see an occurrence that hasn’t happened since 1993.

    For the first time in 20 years, both the Yankees and the Red Sox will not make the playoffs. The Yankees are getting old and it shows. 32-year-old Curtis Granderson was hit by a pitch during spring training and is out until at least May. 32-year-old Mark Teixeira hurt his wrist taking hacks off a tee and his return this season is questionable. 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez faces the same fate as Teixeira with his hip injury and 38-year-old Derek Jeter will miss opening day and more with his ankle injury. Heck, even Brian Cashman, the Yankee GM, broke his leg and dislocated his ankle after a skydiving stunt with the Army.

    I believe that the Rays and Blue Jays will both make the playoffs, with the Rays winning the division. The Orioles had a nice run last season and were rewarded with a playoff berth, but their 2013 projected pitching rotation is an absolute mess.

    Most know about the blockbuster deals the Blue Jays made this year, with the additions of Reyes, Melky, Dickey, Johnson and Buehrle. Meanwhile, the Rays made some quiet, yet effective, moves themselves with the additions of shortstop Yunel Escobar, first baseman James Loney, and perhaps the best prospect in the MLB, outfielder Wil Myers. It could take a few games for the Blue Jays to smooth things out and get in synch. I think the Rays and their great team chemistry will hit the ground running and never look back in 2013.