T&F: Track and field on cusp of 2014 indoor season
Dec. 13, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas - It's hard to believe, but the UT Arlington men's and women's indoor track and field teams are just over one month away from competing in the first event of the 2014 season.
The Mavericks head into the slate with strong momentum. The men's cross country team enjoyed another stellar season, winning a league title for the second straight year, while the women were the Sun Belt runners up.
In addition, the women's outdoor track and field team placed second at the 2013 Western Athletic Conference Championships, while the men's indoor team finished as the runner up during the indoor season.
The teams have been gearing up all semester, and head coach John Sauerhage is pleased with the progress.
"We've had a very strong fall, both with the success of our cross country teams, as well as with our other athletes who have been in training," he said. "We are eager for the indoor season to start."
UTA will kick off the campaign Saturday, Jan. 18, when it competes in the Texas A&M 12-Team Invitational in College Station, Texas. It is the first of four meets prior to the Sun Belt Conference Championships, which will be held Feb. 24-25 in Birmingham, Ala.
"The men are well balanced," Sauerhage said. "We feel like we can compete in every event area, and when you do that, you can compete for a championship."
"Our goal is to win the triple crown (cross country, indoor track and outdoor track conference titles)," he continued. "We have our work cut out for us because we have some very strong peers in the Sun Belt. But on a conference level, this is one of the most competitive teams we've ever put out there. It should be a very exciting season."
Highlighting the team will be senior sprinter Clayton Vaughn, a two-time All-American in the 60 meters. Vaughn was injured in his second meet of the 2013 outdoor season and missed the remainder of the spring, but is now healthy. The school record holder in the 60m (6.61), he placed fifth in the event at the 2012 NCAA Championships and ninth last year.
Junior Quentin Butler gives the Mavs a 1-2 punch in the sprints and also is a top contender in the long jump. He qualified for the NCAA West Preliminary Round in three events (100m, 200m and long jump) during the most recent outdoor season.
The women's team lost a couple standout sprinters, but will look to use its depth in several events to score points at the league meet.
"I think we have a decent shot to compete for a league title on the women's side," Sauerhage said. "We should be among top three, and if things fall right, we could have a chance to win. Overall in cross country, we were pleased, yet frustrated, as we knew that we could have had a better conference meet. We don't want to have that frustrated feeling again in the indoor season."
Junior middle distance runner Ashly Wright headlines the list of returnees. She advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 800m last year, but has not yet won a conference individual title. She blossomed in the cross country season and is hungry for the 2014 campaign.
The Mavericks also feature a number of notable distance runners, including sophomore Katelyn Hayward, who won the WAC crown in the indoor mile last year as a freshman.
Sauerhage said that ultimately, both Mavericks teams just can't beat themselves.
"We need to stay healthy and make sure that our people are ready to compete at the right time," he said. "If we do those things, we can have very strong seasons."