NORMAN, Okla. -- Led by the performances of Avione Allgood and Brandon Doughty, the University of Oklahoma track and field program capped off an exciting 2014 campaign at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.. The Sooners finished the season with five student-athletes earning All-America honors, including first team honorees Allgood and Doughty, for first year head coach Jim VanHootegem..
Oklahoma was represented in Eugene by six student-athletes total, representing two different events. Four Sooners qualified for the javelin throw, while the remaining two ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The women’s javelin throwers were arguably the most successful group of student-athletes wearing Oklahoma uniforms during 2014 outdoor season, producing four wins, seven personal records, one Big 12 Championship and three championship qualifiers – the first time in program history that three OU teammates competed in a single event at the NCAA Finals.
The season’s top finish came from sophomore thrower Allgood, who closed her sophomore season as the NCAA runner-up in the javelin. Allgood, the 2013 Big 12 Champion, was also the Big 12 runner-up for 2014. Her finish in 2014 gave her back-to-back top eight finishes and two first team All-America certificates.
While Allgood did not repeat as Big 12 Champion in 2014, the title remained in the hands of a Sooner thanks to the performance of another sophomore, Elizabeth Herrs. The Kansas native’s throw of 189-5 was the second best throw in Oklahoma program history and the best throw in the country at the time. Herrs closed her season, finishing 10th in the country and earned second team All-America honors.
Senior Ashley Kowalewski was the third Sooner to compete in the women’s javelin final. She finished 22nd in her final competition for OU. Garrett Snow, in his first season as a Sooner, was the lone competitor in the men’s javelin final. He too finished 10th and earned second team-All-America honors.
One of the most impressive performances of 2014 came from distance runner Doughty, who ended his season with the top time (8:41.65) in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in Oklahoma program history. Doughty’s final three races each resulted in personal records -- one of them earned him the Big 12 Championship in the event. He finished his season as a first team All-American after placing fifth in the finals. He entered the meet ranked 34th in the country.
Alex Deir competed alongside Doughty in the steeplechase, much as they had done all season long. Deir finished 10th, concluding his first season at OU as a second team All-American.
“It was good finish to the season,” said VanHootegem. “The people who (went to Oregon) performed well. Ashley Kowalewski, our only senior at the NCAA, has been an emotional leader for our team. Hopefully, a lot of our kids learned from her this year -- we are going to miss her spirit. Everybody else who qualified for NCAA Outdoor is back and they are going to be the core group to lead our team next year.
“On one hand, we would like to have more athletes at (the finals) and we would like to be a bigger factor in the meet. “On the other hand, I am really proud of the efforts of the kids who traveled to Eugene. There were some great performances.”
VanHootegem, who joined the Sooners in the summer of 2014 following eight seasons as an assistant coach at Texas A&M, inherited a very young squad for his first season at the helm. However, the Sooner head coach believes that, while his team was full of fresh faces, the young student-athletes did a great job of filling the shoes of their predecessors.
“I think the season went pretty well,” VanHootegem explained. “There were some good people who graduated last year, people I am sure were some of the team leaders in 2013. We asked other people to step up in the void and I think we did a good job doing that. There were some significant losses -- Tia Brooks was obviously one plus a lot of the top men’s distance runners who were All-Americans and had qualified for the NCAA In cross country made up another significant group. We had a lot of people step up and fill those shoes.”
On the men’s side, one of those fresh faces to step up and make a big splash was freshman Hayden McClain. In his first season competing at the collegiate level, McClain made his presence known in the Big 12, finishing as runner-up in the triple jump in the indoor and outdoor seasons. McClain narrowly missed qualifying for the national finals, placing 15th at the preliminary meet.
Another freshman who made the most out of his first season on campus was Nolan Hay, who scored points for the Sooners at the indoor and outdoor Big 12 Championships, finishing fourth in both of those meets.
The Sooners got major contributions from another men’s javelin thrower, sophomore Tyler Renton. Renton, who finished third in the Big 12 in 2013, found that same success in 2014, placing third once again. The Canadian sits atop the Oklahoma record books, setting the historic mark of 229-6 at the 2014 John Jacobs Invitational, OU’s lone home meet of the 2014 outdoor season.
On the women’s side, Kelsey McKee and Elena Arriaza, both freshman distance runners, made big strides in their young careers. McKee was a scorer in both the indoor (1,000-meter run) and outdoor (4X400-meter relay) Big 12 Championships, while Arriaza proved she was a versatile runner, covering races from the 1500 to the 10,000. The women’s distance group was led by senior Molly Williams, who made the most of her final year as a student-athlete, scoring for the Sooners at both Big 12 Championships and closing her career with an impressive performance in the 1500 at the NCAA West Prelims.
Throwers Rylee Rackley and Sarah Tolson recorded several strong performances in 2014 with each finishing as Big 12 scorers in the hammer and the weight throws.
While VanHootegem was pleased with his first season at Oklahoma, he is quick to say that he and his team are hungry for more. The upcoming offseason brings the opportunity for progress. It also presents the opportunity for more new student-athletes to join the Sooner program and to etch their names in Oklahoma history.
“We want to get better and we want to get more people in the finals,” VanHootegem said. “We are excited about the young people that we have in our program who didn’t make it to this meet, competitors I think can be competing in the NCAA next year. We also have a lot of recruits who want to be at Oklahoma.”