NORMAN — After competing on the road for the first five weekends of the outdoor season, the University of Oklahoma track and field teams finally get a chance to compete on their own turf.
The Sooners will host 11 teams, including in-state schools Central Oklahoma, Oral Roberts and Tulsa, in the 48th annual John Jacobs Invitational at the John Jacobs Field. Nebraska (ranked No. 18 nationally on the men’s side in the latest United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association’s ranking), Nebraska-Omaha, North Texas, South Plains, Wichita State, Butler Community College, Missouri State University and Texas-Arlington are the other collegiate teams.
“Hosting a meet at the University of Oklahoma allows us to showcase our facility,” explains head coach Jim VanHootegem. “We have a wonderful facility and it’s a great venue. I was able to bring teams here three times before I coached at OU, and always thought it was a great place to have a track meet. It’s a special place. In addition, we want to compete in front of home fans. Most of the time we are on the road, so this is a great opportunity. We want our student-athletes to have their friends, family and all Sooner fans come out and watch them compete.”
This weekend’s meet also provides a chance to honor the past as well as the present in Oklahoma track and field history.
It is about honoring Oklahoma track and field’s past and the legacy of John Jacobs and the championship teams he coached. Jacobs was a Sooner track and field athlete and later head coach at OU from 1922 to 1958. He became an associate head coach until his retirement in 1968.
This year marks the 48th version of the meet that is held on the very grounds that he designed and that bear his name.
“We feel very strongly about the honor of representing Oklahoma and realize there’s a lot of people who came before us. One thing we want to honor, at this meet in particular, are the teams that won the championships in the early 1960s, right at the end of John Jacobs’ era at OU.”
The Sooners won back-to-back conference titles in 1961 and 1962 under Jacobs’ replacement, also a former Sooner track and field athlete, Bill Carroll. Rest assured, though, Jacobs was still a very active coach with those OU teams.
The meet is also about honoring the present group of Oklahoma track and field student-athletes, and the 26 seniors who have spent the last four years or more representing this university. For VanHootegem, Saturday will be all the more meaningful in that this group of seniors was there on the first day of his tenure, helping him lay the foundation and the vision for the program.
“You can imagine for a coach that Senior Day is always a bittersweet day, but it will never be more so than with this group. These athletes were freshmen when I came to OU, so this is the first group that I’ve really had a chance to coach for all four years. That’s going to be very special.
“What we expect is that, as this program goes on to do special things, we’re always going to remember and honor the first group that set the tone for us. You don’t want to start getting into names, but, if someday we win a championship or get a trophy at a NCAA championship or something along those lines, I know I’m going to think about this group, and people like Olivia Haggerty, Payton Baker, and on and on. This is a special group of people.”
The high school portion starts at 10 a.m. with field events and running events start at 10:30 a.m. The collegiate events will start with the hammer throw at 5 p.m. In a change from past years, there will be four running events Friday night. A women’s and men’s inivitational 1,500-meter will go off at 7:30 p.m. and 7:40 p.m., respectively. The women’s 5,000-meter run will start at 7:50 p.m. to be followed by the men’s 5,000-meter run at 8:05 p.m.
Day two will start with the women’s javelin at 10 a.m. Running events are set to start with the 400-meter relays at 12:45 p.m. The last event of the meet is the men’s 4x400-meter relay, scheduled for 4:15 p.m.
The meet will be scored as per NCAA rules for Division I teams only.
In addition to the Sooner senior tribute that is scheduled for 2:05 p.m., the program will honor members of the 1960, ’61 and ’62 teams who have returned to Norman. Like the 26 seniors, those teams were part of the coaching transition from Jacobs to Carroll and left a successful foundation for teams and coaches who followed.
Prior to the celebration of the present and the past, OU will host an opportunity to celebrate the future. There will be a special 200-meter Kid’s Race at 2 p.m. Children 12 and under are invited to participate. There will be an on-site registration prior to the race. Additionally, the first 200 fans will receive special pink T-shirts.
In last year’s meet, Oklahoma won both team titles and then-freshman Kenzie Shell set a school record in the pole vault with a height of 14-5.50.
Weather updates will be posted to SoonerSports.com as needed. Parking during the day on Friday will be available in the easternmost end of the Duck Pond lot, accessible from Brooks St., and the Parkview lot, located on the corner of George and Lindsey. On Saturday, the entire Duck Pond lot will be available for spectators. The Parkview lot will also be available for overflow. Spectators should access the facility from the north side of the track and there is no admission charge for either day of the meet.
A recap will be posted at the conclusion of each day. Live results will be available online at pttiming.com. Updates will be posted throughout the day on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (OU_Track).