The Victor Lopez Classic, held the weekend of March 24, was marked by both success and growth for the women's track and field team. The meet, which welcomed 3,500 spectators on Saturday night, according to Head Coach Jim Bevan, consisted of 75 high school and collegiate teams comprised of 1,800 athletes. The meet has grown in popularity in recent years, with the last two being the largest ever, according to Bevan. The team came in fifth overall with a total of 43 points, with Notre Dame winning the competition thanks to a score of 53.
"We are off to a great start in the season," Bevan said, referring to the 15 personal bests set in the meet.
The meet was marked by notable performances from junior Sharae Robinson in the discus with a mark of 47.72 meters, senior Allison Pye in the 10,000-meter and junior Lillian Nwora in the 800-meter. Bevan believes that Robinson's mark will get her into the National Meet and, while she remains proud of her impressive performance since it was just shy of her best despite it still being early in the season, Robinson is still looking to improve; she said she was hoping to set a new personal record. Due to Robinson's success so far, she also said she is excited about the rest of the season, as she hopes to return to the NCAA Regionals and place higher than she did last season.
Nwora's performance was also particularly impressive, as she ran the 800-meter for the first time and won, which Bevan described as a big breakthrough. Pye was another first-place finisher, winning the 10,000-meter with a mark that is one of the best in the nation so far, according to Bevan. Freshman Claire Uke also performed well, finishing second in the shot put with a mark of 14.77 meters. "Overall, I was happy with how I did," Uke said. However, Uke also added that she wasn't completely satisfied since she had wanted to finish first. Still, Uke remains excited, not only about this season, but also about her career going forward.
"It's been a blessing to come as far as I have now," Uke said. "I just hope that, in time, I'll be able to be mentioned among the elite athletes in the country."
Overall, the team is performing while improving.
"We should see some big breakthroughs in the next few weeks," Bevan said.
"The team definitely did not disappoint," Uke added, echoing his sentiments.
The team's recent success and development, with its continued progress towards being fully healthy, which Bevan expects will happen in two to three weeks, has its prospects looking bright going forward, starting with the Texas Relays this upcoming week.
Chaney named conference indoor top athlete, outdoor jumpstarts spring season
With only a few Owls competing in the Shirley Crowe Multi-Events and Texas Southern Relays two weeks ago, the men's track team formally got its outdoor season underway this past weekend at Holloway Field/Ley Track with the 30th Annual Victor Lopez Classic. But even before the Owls had a chance to compete in the Houston sunshine, an award was bestowed upon redshirt junior Clayton Chaney, who was the recipient of the 2012 Conference USA Indoor Male Field Athlete of the Year, the first Owl to receive the award since Jason Colwick (Martel '10) in 2009. The Will Ricer had his most recent triumph at the 2012 C-USA Indoor Track and Field Championship in Birmingham, Ala. from Feb. 25 to 26, where he won the men's heptathlon in convincing fashion, putting up a career-best 5,730 points.
When asked what the award meant to him, Chaney answered in a demure manner.
"The award means a lot, but it's just been a result of good coaching and things coming together at the right time," Chaney said. "[Head Coach] Jon [Warren] had a lot of confidence in me when he redshirted me after freshman year, knowing that a season of training would allow me to reach my potential."
Chaney's victory in the event was complete by all accounts, with the Bellville, Texas, native placing either first or second in all but one event, showing that his initial struggles with events like the 1,000-meter run and the shot put had been put to the wayside. Other stellar performances by Chaney this year included his second-place finish at the Houston Indoor Invitational as well as first place in the 60-meter hurdles at the Texas A&M Invitational
"Getting my personal best in the championship is very meaningful," Chaney said. "I want to be known as a guy that performs under pressure, so getting that finish is important to me."
With Chaney placing first in the javelin with a throw of 57.21 meters at the TSU Relays and 11th in the 100-meter dash at the Lopez Classic, his third season of outdoor track and field is already off to a solid start. Some other notable finishes included the 1500-meter run, in which freshman Will Firth ran a time of 3:53.44 to take seventh place, while junior Sammy Abuhamra was five seconds behind to finish in 15th place. Senior Lee Johnson and freshman Chris Sanders were impressive in the 110-meter hurdles, taking 11th and 15th places, respectively.
But perhaps the biggest stars of the meet were seniors Colin Shurbet and Alex Zinchenko, who each took the podium at the track for their star performances in the 400-meter hurdles and the throwing events, respectively. Shurbet blazed his way to a career-best in the hurdles with a time of 52.15 to grab second place, with Johnson finishing in sixth place. Zinchenko was dominant in both the shot put and discus, posting a personal best throw of 51.89 meters in the latter to finish in third, while his 17.56-meter throw in the shot put gave him the gold medal in the event. Warren was very impressed with the meet both athletes had.
"We had excellent performances today, but the two biggest were Alex Zinchenko in the shot put and discus and Collin Shurbet in the 400-meter hurdles," Warren said. "Collin's time should qualify him for the NCAA West Region, and Alex was the first in the shot put, and that mark should also qualify him for the first round of the NCAA. Our 4-x-400m team was outstanding and I was very pleased with the outcome of this meet."
The runners in the distance events had their usual dominant meet, with four Owls finishing in the top 10 of three different events. Redshirt junior Gabe Cuadra made no doubt as to who the best 10,000-meter runner in the meet was as he dominated the competition on his way to a time of 31:08 and the prize of first place. Fellow redshirt junior James Llamas was equally impressive, running a time of 9:09 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, with sophomore Travis Roberts only eight seconds behind to finish in seventh place. Finally, sophomore John Cavallo was fourth in the 5,000-meter run, crossing the finish line in 14:47. Perhaps what was most impressive was that all four aforementioned runners set personal bests in the Lopez Classic.
Overall, the Owls were second to the University of Notre Dame in the meet but will look to have an even better performance this weekend at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, considered one of the most prestigious competitions in the Southwest.