On Friday morning, the array of high school and collegiate athletes that decorated the field of Mike A. Myers Stadium all had one thing in common: nerves.
On the last day before Saturday’s finals, efforts were consolidated into one opportunity that would ultimately determine their chance at qualification.
“Well, anytime you’re at a venue and it has the title of the Texas Relays, it takes you up another level,” said head coach Bubba Thornton. “I thought we ran really well in-between. We got a little anxious. We had some anxieties. But we can run with these other teams, and we’ve just got to continue to improve on our confidence and not think during the race.”
Texas’ 4x100 relay team realized what was at stake and stepped on the track to execute. Mark Jackson, Marquise Goodwin, Emerson Sanders and Trevante Rhodes surged ahead as top finishers in heat one of five in the event. Their time of 40.01 ranked them in fourth overall to qualify for Saturday’s finals.
Teammate Keiron Stewart kept the intensity alive with his race in the 110-meter hurdles. Quick-footed Stewart was neck and neck with Texas Tech junior Shane Brathwaite as the two leaned into the finish line. The two tied at 13.75.
“It felt great seeing the crowd when I was at the starting blocks and there were some kids chanting, ‘Texas, Fight,’” Stewart said. “It kind of showed that we are role models and we have to do our best each time.”
Despite solid performances by the Longhorns in the first two 100-meter events, the 100-meter dash didn’t follow the same trend. Goodwin, Rhodes and Sanders did not qualify. Rhodes finished with the best time of the three in 10.56. Texas A&M sophomore Prezel Hardy Jr. took first overall with a 10.18. Nine runners will be making a finals berth, with A&M’s Michael Bryan taking the last seed with a 10.41.
In the 4x400-meter relay, BYU held an explosive lead for the entire race and came in with the top qualifying time of 3:08.32. Kansas and Stephen F. Austin ran side-by-side going into the finish and claimed second and third respectively.
Both Longhorn distance relays were able to reach qualifying marks to close out Friday’s portion of the collegiate running events. Texas’ 1600-meter sprint medley relay featuring Alex Williams, Rhodes, Dereck Dreyer and Kyle Thompson came in sixth with a time of 3:20.86. Baylor claimed the first place spot with a time of 3:17.47. The 4x1500 relay group of Kevin Rayes, C.J. Jessett, Ryan Dohner and Patrick McGregor teamed together for a third place finish with a time of 15:41.45.
Jackson came in fifth in section A of the men’s triple jump. His final leap of 15.56 meters put him just 0.2 meters shy of fourth place. Senior Kyron Blaise of LSU won the event with a jump of 16.32.