Relay team has chance to be special
March 30, 2011
By Art Garcia for UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Tex. - The history and accomplishments of the 4x100m men's relay team at UT Arlington are vast. Meet victories, conference titles and trips to the NCAA Championships are commonplace over the years.
This year's foursome - Cordero Gray, Clayton Vaughn, Lionel Mungwari and Andrew Pettis - should add to that collection. According to Mavericks coach John Sauerhage, those four sprinters could be remembered for a long time at a school that values passing the baton.
"This group has a really good chance of being one of the best relays we've had," Sauerhage said. "We have a really good school record, we have a good tradition here and we've had a lot of really good sprint relays in the past.
"We'd like to make the finals at Texas Relays, we'd like this group to win the Southland Conference championship and we'd like to make it to the NCAA meet. They have the potential to be top 10 in the nation. We've just got to keep them healthy and move that stick around with perfection if we expect to beat some of these big name schools."
UTA is currently eighth nationally thanks to a time of 39.98 that won the North Texas Open. Count on the Mavericks to improve upon that mark as they get deeper into the outdoor season and run at more prestigious meets. Sauerhage believes in building consistently and not getting burned out early in the season.
He has a lot to work with. Gray, Vaughn, Lionel and Pettis each reached the conference finals in the 60m during the indoor season. That kind of talent usually adds up nicely in the 4x100m relay.
"These are four guys who can run," Sauerhage said. "It's hard to be patient when you have a good group of guys."
Gray is the leader. An All-American in 2009, the senior won the 2011 SLC indoor titles in the 200m and 60m. It was his fastest ever indoor season and the Kennedale High School grad traditionally runs better outdoors.
His goals include making the top eight at the NCAA meet, reaching the USA championships, running pro track next year and qualifying for the Olympic Trails. This spring is his last chance to make a mark at the collegiate level.
"All that's left for Cordero now is consistency and confidence," Sauerhage said. "His confidence is growing and he needs to be more consistent. If he can consistently run at a higher level, he's got a better chance of getting through the rounds at the NCAA meet, and making the finals at the Drake Relays and Texas Relays, the conference meet. He's got to be ready for those competitions."
Vaughn could be in for Gray-like career. The a freshman from Sulphur Springs Judson ran a 6.76 in 60m indoors, which is faster than Gray as a freshman. Vaughn should make at least the first round of the West regionals in the 100m. He also runs the 200m.
"He may be the heir apparent to Cordero and very well make a mark in the 100m outdoor, too," Sauerhage said. "We're hoping he can be consistent like Cordero. One of our goals in winning the conference championship is we've got to score a lot of points in the 100 and 200."
Mungwari and Pettis, both sophomores, more than hold their own. Mungwari made the finals in the SLC meet in 100m last year and finished sixth. He placed third in the recent SLC indoor 200m. Pettis, second in the Class 5A state meet in the 200m at San Antonio Roosevelt, was slowed by some hamstring issues as a freshman, but appears to be breaking through.
"The guys enjoy the 4x100," Sauerhage said. "It's very nerve-racking for us to watch, but they have a lot of fun doing it. The purest team thing we do is moving the stick around. We have a lot of pride that we've always had a good 4x100 here."