By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
In what might be the best opportunity to pick up several more automatic qualifiers for the national meet, the men’s and women’s track and field teams will travel to Fayette-ville, Ark., for the Razorback-Tyson Foods Invitational Fri-day and Saturday. Running, jumping and throwing against a who’s who of Division I college track and field, ACU’s men and women plan to use the talented competition to post automatic qualifying marks in their respective events for the Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships March 13-14.
Head coach Jon Murray said the athletes set to participate, primarily those who have already qualified at least provisionally, are ready to perform at a higher level after competing at Texas Tech for three straight weekends.
“As a whole, the group is in better racing shape,” Murray said. “It’s going to be good competition; this could be one of the better meets we go to all year. It ranks right up there with the national meet.”
Many of the teams competing in Fayetteville this weekend are ranked nationally in Division II, including the No. 1-ranked University of Arkansas, who will be playing host to the meet. Some of the other top teams entered include Arizona State, Auburn, Baylor, Houston, Indiana, Miami, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Rice, SMU, TCU, Tennessee, Texas and Texas Tech.
Wildcat athletes, who are among the best in Division II track and field, will be competing against the best Division I athletes Friday and Saturday, on one of the nation’s best indoor tracks.
“It’ll be good to get in there and perform in a great facility and with some excellent competition,” Murray said.
For the women, juniors Katie Eckley and Val Gorter, along with freshman Angie Aguilar will compete in the pole vault, an event that has been kind to ACU athletes in recent years. Senior Sofi Hildenborg and freshman Brooklyn Hunt will run the women’s 400 meters, an event in which Hildenborg finished third at the 2003 indoor nationals.
Liga Klavina-ranked 18th in the world in the heptathlon-will compete in three events for the Wildcats Friday and Saturday: the 60-meter hurdles, long jump and shot put. Klavina is ranked in the nation in all three events.
In the longer races, freshman Olha Kryv’yak will run the mile for ACU and transfer Adeh Mwamba will get her first action of the season in the 5,000-meter run. Freshman Stephanie Warren will compete in the triple jump, and ACU will be up against swift competition in the 4×400-meter relay.
The men’s mile relay team, ranked No. 2 in Division II with a 3:10.05 to its credit already this season, will meet several ranked Division I relay squads at the Tyson Invitational. Three of the team’s members, sophomores Delt Cockrell and Ricardo Johnson and junior Marvin Essor, will also compete in the open 400-meter dash.
ACU also will be well-represented in the 60 meters, as senior star Christie VanWyk and freshmen Elton Garus-Oab and Marvin Bien-Aime will line up against many of the nation’s fastest. VanWyk currently has the nation’s No. 7 time in the event.
Juniors Bernard Manirakiza and Martin Okello will run the men’s mile, while freshman Vincent Morogah get his season debut in the 5,000 meters. Okello also will run the 5,000 meters for the Wildcats.
Defending Division II outdoor triple jump champion Ben Washington and runner-up Yevgen Pashchenko will each compete in the event, while Pashchenko also will compete in the long jump. Finally, freshman Stephon Greenlee will look for an automatic qualifying time in the 60-meter hurdles Friday and Saturday.
Running and field events will begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday, and the finals will be run at 1 p.m. Saturday. Saturday’s competition is a sanctioned United States Track and Field meet, and it will include many of the top elite athletes from the U.S. and other countries.