Track & Field sets sights on SLC title
Feb. 24, 2011
ARLINGTON, Tex. - On the eve of the 2011 Southland Conference Indoor Championships, UT Arlington coach John Sauerhage feels good about his teams' chances to win titles this weekend in Norman, Okla.
Sauerhage knows he needs some breaks to fall in the Mavericks' favor. He also knows UTA features several favorites in events.
"On paper, if you score the meet, it looks like we're going to be very competitive with Stephen F. Austin and UTSA," Sauerhage said. "There's every reason to think we could come home with a conference champion. Getting our hearts broken and finishing third is a possibility too if we don't compete like we're capable of."
Senior sprinter Cordero Gray leads the men into Norman. Gray already broke the UTA record in the 60m this year with a time of 6.67. Former UTSA sprinter Teddy Williams' SLC Indoor Championship record of 6.64 is within Gray's reach this weekend and certainly within his sight.
Gray also has the conference's best time in the 200m this season.
Freshman sprinter Clayton Vaughn isn't far behind Gray, ranking second in the SLC in the 60m and the 200m.
Sauerhage said Vaughn could be one of the keys to victory this weekend.
"If Clayton Vaughn continues to run as well as he's been running in the 60m and the 200m, I will like our chances," Sauerhage said. "Cordero is on a mission and he's ready to run at an NCAA championship-level. Clayton is hungry and wants to make an impression that he's a force to be reckoned with. I look for him to have a big meet."
Juan Lewis recorded the second-best time in the 400m in the conference this year and has a chance to score in the 200m as well. Isiah Clements should give the Mavs another high point scorer in the high jump.
"Cordero Gray and Romain Martin broke school records. Clayton Vaughn has emerged as the second-best sprinter in the Southland Conference," Sauerhage said. "That's impressive. Dwight Robinson is continuing to run at a high level. Lionel Mungwari is showing that the end of his freshman year was not a fluke by competing well. Renan Palma is performing well. We have a good track team. What really helps our chances is now we have throwers."
In the end, though, it will be the lesser-known Mavericks who determine whether they can capture the 2011 title.
"Anthony Hilliman, Anthony Rene, Andrew Pettis, Renan Palma in the long jump, Branko in the shot - these are people that might not have a shot to win the competition, but they need to do well if we're going to rack up over 100 points and compete for the conference title," Sauerhage said. "It's going to have to be more than Cordero, Dwight and Isiah Clements. We're going to have to have 15, 20 people score if we're going to win."
The women are led by true freshman Pamela Vinson, who is a good bet for SLC Indoor Freshman of the Year. Vinson will compete in the 60m, 200m and 400m. She enters the meet ranked second in the 60m, first in the 200m and fifth in the 400m. Her season-best 60m time is just 0.01 second behind UTSA's Jhorden Hunter.
Vinson has plenty of support in the sprints. Last year's SLC Indoor Freshman of the Year, Shannon Reynolds, is ranked second and third in the 200m and 60m, respectively.
DeAndrea Smith enters the 400m ranked third in the conference and should contend for the individual title. Breonna Baldwin could score in the 200m and the 400m and Brittany Culbertson should score in the 400m.
The Mavs also have myriad depth in the 800m, where Lindsey Putman and Esther Abuto have posted the best and second-best times in the league, respectively, this season. Jennifer Carey and Perri Ford give UTA two more potential point-scorers in the event.
How well the Mavs fare in the 400m and the 800m will go a long way toward determining where they finish overall.
"Those are two events we have to rack up a lot of points in," Sauerhage said. "It's no secret.
"Any event that we're expecting a lot of points in, it's critical that we follow through with that. If we have somebody ranked 1-2, it would be great if they could finish 1-2. If we can turn what we're ranked into points we'll be in good shape."
McMahon will also compete in the 3000m.
McMahon, a senior, is one of several competitors Sauerhage said the team would need to come through this weekend.
"We're going to get our 90-to-100 points with our big battleships," Sauerhage said. "It's people like Marniqua Thompson, Marissa Paz, Andie Guerra, Jennifer Carey - if they can come through it would really bode well for our chances.
"We need Amanda McMahon to come through and have a big meet. We need Jennifer Brown to come through in the jumps. Destinee Nixon (in the triple jump and the 60m Hurdles), if she can resemble some of the performances she's had in the past at Abilene Christian, she'll be a big boost for us."
Ultimately, Sauerhage thinks his stars and role players alike will produce enough to make the Mavs competitive this weekend.
"There's every reason to think we're going to have our best meet of the year this week," Sauerhage said. "We just have to make it happen when it counts."