NORMAN— Championship season is upon the University of Oklahoma track and field teams and it all begins this weekend at the Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championship in Lawrence, Kan.
The three-day conference meet will be held at Rock Chalk Park on the campus of the University of Kansas, starting with the combined events at 11 a.m. on Friday.
“This is the team's goal for the year,” says head coach Jim VanHootegem. “Everybody has individual goals, but this is where everyone contributes to the team goals. This is the ultimate team event. We go to a lot of meets, and everything is about putting yourself in position so that in this meet, you can help the team.”
In last year's outdoor championship, the women finished as the runner-up, scoring 137.50 points. It was the highest point total and the highest team finish for OU in conference history. The men finished fourth with 103 points.
The bar has been set, and the teams believe that they have enough motivation and key student-athletes this year to replicate and exceed last year's results.
“I think they saw what will happen if everybody does their job. The men had a good meet last year, based on where we came in. I think it's about giving yourself into the moment and doing your best -- having everybody going out and enjoying doing his or her event, and enjoy the competition.
“There is nothing more spirited in our sport than competing in your conference meet. There's a familiarity with the other teams and we are all fighting for team points. Really, it's about as much fun as you can have.”
The Sooners enter the meet coming off a strong showing at the historic Penn Relays two weeks ago, and hope to use that momentum and other meet experiences accumulated throughout the season, to capture conference titles and improve upon last year's standings.
“Our goal was to deal our team a lot of different hands through the season. Some meets were about worrying about yourself, worrying about an individual performance. Some meets were trying to get a team score. Some meets, I was impressed with the team's ability to create energy. Other meets, I was impressed with someone's ability to match energy.
“Whether it was going to Nebraska in January, the Tyson Invitational in February, our spring break trip in March and onto UCLA or the Penn Relays in April, we've seen what happens when people go out there and get into it. Other times, you can see the drop off you can have when people don't bring the right energy. It's just about coming in and everybody being ready to go.”
The Friday schedule will feature day one of the heptathlon and decathlon, the men's and women's hammer, javelin and 10,000-meter run events. Five events in the decathlon and four events in the heptathlon will take place the first day. The combined events will conclude on Saturday with the 1500-meter run portion of the decathlon, scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the shot put and long jump for the men and women, women's pole vault and men's high jump are the scheduled field events. On the track, it will be the preliminary rounds of the 1500 meter, 100- and 110- meter hurdles, 400 meter, 100 meter, 800 meter, 400-meter hurdles and 200 meter. Closing day two will be the men and women's 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Action resumes on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with the women's high jump. Field events on the docket are the discus and triple jump for men and women and the men's pole vault. Along with the finals from day two's preliminaries, the 4x100 and 4x400 relays as well the 5000-meter run for men and women will round out the meet's final day. Typical of most meets, all field events are finals while the majority of running events are prelims that advance runners to finals on Sunday. The exceptions are the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the 5,000- and 10,000 meter races.
The top eight finishers will score points for their team, with the points being distributed in 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 format.
In addition to determining conference supremacy, marks take on added significance as Sunday is the final day to post a result that will be considered for qualifying to the NCAA.
A recap will be posted at the end of each day on Soonersports.com. FloTrack will broadcast the conference meet, but will require a subscription. Live results can be accessed at Delta Timing. Updates will be provided throughout the day on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (OU_Track).