By Jared Fields, Editor in Chief
With small hail pellets and tornado warnings, head track and field coach Don Hood said he still looks forward to this weekend’s meet at the Texas Tech Invitational.
The team didn’t need to practice too badly Wednesday; it was, “kinda a recovery day anyway,” Hood said. Hood said earlier that this time of the year lends itself to shorter, but more intense, workouts.
The results have led to a healthy team and the large number of new or bettered qualifying marks each week.
“Gradually, we’re doing things right, we’ve got more people back, more people healthy; things are going in the right direction,” Hood said. “Especially the women; it’s moving in the right direction.”
Hood gets Shawna-Kaye Thompson back this weekend where she’ll add to the sprint relay team and individually in both hurdle events. She earned all-American status in both hurdles last year and ran on the sprint relay team that placed third at nationals.
Heptathlete Jessica Withrow earned a solid provisional mark at the Texas Relays last weekend, and this weekend will attempt to qualify individually in the high jump, long jump and 100-meter hurdles.
Two women pole-vaulters have provisional marks. After not having a woman qualify for the indoor championships, Hood said he believes a few are close to qualifying for the outdoor meet.
“The realization of what it takes to be at that level has kinda sunk in on them,” Hood said. “I think they’re getting there.”
On the men’s team, freshman hurdler Billy Walker approaches this weekend after posting personal best times in the 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles last weekend. Walker ran a 14.34 in the 110-meter to better his provisional mark and a 54.04 in the 400-meter hurdles to get him within range of posting a provisional time there. Walker said the 110-meter hurdles come down to experience, but the 400-meter hurdles are all guts.
“As far as the 110s, it’s all about experience because getting used to the college-height hurdles . it’s quite a difference,” Walker said. “The 400s pretty much gonna be my heart because I just run my heart out the first 300 (meters) and the last 100 (meters) is just how much heart I’ve got left.”
The men’s sprint relay has yet to qualify, and Hood hopes his team of Andrew McDowell, Raymond Radway, Desmond Jackson and Jordan Johnson can qualify this weekend.
“Hopefully we can qualify those guys,” Hood said. “I think we’ve got a good shot.”
The only athletes being held out this weekend for health reasons are on the men’s team – Joe Fields and Sylvester Williamson – who are nursing strained muscles and not out for long. Williamson is a sprinter who could compete for a spot on the sprint relay. Fields competes on the mile and medley relays.
“Other than that, I think we’re pretty good,” Hood said. “I hope so anyway.”