NORMAN - It was almost fitting that the last event of the day, the men’s pole vault, resulted in a personal best and an Oklahoma victory by Everette Favor. Day two of the J.D. Martin Invitational was filled with PRs and plenty of Oklahoma wins as both the men and women’s teams claimed the team titles.
The men tallied 156.50 to claim the victory over Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian, UT-Arlington and North Texas. The women scored 194 points to beat UT-Arlington, SMU, Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian and North Texas. It marked the Sooners’ third consecutive meet win this season.
Today’s results were another sign that the months of training are paying off as athletes are moving the mark each week on what their best is and what they are capable of.
As Coach Jim VanHootegem holds his post-meet meeting with the team after the each meet, he goes over every win and PR achieved at that meet. With every week, that PR list seems to grow. At the end of the JDM, he had 29 PRs and 15 wins to go over.
“I think the improvements are coming because of conviction,” claims the fourth-year coach VanHootegem. “I don’t think they are coming because of perfection. I think everybody is still striving towards perfection. I’m not sure if we are ever going to achieve it, but we’re going to get closer to it.”
Even with the pride that comes with reaching new marks, the head coach knows that his teams are just on the cusp of where they can go.
“I think there were some people who had good days today as far as what the mark was, but they are still not getting everything down. As long as we are working on that, there’s a lot of room for improvement with this group. They are putting themselves in the position for that by getting out and being competitive on Saturday and knowing what they need to work on.”
The day started with the conclusion of the heptathlon. Steven Jazdyk won the 60-meter hurdles with a PR 8.32 and the pole vault 16-00.75 (4.90m). He entered the final event, the 1,000-meter run, with an 80-point lead. Despite his fifth-place finish in the event with a time of 3:03.73 (another PR), Jazdyk was able to hold off Wyatt French of Abilene Christian. French had led in the heptathlon until Jazdyk’s 120-point better effort in the pole vault.
“You can’t ask everybody to have a great day everyday, but what you can ask them to do is respond,” offered VanHootegem. “Steven came back today and just had great execution in the 60-meter hurdles. Pole vault is an event that he hangs his hat on and he had another good day there. Then he came out and PRd in the 1000.
“I think his second day was something that will build his confidence. As he gains an understanding that if he goes out, stays in the moment, lets it happen, competes hard and does things well, the results will come. I think he just stayed more in the moment today. We saw the results from it and I think it’s a great thing for him moving forward.”
Fighting through illness and injuries, encouraging teammates in events, the Sooners are building a culture that will carry and propel them as they move forward in the season. That comes from leadership and individual buy-in, especially from the younger athletes.
“On the men’s side, we were disappointed last week. Not with the result, but with how the result came about. We were looking for things on the end of it like do we have seniors who want to lead. We saw Charles Nguyen really get out there and do a great job, be aggressive. We had Everette, with the whole team getting to watch him at the end. We saw some young people step up. Bryce Douglas (7.93) got onto the top-10 list at Oklahoma in the hurdles and be competitive. Bradley Daboub continues to improve every week. Tyler Hart made a nice move to finish the relay. We’re looking for leaders to lead and for young people to step up.
“On the women’s side, we have had good meets, so we were looking for the consistency, somebody like Jess Woodard. I would describe her as someone who is a 28-30 point scorer in the NBA. They are expected to score that every night and they score that every night. Not just the person who scores maybe 8 points one night, the next night they score 20 and then go back to 8 or 10,” VanHootegem explained.
“You have those people that are those star people and Jess is stepping into that role for us. People like Olivia Haggerty, who is being consistent every week, and Leya Buchanan, who continues to step up. From there, there are so many people that did a great job. It’s nice to see those people really establishing themselves, that they can go into a variety of environments and do well every week.”
VanHootegem wasn’t the only happy coach at the end of the day.
“Overall, our whole coaching staff was pleased. We felt that this was an important meet in our schedule. This third meet was a big one to see if we were going to take a step forward. We saw it across the board with our group. We are getting into that time of the season where the question becomes ‘are you getting better at what you are doing?’ A lot of times, the first couple meets are the product of having a good fall. Now we are asking are you making improvements and adjustments week by week in your event. We saw a lot of that today.”
It won’t be long until the next opportunity to answer those questions, to see how far these teams will go. Next up on the schedule is a trip to New York City and the Armory Collegiate Invitational. Held at The Armory, the meet and the facility are two of the most famous in American indoor track competitions, a mecca for indoor track if you will.
“We’re going to be seeing greater competition in the next two weeks. We need to see how well we do against better competition, particularly in New York. It will be a completely different environment of a large track meet and a more hectic environment.”