By Jeff Craig, Sports Writer
With a slew of national qualifications already in hand, the ACU track and field team will head to Waco this weekend to compete in the Michael Johnson Classic, hosted by Baylor University, looking to qualify more athletes for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championship meet.
Most of ACU’s sprinters, hurdlers and throwers will compete in the meet, while their long-distance teammates will race in the Mt. SAC Classic in Walnut, Calif. Head coach Don Hood hopes to see his squad continue to progress as the Lone Star Conference Championships and the NCAA Championships quickly approach.
“We just want to keep getting better and stay injury free,” Hood said. “This year, the sprints are really competitive, and hopefully we can improve without hurting ourselves.”
The Wildcats already have gained national attention this season. On April 4, Linda Brivule recorded the greatest javelin throw in women’s NCAA Division II history, qualifying for the NCAA Championship meet along the way. Brivule is not the only Wildcat to qualify for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championship Meet in San Angelo; she will be joined by a group of teammates as well.
On the women’s side, Wanda Hutson, Azraa Rounds, Amanda Clemons, Paige Newby, Kim Prather and Callie Young have earned individual nationals’ spots, while on the men’s side, Desmond Jackson, Jordan Johnson, Andrew McDowell, Ramon Sparks, James Hardin, Camille Vandendriessche, Amos Sang, Cleophas Tanui, Landon Ehlers, Stephen Toler, Corey Altenberg and Nick Jones have gained individual spots. Hood said he views this weekend’s competition as a great opportunity for more individuals to qualify.
Qualification for nationals can take place in one of two ways: automatically or provisionally. To qualify automatically, a participant must reach a set qualification score; however, any score below that mark will qualify as a provisional score. If a certain number of competitors fail to reach the automatic score, those spots can be filled by competitors who reached the provisional score throughout the year. While things have been going well for the team so far, Hood said he hopes his team can improve on some specific areas.
“We’re hoping that the men’s 4-by-400 and men’s 4-by-100 improves,” Hood said. “We’ve botched some exchanges recently that we need to get around, and those are big events for us.”
The Michael Johnson Classic is one of the season’s final meets with only a relay event in Philadelphia and the Oliver Jackson Open at ACU remaining before the conference meet. Hood feels the competition at Baylor will be stiff and serve as a good challenge for the team.
The Wildcats will be up against major collegiate programs like Baylor, Texas Tech, Colorado and Sam Houston State universities among others, which will prepare the team for the LSC Championship meet May 7-9 in Kingsville.