The Wildcats travel to Albuquerque this weekend for the New Mexico Collegiate Classic, an indoor track meet with a stacked lineup of competition including five nationally ranked teams.
ACU will be joined Friday and Saturday by the Arkansas Razorbacks, Texas Longhorns and Washington Huskies at the Albuquerque Convention Center, all teams whose men and women’s squads are both ranked in the top 20 track programs in the country. The UNM Lobos, who are hosting the meet, are fierce competition as well, having beaten UCLA, Arizona State and the Air Force in their only scored meet of the regular season so far.
In its last three weeks of competition, ACU’s team proved that it belongs in Div. I. The Wildcats have turned in more than 20 personal records and at least a dozen top 10 placements combined in their last two meets.
Junior Daniel Block finished runner-up in the men’s 800-meters at the Texas A&M 10-Team Invitational and the Texas Tech Masked Rider Open. Senior Luke Woods obliterated his record last weekend at the Masked Rider Open, completing the heptathlon with a total of 4,880 points and coming in first place. Weight throwers Baptiste Kerjean and Jelani Rainey have consistently placed in the top five in their events. Freshman pole vaulter Kenzie Walker finished third in the Texas A&M Invitational, and last Saturday recorded the ninth best women’s pole vaulting height in ACU history at the Masked Rider Open.
The consistency of their high-level performances has the Wildcats optimistic about the upcoming meet. Assistant coach Cory Aguilar said despite a lack of depth and experience on the team, the chances of a successful meet are good.
“We’re only taking about 20 athletes with us, top athletes who I expect will compete really well,” Aguilar said. “I think that in some areas we’re going to get top marks.”
With roughly three weeks until the indoor season Southland Conference Championships, the Cats are working on rounding out the team as a whole, reaching for more depth from the underclassmen who make up most of the roster. Despite the talent of the athletes, having a new coaching staff and a young squad could be an obstacle in the way of a team conference championship. Jumping coach Vladyslav Gorbenko said with the graduating seniors departing soon, welcoming and developing the younger players has been a focus point during the season.
“I see a lot of talent and potential in all my athletes,” Gorbenko said. “Every single one of them has a chance to become an outstanding athlete and time will show which one of them will truly stand out.”
The New Mexico Collegiate Classic starts Friday at 4 p.m. Because of weather conditions, there is a possibility that ACU may not be able to travel. A last-minute decision will be made based on the weather Thursday afternoon, when the Wildcats are scheduled to leave campus.