To date five of the six groups that make up the Oklahoma track and field team have been previewed. The last group, the sprints group, may be the true showstoppers with their pure speed.
Whether they are sprinting around the track, gliding over hurdles or passing off batons without breaking stride, this group has some of the most proven and highly acclaimed student-athletes on the roster.
Leading the group is an all-star cast of runners in seniors Bianca Brazil, three-time All-American Daye Shon Roberson, All-American Trae Armstrong, Payton Baker, CeCelia Jackson and Olivia Haggerty, juniors Ama Pipi, Leya Buchanan, Mia Mukes and Bennie Wesley, and redshirt senior Daunicia Demerson.
Coaching this group will be a tandem of coaches in second-year assistant coaches Ronnye Harrison and Katherine Hoskins. For Harrison, that core group of veteran runners will be looked to for setting the tone.
Having those veterans who have experienced success and can pass on knowledge as they become leaders in the group is essential as this group features the largest number of freshmen. Of the 24 runners who make up the group, there will be 11 on the roster who will be seeking an opportunity to race as a freshman and make an impact.
“All newcomers have the ability to be impactful,” explains Harrison. “My expectations are equal with each and I will pay close attention to how each progresses throughout the first meet. They each know that “team” to me means passing the baton after you’ve given your best to another member of the training group and supporting them.”
Every student-athlete, regardless of their class or prior performances, starts with a clean slate with the start of a new season. For the veterans, it is about improving on last season’s results. For the newcomers, it is about finding their footing and understanding culture and expectations.
“Each year is about building on last year’s training,” states Harrison. “This year we lifted more, our volumes became more individual and our intensities shifted to earlier in the training cycles. That being said, our new athletes, who are in transition, are kept on the lower end of both the volume and intensity.
“The greatest improvements have come with building on confidence and trust. The success we had last year happened with some bit of skepticism, which is normal when you have a coaching change. This season, I’ve seen the athletes really get after it in all facets of the training from the track to the weight room, commitment, nutrition and therapy.”
Now that the offseason and pre-season training has come to an end, Harrison will be looking to gage how the runners respond to the ebbs and flows of competition.
“Competition is the only piece that can be measured,” according to Harrison. “No one athlete can win our conference title and so I view every effort as critical to the 'big picture.'
“I really look to see improvement throughout the season,” Harrison continues. “The first meet is critical because it will highlight how each athlete deals with anxiety and pressure. It’s something that can’t be tested with certainty in any other training plan. I let the goals of working harder lead to the benefits of faster times.”