The University of Oklahoma track and field teams will open their indoor season Saturday with the Sooner Opener. The meet is the first in a two meet home stand to be held at the Mosier Indoor Facility. Field events begin at 10:30 a.m. while the first running event starts at 12:30 p.m.
The season opener will also be the first chance for the nearly new Sooner track and field coaching staff, led by head coach Jim VanHootegem, to watch their student-athletes in competition after nearly four months of practice. Joining VanHootegem on the staff are Brian Blutreich, who is in his seventh year coaching the throwers; John Dagata, director of operations and assistant coach, vertical jumps and combined events; Jason Dunn, assistant coach, distancs; Natasha Harvey, assistant director of operations and assistant coach, sprints, hurdles and relays; and Kevin Tyler, assistant coach, sprints , hurdles and relays. Except for Blutreich, all are first-year coaches in the Sooner program.
“We’ve been building to this point off an ideal model and this meet gives us a chance to do some problem solving,” said coach VanHootegem. “Only a meet gives us this opportunity.”
Several freshmen have already impressed their coaches in practice, including Daye Shon Roberson. Traditionally a 400-meter runner, she will compete in the 60-meter dash on Saturday. Sophomore Cessily Jones, who scored in the outdoor 100 as a freshman in 2013, is one VanHootegem thinks is ready to move to the next level.
While throwers like redshirt junior Rylee Rackley had no coaching change from last season, she is in her fourth year in Blutreich’s system and the staff has seen improvement throughout the training sessions.
“She’s somebody in her fourth year and I think she’s had consistent improvement. Now, I think she’s really ready to step into her own and be a major contributor,” said VanHootegem.
There are big things on the horizon for the men, who have returned several from its 2013 indoor roster. Distance runners, redshirt senior Patrick Gomez and Malcolm Wankel are fresh from cross country season and have been performing well in practice. Gomez consistently finished among OU’s top three during the 2013 cross country season and Wankel, a redshirt junior, was a second team All-American in 2013 as a member of the distance medley relay.
Instead of a traditional A and B team for the men’s distance medley relay, the Sooners will enter two equally balanced teams into the event on Saturday in an effort to evenly match the teams and find the best fit.
“We’re looking for people to step up,” said VanHootegem. “We think that the distance medley is a place that OU has been strong. A competition setting will give us a chance to evaluate the runners we have in a different setting than we have had to date.”
Senior Matt Wicks will compete in the 60-meter hurdles, an event that he earned All-Big 12 honors for last season.
Sophomores Tanner Callihan and Everette Favor, who finished seventh and ninth in the 2013 Big 12 Indoor, return in the pole vault. Callihan has impressed the coaches with what he has shown in practice.
Results will be available on soonersports.com.