By Jared Fields, Editor in Chief
Hosting this year’s Lone Star Conference meet, the Wildcat track and field teams aren’t thinking about the end of the year.
The women’s team has won 22 of the previous 25 team championships, and the men’s team has won 12 in a row. It is no surprise that winning this year’s meet is an understood goal, but this meet still falls under the umbrella of the main goal: the national meet.
When talking about this weekend, head coach Don Hood didn’t look past the meet but rather kept it in context of the national meet. Hood’s athletes show the same attitude heading into the meet. Keva Wilkins, who owns the best 400-meter time in Division II, is one of those.
“I’m not really focusing on time right now,” Wilkins, who is nursing a hamstring, said. “I’m just focusing on my health and taking it easy before nationals.”
Wilkins will run the 400-meters and lead off the 4×400 meter relay team, which is currently ranked second in the nation.
Jessica Withrow, who won last year’s heptathlon and placed in two individual events, will try to match that performance. Hood said Withrow will compete in the heptathlon, as well as the 100-meter hurdles, long jump and high jump.
The men’s team is also looking to win the meet, but using it just as much for preparation for nationals.
“We’re not loading up,” Hood said. “We’re doing as little as possible and still trying to win it.”
With some athletes at less than 100 percent healthy, Hood is holding some athletes out while using some events to determine strategies for nationals.
Decathlete Camille Vandendriessche and sprinter Desmond Jackson will sit out of the meet to heal for nationals.
With Vandendriessche’s absence, James Hardin will be the only Wildcat entered in the decathlon. Hardin ranks 13th in the nation but said he believes he can better his score to secure a place in the national meet.
“That’s actually my goal,” Hardin said. “We’re to the point where I’m starting to peak, so there’s a lot more running, and my technique’s starting to come around in a lot of the events.”
Campy Pounds, who already qualified for the national meet in the decathlon, will compete in the 110-meter hurdles, pole vault and long jump.
With Jackson’s absence from the relays and Hood’s desire to round out the lineup, the men’s relays will serve as a tryout for nationals more than anything.
“Going into nationals, we need to see who can do what,” Hood said. “What I feel confident about this year is we have field events. I feel like we’re going to be able to cover.”
The men’s field events are an area where the Wildcats aren’t holding back. Hood said all his field event athletes will be competing. Hood has six men entered in the pole vault, but said the highlight of the field events will come in the discus where Tyler Fleet and Nick Jones rank first and second in the nation in the event.
The men’s and women’s distance runners will add significant points to the team totals, Hood said, with at least two athletes in each event.
“That’s good for us, that’s 20 points. We’ll open up ground on that,” Hood said. “That’s what is good for us is the 5k potential to score 20 points.”
The first day of the decathlon and heptathlon begin Friday. Most prelims are Saturday and finals are Sunday beginning at 5 p.m.