The Texas track and field squads will attempt to divide and conquer this weekend as they compete across the country Friday and Saturday.
Several long-distance runners will make the trip up to Boston, Massachusetts, to race at the Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic. The rest of the track and field athletes will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, competing in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Collegiate Invitational.
Coming into the spring season, both the Texas men’s and women’s teams were ranked fourth in the country in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association polls. After two meets that took place in Houston to open the spring season, Texas has lived up to that ranking. However, the meet in Albuquerque represents an important challenge.
The men’s team will be going head-to-head in events against No. 2 LSU and No. 3 USC. The level of competition fits the site of the event, as Albuquerque serves as the site for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in March.
A chance to compete against top talent will give a sample of high-level competition to the youthful Texas athletes.
“We’re really young,” head coach Edrick Floréal said at a press conference before the indoor season. “That makes it difficult because you’re trying to feed off of experience and there’s really not much to go around. They’re sort of leading themselves.”
One of the most anticipated performances for Texas will be junior thrower Tripp Piperi’s debut in the men’s shot put. Last year as a sophomore, Piperi gained national attention by topping the field at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Piperi is currently listed as the top shot putter in the country going into this season following his strong performance.
The women’s 60-meter dash will feature a battle of titans. Top-ranked USC junior Twanisha Terry and Texas sophomore Julien Alfred headline the field of sixteen. Three more of the top 30 nationally ranked women, including Texas sophomore Kynnedy Flannel, will compete in the event.
With Olympic trials on the calendar this summer for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, choosing which events each athlete competes in is important to coach Floréal.
“It’s going to be some very tough decisions to be made to give (them) their very best opportunity,” Floréal said. “For a kid like Kynnedy, we’re going to have to make the best decision to make sure we don’t hurt her chances to potentially make the team.”
In Boston, the Texas women will look to continue their recent success in relays. This season the women have competed in three relays. They won two of the three and finished second in the other. Expectations are high this weekend after posting the best seed time going into the event. The next-best team was more than 20 seconds slower in their seed time.
In the men’s mile run, Texas junior Sam Worley will compete in his first mile of the season. Worley is ranked in the top 15 nationally in the event after posting strong performances in 2019.
The indoor season is beginning to shift into high gear this weekend. Texas will have the opportunity to prove they belong at the top of the rankings, or they will show that there is still work to be done. Either way, this weekend will be the first true test for Texas.