By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
Texas Tech, ranked No. 14 nationally, will play host to ACU and numerous other track and field programs Saturday at the Red Raider Classic in Lubbock. The defending Division II national champion men’s team will try to use strong competition from Tech and other teams to add to the five athletes who qualified at last Friday’s Texas Tech All-Comers Meet.
Field events will begin at 8 a.m., with running events starting around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Wildcat head coach Jon Murray said “about 75 percent” of the ACU track and field athletes will compete Saturday, increasing the chances of more athletes qualifying provisionally or automatically for nationals.
“They’ll be in a little better shape from just one more week of work,” Murray said. “Hopefully that’ll get some of the nerves away from them.”
Junior Ben Washington will compete in the long jump Saturday, after last weekend qualifying automatically in the triple jump for the Division II Indoor National Championships, to be held March 12-13 in Boston. His jump of 51-7, good enough for third place behind ACU assistant coach and unattached athlete Sergei Bykov, not only guaranteed Washington a place at the NCAA meet, but qualified him for the United States Indoor National Championships Feb. 27-29 in Boston.
Washington’s mark is also tops in the nation in Division II by over 2 feet.
“My goal for the long jump is primarily to get team points,” Washington said. “My main focus is the triple jump, so the long jump is just icing on the cake.”
Washington, who came to ACU with a personal best of around 48 feet in the triple jump, has now improved that mark by almost four feet. The friendly athlete is all smiles when he talks about the source of that success.
“It’s Jesus Christ, really,” Washington said. “Just to wake up in the morning and have the ability to perform-there have been drastic improvements.”
The men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay teams will attempt to qualify for nationals Saturday after the men’s team ran a fast 3:12 but false started last weekend. The men’s relay could be one of the best in the nation this season with the return of sub-48 second quarter-miler Delt Cockrell, sophomore Ricardo Johnson and Jamaican transfer Marvin Essor. Murray said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the squad break 3:10 in 2004, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in several years.
“We have a lot more depth there,” Murray said.
Other strong teams expected to compete in Lubbock this weekend include the universities of Texas-Arlington, New Mexico and New Mexico State.