FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - After yesterday’s events, head coach Jim VanHootegem emphasized that the Sooners needed to be at their absolute best in this type of meet. Day 2 at the Tyson Invitational, hosted by the University of Arkansas, proved to be much of the same lesson for today’s participants. In doing their absolute best, Hayden McClain and Meagan Gray solidified their standing in school history, while five more personal bests were set.
“Meagan really got us off to a good start today and Hayden was a principal player taking the early lead in an amazing competition,” praised VanHootegem. “Both those marks are second best in school history. Ama Pipi set another PR in the 200 out of a tough lane draw. It was great seeing those people step up in a meet like this.”
For the Oklahoma track and field teams, the level of competition seen throughout the two days was something that hadn't been encountered until this point of the season, introducing the athletes to results that they may not have experienced to date.
“Our standards are high every day, but it is hard for many athletes to sense them. Today, they could see it, feel it, smell it and taste it, so now they know.”
Gray started OU off with the first event of the day, the women’s pole vault. She recorded a personal-best height of 13-7.25 (4.15m) to tie for third in the event. Her mark also moved her from fourth to second in school history, behind current vaulter Kenzie Shell. Later in the day, Shell competed in the invitational section of the pole vault, but was unable to record a height.
In the high jump, Dean White finished tied for fourth with a height of 6-9.75 (2.08m). Carl Williams followed in seventh at 6-8.25 (2.04m). Makayla Stephens ended up tied for 13th in the women’s event with a final clearance of 5-3 (1.60m).
As the shot put event went on, Jess Woodard’s throws continued to improve, taking her to a 56-0 (17.07m). She ended up as the runner-up behind Baylor’s Cion Hicks. Meia Gordon was ninth with 47-8.50 (14.54m). Bradley Daboub recorded a 51-5.50 (15.68m) to place 16th in the men's shot put.
Over in the sand pit, McClain improved his personal best to 54-4 (16.56m) to finish third in the invitational triple jump. That jump moved him into the second spot in school history. Marcus Mitchell recorded a 49-0.25 for an 11th-place finish. Joshua Foster was 15th with a 46-10. On the women’s side, Brianna Rodriguez came in 18th with a distance of 38-0.25.
For Woodard and McClain, what would have been considered fantastic efforts and perhaps event wins in other meets, resulted in second- and third-place finishes, giving concrete evidence of the level of competition VanHootegem spoke about.
On the track, Amanda Van Buren started off with a personal best in the 200-meter dash, finishing 17th with a time of 24.21. Daye Shon Roberson came in 27th at 24.44 and Medinah Spencer was 28th with a 24.50. Pipi ran the 200-meter invitational event, finishing fifth while setting a PR at 23.26. Jackson Webb set a PR in the men’s 200 meter with a time of 21.66 and was 18th overall in the event.
Although Webb was the only OU competitor in the men’s portion of the 200, VanHootegem believes that there is a positive impact on Webb as he was surrounded by and witnessed the success of the women. “I think about someone like Jackson, who sees what is going on, and wants to step up and be a part of it.”
Closing out the day and the meet was the 4x400-meter relay team of Pipi, Alexis Barnes, Mia Mukes and Payton Baker. They finished seventh with a time of 3:40.18. Their time was the 10th fastest in school history.
Most of the Sooners will be off next weekend as they prepare for the Big 12 Indoor Championship to be held at Iowa State Feb. 24-25. VanHootegem realizes the dividends this weekend’s exposure and results can have looking ahead.
“This meet put a new kind of pressure on our team. How we respond will dictate our fate in Ames.”