By Drew Harris | UTAMavs.com
GULF SHORES, Ala. - UT Arlington is set to begin action Friday at the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The men's team is seeking to defend its crown from a year ago, while the women are looking to improve upon last year's sixth-place finish.
"This is a great conference to compete in because every school fields a well-rounded team and attempts to compete in every event area," UTA coach John Sauerhage said. "These teams are all very talented, and it leads to a hard-fought conference meet every time we lace up our shoes."
The Mavericks have a number of athletes on both sides that could walk away as individual conference champions over the course of the three-day meet, which will wrap up Sunday night.
For the women, Taylor Davis had the top regular-season time in the 400 meters (54.86). In addition, Ashly Wright, the top qualifier in the 800m (2:07.99), is in search of her first-ever conference crown, while Tamerah Gorham is third in the same event (2:09.85).
Those three, plus Dasia Rolfe, have the women's 4x400 relay team listed second in the Sun Belt (3:43.71).
UTA also has talent in the distance events. Gabriela Alfonzo is ranked first in the 5000 meters (16:32.39), while Tori Shelton is fourth (17:00.22). In addition, Hannah Nilsson posted the second-best time in the 1500 meters (4:30.02).
Switching to field events, Ambria Tisdell registered the league's second-longest hammer throw mark on the year (56.10m). In the pole vault, Noemie Forget is fourth (3.85m), while Chineme Obikudu holds down the same position in the triple jump (12.41m).
"We've really progressed nicely this season," Sauerhage said. "We've shown a great deal of improvement over the last two months and our women are ready to compete on the big stage to prove just that."
On the men's side, Clayton Vaughn landed the top time in the 100 meters last weekend at TCU (10.12). He also anchors the men's 4x100 relay squad that is the top-ranked group (40.08).
Two men also pace the conference in distance events. Michael Guerrero grabbed the top time in the 10,000 meters (30:24.31), while Emil Blomberg is the fastest in the 3000m steeplechase by nearly 20 seconds (8:36.98).
A pair of Mavs have top seeds in the field. Roland Sales is first in the high jump (2.15m), while Tobi Fawehinmi is atop the triple jump chart (15.42m). Additionally, Christian Schiemann recorded the highest point total among all decathletes with 7,058 points).
Quentin Butler is a threat to score big points in both the 100m (3rd, 10.17) and 200m (2nd, 20.91). UTA also figures to get a boost in the 5000m, where Craig Lautenslager (2nd, 14:17.74) and Eric Ojeda (3rd, 14:28.39) lurk.
Others in the mix include Philip Critelli, who has the second-fastest clocking in the 800m (1:51.05), Cameron Newson, who is fourth in the 200 meters (20.94), and Heath Skelton, who ranks fourth in the shot put (16.70m).
"Our men are eager for the challenge that this weekend brings," Sauerhage said. "We feel as though we let rings in both cross country and indoor track slip through our fingers, and our team doesn't want to feel that way again."
Friday will feature the first day of the women's heptathlon and men's decathlon. It also will showcase finals in the men's and women's hammer throw, men's and women's javelin, women's pole vault, and men's and women's 5000 meters.
The site of the meet is Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Ala. Live results will be available at www.SunBeltSports.org.
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