Champions, record holders highlight track and field positions
The Indoor track and field season gets started once again Saturday. The Cougars will travel to College Station to open their season at Texas A&M University, something they have done every year since the 2008-09 season.
The Cougars are returning the vast majority of the athletes that helped the program win its third-straight Indoor American Athletic Conference Championship. With so many returning athletes, the Cougars are primed for another run at the title. They have the numbers to score in every event.
Senior Elijah Hall is the top returning sprinter for the men’s team. Despite missing both the conference and national championships due to an injury, Hall broke the school 200-meter record and had nationally ranked times in the 60-meter and 200-meter.
If Hall can remain healthy, then a spot at the NCAA Championships in College Station is all but assured.
Sophomore Sierra Smith will be the top sprinter for the women during the indoor season. Although her times did not qualify for the NCAA Championships, her consistent running was crucial in the women’s third-place finish at conference.
Smith earned silver medals in the 60-meter, 200-meter and 4×400-meter relay as she was named to second-team all-conference. Being able to do that as just a freshman leaves even more to be accomplished in her second year.
After winning three indoor conference titles in the shotput, there is no question senior Cameron Cornelius is the leader in the throws for the men’s team. The one thing Cornelius has not done yet is represent the Cougars at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
His best throw last year was 18.43 meters, the 31st-best mark in the country. Cornelius needs to find a way to get his mark into the top 16 while also saving energy for the outdoor season.
Junior Taylor Scaife had a breakout year as a sophomore. Competing in the weight throw, Scaife set the school record with a personal best 20.44-meter throw. Scaife road her momentum all the way to a bronze medal performance at the conference championships. Her marks should improve after such a strong showing.
After transferring from Maryland Eastern Shore, senior Jared Kerr had a strong showing in his junior year. Kerr earned an indoor conference silver medal in the long jump last season and then won an outdoor conference title in the triple jump.
Riding the momentum of that win and competing at the Canadian National Championships over the summer, Kerr should again be expected to medal if not win one or both of the jumping events.
Head coach Leroy Burrell said Tonye’cia Burks showed in her junior year that she is a world-class jumper. In consecutive meets, she broke school records in the indoor and outdoor triple jump, 12.99 meters and 13.53 meters. The indoor record came through her winning the conference title.
An injury at the AAC Outdoor Championships kept Burks from competing at the NCAA West Regional. But now that she will have had time to recover and get strong again, Burks will look to reclaim her position as the top jumper in the conference and one of the best in the country.