After a shortened indoor season of just four meets, track and field travels to Birmingham, Alabama for the Southland Conference Championships this Wednesday and Thursday.
First year head coach, Lance Bingham, said the team will shorthanded because of sickness and injury, but he is confident in the team’s ability.
“We have a couple of guys coming off injuries that may not run what they normally run,” Bingham said. “We are a little bit short on numbers, but I think we’re ready and focused. I feel like they are going to compete very well and I know they are going to run hard.”
The women will be attempting to best a second-place finish from last year’s conference championship meet, but will have to do so without three of its best competitors in distance runners Alexandria Hackett and Diana Garcia Munoz and pole vaulter McKenzie Walker Mascorro. Hackett and Munoz elected to use their redshirt year at the beginning of the indoor season.
ACU will rely heavily on its distance runners and throwers this week, as senior Michaela Hackett boasts the top time in the mile, the 3,000 meter and the 5,000 meter.
“I’m going into my races relaxed and confident,” Hackett said. “The goal for this conference meet is to stay calm, stress-free, and semi-comfortable in my races.”
Coach Bingham said Monday she is overcoming the stomach bug, but expects her to perform the best she can.
Sophomore Lonnie Smith gives the Wildcats the top distance in the weight throw, after she broke the school record at the J.D. Martin Invitational in Oklahoma. Smith finished fifth a year ago in the weight throw, and will be looking to medal this time around.
Hackett said a good showing by the team this week will set the pace for the upcoming outdoor season.
“A good performance in indoor season will give the team confidence to train hard and smart in the coming weeks to prepare for outdoor,” Hackett said. “A good performance reinforces that your training is working, and that will give one the mindset to push even harder when training so that you’re able to get to that next level.”
Meanwhile, the men are hoping to top a fifth place finish from a year ago, with returning medalist senior Rosen Daniel, who holds the second fastest time in the 400 in the conference. The Wildcats will also rely on shot put contestants, juniors Morgan Knight and Kai Schidmt. Knight and Schidmt rank seventh and eighth respectively in the conference.
Junior Wyatt French holds the lone No. 1 spot for the men, as he heads into Wednesday with the conference’s top score of 5,048 points in the heptathlon.
Coach Bingham said his hope for the team is to keep moving forward despite the setback of injuries and sickness.
“You try and have a little bit of a peak at the end of indoor, as it is a preparation for outdoor,” Bingham said. “You’d like to perform well because it is a conference championship, but it is part of building a foundation for the outdoor season.”
The meet will begin Wednesday morning with the 60 meter hurdles and is set to conclude Saturday afternoon with the 1600 meter relays.