AMES, Iowa – After the first day of action at the Big 12 Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships, the Texas Longhorns find themselves in a position to repeat as men’s and women’s champions. But it will be a very close fight on both sides to see which team is lucky enough to hoist the trophy on Saturday night as the Longhorns currently trail and have multiple rivals to battle with.
Texas sits in second place on the women’s side with 41 points after six scored events. Texas Tech leads with 43. The remainder of the 19 events will be concluded on Saturday and Kansas State also is in the mix on the women’s side similar to last year when the Longhorns had to hold off the Wildcats in the 4×400 meter relay to secure the victory.
For the Texas men, they stand in third place through five completed events with 34.5 points. Oklahoma State leads with 37 points and K-State is second with 35. Oklahoma is not far behind Texas in fourth in what could become a very tightly contested four-way race for the title.
“You’re trying to advance as many as you can out of the preliminaries. From top to bottom it was just a great overall team performance,” Head Coach Mario Sategna said. “It’s going to be a dogfight on the men’s side. We knew Texas Tech was going to be tough. Oklahoma State has really stepped up. For the women, K-State has a lot of firepower. But that’s what the conference meet is about. We’re excited for the possibilities.”
Senior Kaitlin Petrillose closed her Big 12 career in style as the best pole vaulter in Big 12 Conference history. She cleared a height of 4.41 meters (14-4.50) to break her own meet record set last year. It also is her seventh total Big 12 title combining indoors and out to become the most decorated women’s pole vaulter in league history.
“Kaitlin Petrillose this is her last conference meet and this was her seventh Big 12 title,” Sategna said. “That’s phenomenal for somebody to win an event seven times indoors and out. I hope for her that she rides that momentum into the national championships.”
Senior Reese Watson made it a clean sweep for the Longhorns in the pole vault winning the men’s competition with a clearance of 5.34 meters (17-6.25) on his third attempt. He won the title based on misses on the previous height. Since he cleared all his other bars on first attempts, he was able to best Texas Tech’s Kyle Thompson who had a miss at 5.19 meters.
The win gives Watson his first indoor title and his second total after winning outdoors last year.
Beyond the victories, the pole vault was the highlight of the day for both the men and women as they provided major point grabs for the Longhorns.
In addition to Petrillose winning, sophomores Kally Long took third and fourth, respectively. That brought the team’s total to 21 points for the women just for that event, providing a major boost.
The men also had three vaulters score in the pole vault to combine for 17.5 points. Redshirt freshman Barrett Poth finished third thanks to his first-attempt clearance of 5.19 meters. Freshman Blake Scott tied for seventh to grab 1.5 points. He also cleared 5.19 meters but on his third attempt. That also was a new personal best for Scott.
Another Longhorn put on a show for the fans in the weight throw. Sophomore Alan Zapalac finished second in one of the most dramatic events of the day.
Zapalac put out a monster throw of 20.39 meters on his first attempt, shattering his personal best of 19.78 meters. He led by more than a full meter over second place through three attempts. During Round 3, Kansas State’s Brady Grunder threw 20.49 meters immediately before Zapalac’s fifth attempt to which he responded with a throw of 20.40 meters. He could not best Grunder on the final throw. Four of Zapalac’s six throws were better than his previous best.
“Probably the biggest breakthrough performance tonight was Alan Zapalac,” Sategna said. “Surpassing his previous personal best on four of six throws and coming within, literally, four inches of winning the conference title as a sophomore. That’s just a tribute to his hard work, his dedication with Coach Ty Sevin and our strength coaches in the weight room. There’s going to be some huge things for him on the horizon.”
Texas had a good day on the track as well with the men’s and women’s teams both advancing a number of runners through preliminary heats into the final.
The sprints were a particular strength for the Longhorns as the women advanced three in the 60 meter hurdles and the 60 meters. The men advanced three runners to the final in the 400 meters while the most dominant showing of the day came when four women advanced to the 400 final.
In all the Longhorns advanced 15 women and 13 men through prelims on Friday night to give the team many scoring opportunities in attempt to defend their 2015 titles. In addition to prelim events today, there will be finals in the 3,000 meters and the 4×400 relay.
The night closed with a bang as the women’s and men’s distance medley relay teams showed the Longhorns’ distance crew came ready this weekend.
The women’s DMR tandem of Mary Beth Hamilton, Sydne Fowler, Gabby Crank and Katie Burford ran a strong race and finished second. Hamilton kept Texas near the lead and the Horns continued to creep up when Burford was handed the baton. She ran a strong mile anchor leg to cross in 11:32.48.
Following that excitement, the men’s DMR did not disappoint. The Longhorns led throughout much of the race and freshman Alex Rogers held off two veterans on the anchor leg for most of that mile. He was eventually overtaken heading into the final lap by Oklahoma and out-stretched at the line by No. 1-ranked Oklahoma State. In the end, the men’s team of Brady Turnbull, Carlton Anumnu, Robert Uhr and Rogers finished third in 9:42.34.
“The DMR’s really set the tone for Day 2,” Sategna said. “Based on time and performances coming in we were probably in that lower half, but to come away with second place on the women’s side and to barely get edged out for third on the men, that sets the tone for everybody coming back tomorrow.”
Day 2 of action begins at 11 a.m. Saturday when the heptathlon starts the final three events of its competition. Field events start at noon and running events start at 1:30 p.m. The meet is being live streamed by FloTrack and available with a subscription to the site’s FloPro service. Fans can follow the action with live results provided by DeltaTiming.com. Updates also will be on the team’s official Twitter feed @UTexasTrack. The Big 12 will be tweeting from @Big12Conference. Fans can interact and keep up with the meet by also following and using the hashtag #Big12TF.