By Drew Harris | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – When the UT Arlington track and field teams take to the track this season, the squads will look different to many observers. Gone are past NCAA Championships participants like Clayton Vaughn, Quentin Butler and Ashly Wright.
However, in their stead deep, young, talented squads remain, giving UTA coach John Sauerhage reason for great optimism heading into the indoor campaign. The 2016 season officially kicks off Friday at the Texas A&M Team Invitational in College Station.
"You don't replace the all-time greats," Sauerhage said. "You just admire their plaques on the wall, remember what they did and honor them by continuing to move the program forward."
What they did included helping UTA collect its most-coveted hardware--conference championship trophies--in men's indoor and outdoor track as well as women's cross country.
Numerous core contributors still remain from those title groups, and Sauerhage and his staff have also replenished the squads with gifted newcomers. The Mavericks' staff has worked hard to build complete teams able to score points in all event areas, a key factor in competing well at the conference level.
"When you are balanced and you have people who have been there before, you have a chance to win championships," Sauerhage said. "We believe that we have good teams on both sides capable of contending for titles."
Among UTA's standouts in the field are high jumper Roland Sales and triple jumper Tobi Fawehinmi. On the track, a stable of top-notch distance runners includes veterans Craig Lautenslager, Eric Ojeda and Michael Guerrero. In addition, sprinters Tarik Crear and Christian Clark performed well on strong 4x100m relay teams.
Among the leaders for the women are distance runners Gabriela Alfonzo and Katelyn Hayward. In addition, quarter-miler Taylor Davis and mid-distance standout Tamerah Gorham figure to once again excel. In the field, Chineme Obikudu returns after winning the triple jump at the USA Junior National Championships this summer.
As always, getting the squads to peak for the league meet is the ultimate goal. The men finished second at the SBC Championships last year, while the women were fourth.
"I'm optimistic and ready to get started," Sauerhage said. "We are looking forward to a strong season and getting off on the right foot Friday is important."
Friday's meet is the first of four regular-season contests for the Mavericks prior to the Sun Belt Conference Championships in Birmingham, Ala., on Feb. 22-23.
In addition to UTA, the other schools scheduled to compete at the Texas A&M Team Invitational include Houston Baptist, Lamar, Louisiana Tech, McNeese State, North Texas, Prairie View A&M, Sam Houston State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M-Kingsville, Texas Southern, UL-Lafayette and UL-Monroe.
Running and field events at the Gilliam Indoor Track begin at noon. The meet can be watched on the SEC Network+. Live stats are available at flashresults.com.
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