By Steve Holt, Copy Editor
The Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
In this state, probably no other athletic tradition has been embraced and publicized like the annual track and field meet on the campus of the University of Texas. It features the best of the best collegiate and elite United States track and field athletes and draws upward of 20,000 fans to Austin’s Mike E. Meyers Stadium.
As always, however, a small Division II university from Abilene will be right up there with the big boys.
ACU will be represented at the 76th Texas Relays by eight individuals and two relays on the women’s side, and by seven individuals and three relays on the men’s side. Head coach Jon Murray said he has two main reasons for bringing so many athletes to the prestigious meet, which will span from Thursday’s field events to Saturday’s running finals.
“Exposure and experience,” Murray said. “It is basically teaching them how to perform under adverse conditions and helps make better competition at the national meets.”
Of the men, Murray said a few athletes have an especially good chance of placing high among the stiff competition. Sophomore Christie Van Wyk will compete in the men’s 100-meter dash among the top sprinters in the nation. At last weekend’s Oliver Jackson Open at Elmer Gray Stadium, Van Wyk posted the top 100-meter time in Division II, 10.22 seconds. Among all divisions, the time currently stands as No. 2 in the nation.
The Namibia native said he has been looking forward to the outdoor season after having a few injuries during the indoor season and has set high goals for himself.
“My goal for this year is at least a sub-10, legal,” Van Wyk said. “With the training I’ve been doing and how things are going, I think that’s realistic.”
ACU has a rich tradition of bringing winning relay teams to the Texas Relays-51 first-place relay teams since 1930. Barring injury, this year should be no different. The Wildcat sprint medley relay, which includes 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter runs, will again be a top contender in the college division. ACU’s 4×100- and 4×400-meter relay teams also bring top times to the Relays.
A setback, however, would be if the senior sprint star Alexander is forced not to run because of a minor injury he sustained at the indoor nationals. Murray said he isn’t certain of Alexander’s status to run.
Several women will look to make an impact in Austin this week. Freshman Yuliya Stashkiv, a sub-4:50 miler, will compete in the women’s 1,500-meter run. Senior Althea Johnson posted a good 100-meter time at the Oliver Jackson Open last weekend and should place highly in the event this weekend. Both the women’s 4×100- and 4×400-meter relay teams will try to qualify for nationals against the fast relays of other national universities.
On a young Wildcat track and field team, competing in front of 20,000 fans has likely never been a reality for many of the athletes. Murray said he thinks this aspect will definitely be a positive one for his athletes.
“The Texas Relays bring fans from all over the country,” Murray said. “It is an opportunity to have some big-meet experience at a local meet.”