Track & Field eyes title at SLC Championships
May 12, 2011
ARLINGTON, Tex. - The UT Arlington men's track and field team heads to Natchitoches, La. this weekend eyeing a Southland Conference title.
UTA coach John Sauerhage acknowledges that UTSA is the team to beat and the Mavericks will need some breaks to go their way.
Sauerhage thinks his athletes can give UT Arlington some of the breaks it needs at the Southland Conference Outdoor Championships, which is held at Northwestern State starting Friday and ending Sunday.
"It is really going to come down to this: We need to score big points in the events in which we are favored and we need to get some big performances in the long-distance events," Sauerhage said. "UTSA is the favorite going in, but we have seven individuals and a relay team that are nationally ranked. If our big guns can come through and we can get a few surprises, I think we can win."
Cordero Gray headlines the so-called big guns. The senior sprinter is the odds-on favorite in the 100m and the 200m and is part of a 4x100 relay team that currently tops the Southland Conference. Gray finished as the SLC Indoor Championship High-Point Scorer and has a good chance to repeat in that capacity outdoors.
While Gray is poised to lead the Mavericks, he has plenty of teammates capable of helping him along the way.
Romain Martin and Jeff Rodriguez are considered among the favorites in the decathlon and the pole vault, respectively. Martin, a sophomore, finished second nationally in the heptathlon during the indoor season. He also placed second at the Texas Relays in the decathlon and currently sits at No. 2 in the nation in the event. Rodriguez will compete in his first SLC Championships this week. He won in pole vault at the Drake Relays and seems to be hitting his stride at the right time.
Martin is also entered individually in the pole vault, javelin and 110m hurdles. He could score in all three events.
Dwight Robinson won the 800m last year and aims to do the same this week.
Lionel Mungwari should score in the 100m, 200m and long jump and Clayton Vaughn should score in the 100m and 200m. Both should account for double-digit point totals. Another senior, Juan Lewis, is likely to score in the 200m and 400m.
The big difference this year, though, is that the Mavericks have a presence in the throwing events.
"Being able to tally significant point totals in events other than sprints is going to be huge," Sauerhage said.
The key for the men likely comes in the distance events. Athletes like David Rayo in the 10000m will likely be critical for the Mavericks. If the distance runners can turn in strong times and steal points, UTA could upset the Roadrunners.
That trio hopes to help the team cling to a top-three placing at the SLC Outdoor Championships. Injuries and key departures have made that challenge more daunting.
Shannon Reynolds is one of the underclassmen hoping to keep the Mavericks toward the top of the conference. She is among the league's best in the 100m and 200m and she also runs a leg of the 4x100 relay.
DeAndrea Smith is considered one of the favorites in the 400m and should score in the 200m as well.
The 800m will be an important event for the team. Abuto is one of the favorites and Lindsey Putman could give the Mavs two of the top scorers in the event.
McMahon will be important in the 1500m and the 5000m and Turner should be among the top athletes in the 400m hurdles. Turner also runs a leg on the 4x400m relay team.
UTA's relay teams - the 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay - give it a chance to score 20 points.
A potential sleeper for the team could be Marniqua Thompson in the heptathlon.
The SLC Outdoor Championships begin Friday morning.