NORMAN – Mother Nature threatened but she was no equal as the Oklahoma track and field teams hosted the Sooner Opener Saturday afternoon, the 2017 indoor season opener. The weather affected the number of teams that showed up at the Mosier Indooor to compete but the Sooners were unfazed.
OU’s depth and success throughout the events led to two large team wins and numerous career best marks for the Sooners. The women recorded 145 points to outdistance Grambling and Arkansas Pine Bluff. The OU men scored 111 points while Grambling and Arkansas Pine Bluff tied with 42 apiece. South Plains and Texas Western State also competed in the meet but were not included in the D1 team score total.
“This was a meet we were definitely going to grade pass/fail,” fourth-year head coach Jim Van Hootegem said. “We needed to see people step up in this meet and compete and we saw that today.
“Another thing we looked for was the performance of our first-time performers in a collegiate meet,” VanHootegem continued. “Heath Warren, for instance, really likes track and we like that he likes track. Cross country is a bit different for him and he was able to come in and start off with a win. Dexter Neboh was in a field with a lot of really good jumpers and he saw what veteran guys at this level jump like.
“At the end of the day, they still have to work on their execution and what is ultimately going to lead them to success. Whether somebody came today and got first place or got fifth place, we are still working on what they need to do so they can be where they can be.”
The Sooners produced 20 winners - eight for the men and 11 individual winners plus a relay for the women. Charles Nguyen opened the victory parade for the men, taking the top spot in the men’s weight throw. Other Sooner men who finished first included Dan Schubert, mile run;
Jamarkus Birks, 200; Bradley Daboub, shot put; Everette Favor, pole vault; Heath Warren, 1000-meter run and Carl Williams, high jump.
Hayden McClain, a senior, added a victory in the triple jump with a 53-9.00 and, in the process, jumped to second in the country. The defending Big 12 champion in the event, the mark was a career best for McClain and moves him to fourth on the career top 10 list.
In addition to the winning mile relay, run by Mia Mukes, Payton Baker, Medinah Spencer and Lane Maguire, other Sooner women who took first place included Kenzie Shell, pole vault;
Baileh Simms, long jump; double winner Jess Woodard, weight throw and shot put; Brittany Tretbar, mile run; Madison Heidenburg, 3000; Olivia Haggerty, 60 hurdles; Leya Buchanan, 60 dash and Hayley Redwine, 1000-meter run. Two of the relay team members, Spencer, in the 200, and Maguire in the 800, picked up individual titles. A total of 14 Sooners established career bests throughout the competition.
“We had an expectation that there could be some people who established career marks. We had veteran athletes like Ashley Bryant, an NCAA qualifier last year, Hayden, another NCAA qualifier, and Jess, in an event that isn’t her primary one, are veteran athletes who know how to train at a high level and come out and perform at a high level,” VanHootegem added. “Some people have never trained at this level before so it’s hard for them to train at that level, then come out and perform at that level. The veterans have a sense of urgency about being good now, coming out and putting up big performances. Then we have the category of the people who are maybe ready to step up from where they were last year. Someone like Meagan Gray would fall in that category. Last year she had her rough year, her rough freshman year. In the end, she did well at the Big 12 Outdoor. She’s ready, she’s a lot more confident in what she is doing and a lot more focused on what she is doing.”
The number of events that the Sooners took the top three or four spots was another part of the impressive performance. The happened in the women’s 60 hurdles with Haggerty, Bianca Brazil and Cecelia Jackson; in the women’s 60 dash with Buchanan, Ama Pipi, Bianca Brazil, Amanda Van Buren; in the women’s 200 with Spencer, Mukes, Barnes, Van Buren; in the women’s pole vault with Shell, Gray, Julia Hanks and Sydney King, and the men’s pole vault with Favor, Lucas Kelley, Alex Sauerwein and Kaleb Cooper; the women’s weight throw with Woodard, Bryant and Camille Burge; the men’s mile run with Schubert, Jacob Burcham, Blake Yount and Calvin Miller; and the women’s mile run with Tretbar, Isabella Rose and Elena Arriaza.
The season continues for the Sooners next weekend as OU travels to a familiar destination, Lincoln, Neb., for the Mark Cooligan Memorial Invitational.
“Going forward in our season, the excitement of that first meet, we won’t get that back. We start to get into our competition rhythm and the competition is going to be stronger. Different meets have different themes. The meet at Nebraska is the closest meet for our team to do a dress rehearsal for Big 12,” VanHootegem explained.
“It’s a four-way team competition – Nebraska, Wichita State, Houston and OU – and all four teams compete at the top of their conference. Everyone will have complete teams and we put together this meet to prepare ourselves for the Big 12 meet as a team. We hope the team will be focused on that, that it’s time to go and line up to see if we can beat other track teams.
OU will be home again the weekend of Jan. 27-28 for the J.D. Martin Invitational.