By Chandler Harris, Assistant Sports Editor
The Wildcat track and field team travels to Houston on March 13-14 for the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field National Championships. The Wildcat men’s team has 13 athletes competing in 11 events, including five that will participate in multiple events. The women’s squad boasts seven athletes competing in seven events, including two athletes that will run in three events.
“It kind of sneaks up on you,” said Don Hood, head track and field coach. “You think to yourself that it will last a week, but some of these guys are done in seven seconds. It takes a tremendous amount of focus and experience, which is what gives our guys an advantage. Our girls may not have the numbers to win it.”
Hood views the indoor track season as a preseason to the outdoor season.
“I don’t count the indoor meet as real track,” Hood said. “It’s ‘Yankee track’. Down here in Texas, we could be training in this weather, but schools up north don’t have that privilege. At the same time, it’s just good for these girls and guys to compete.”
On the men’s side, Jordan Johnson and Ramon Radway will run the 400-meter. Julius Nyango qualified to run in both the 800-meter and the mile. Amos Sang is the lone Wildcat to run in the 5,000-meter. Andrew McDowell is the top-ranked athlete in the field for the 60-meter hurdles. The men’s 4-by-400 meter relay team consists of Desmond Jackson, Johnson, Harold Jackson and Radway.
The Wildcats are sending three men to compete in the pole vault, including Cory Altenberg, Camille Vandendriessche and Landon Ehlers. Vandendriessche also will compete in the heptathlon. Ramon Sparks will be jumping in both the long jump and the triple jump. Fellow Wildcat Gerald Chenyi will join Sparks in the triple jump competition. Rounding out the men’s participants, ticipants, Nick Jones will compete in the shot put.
“Having 13 guys in 11 events is not ideal, but it gives us a shot,” Hood said. “It gives you a better shot if you can do more with the quality athletes you have, especially with the amount of scholarships that we are able to give out.”
Hood said the schedule for the men shapes up in their favor to where each athlete competing in multiple events has his primary event first, followed by his secondary event. Hood is excited to see how seniors Nyango, Harold Jackson, Radway and Vandendriessche perform on the national stage.
Hood said that previous injuries would most likely prevent the women’s team from winning the championship.
“We are not nearly at full strength,” Hood said. “We don’t have any distance runners competing for us, but what we do have is really high-quality girls at the events they are performing in. If they perform like they are predicted to, then they can score 35-40 points, which should be good enough for third or fourth place.”
Wanda Hutson is running the 60-meter, 200-meter and the 4-by-400 meter relay. Kim Prather is running the 200-meter, 400-meter and also the 4-by-400 meter.
“Kim has a great chance to win the 200 and the 400,” Hood said. “She came to ACU as a short sprinter and she made a great sacrifice by moving to the 400-meter. She did that to better the team, and that speaks volumes about the type of person she is.”
Also competing for the women’s team are Sandie Marshall and Azraa Rounds in the 4-by-400 meter, Callie Young in the pole vault, Jessica Sloss in the weight throw and Kelli Clements in the shot put.
“What thrills me the most is to see how Kelli Clements does,” Hood said. “She could have finished school last year, but she came back just to do this.”
The meet will be streamed live on www.ncaa.com.