Two years ago, the Texas Tech men’s track and field team won the athletic department’s first national championship since the Lady Raiders’ basketball team did so in 1993.
A year after the COVID-related cancellation of spring sports, the Red Raiders are back at the NCAA outdoor championships. Defending their title is not in the cards; scoring a few points will be challenge enough.
The Tech men’s chances of doing something magical this week in Eugene, Oregon, vanished over the course of the season with hurdler Norman Grimes, middle-distance man Takieddine Hedeilli, jumper Justin Hall and thrower Gabriel Oladipo not making it this far.
“We didn’t get as many here as we have in the past,” Tech coach Wes Kittley said Tuesday. “It’s been a tough year with injuries, but at least what we brought, I feel really good about and I’m real excited about.”
The men’s competition at newly reconstructed Hayward Field is Wednesday and Friday, the women’s Thursday and Saturday.
The athletes sporting the scarlet and black and most likely to make noise this week are the Lady Raiders. Ruth Usoro, the NCAA champion in the triple jump indoors, will try to repeat in that event at 5:20 p.m. CDT Saturday. She’s also ranked fifth in the long jump and is the only woman in the world this year to have achieved the Olympic standard in both horizontal jumps.
Seasons Usual will compete in the discus at 4:35 p.m. CDT Saturday. The junior from Maryland, having come back from a worrisome back problem in the fall and winter, is ranked fifth in the discus and motivated by missing first-team all-America status by one spot two years ago in Austin, where she finished ninth.
Sixth-year senior Kaylee Hinton and fifth-year senior Chinne Okoronkwo qualified in the heptathlon and the pole vault, respectively, events in which both have achieved first-team all-America status earlier in their careers.
To make first-team all-America and to score points, an athlete must finish in the top eight.
The Tech men have no one ranked in the top eight, but the Red Raiders’ sprinters were a bright spot in the NCAA West Preliminaries at College Station.
The 400-meter relay of Courtney Lindsey, Jacolby Shelton, Ashton O’Conner and Terrence Jones advanced out of the regional. In addition, Lindsey qualified for Eugene in the 100 meters and the 200 meters, respectively, Shelton made it out in the 100 and Jones did so in the 200.
The men’s sprinters will be among the first up on Wednesday night. In the sprints, 24 athletes will be trimmed to eight for the finals. The top two in each of three heats and the next two best times advance.
“So you’ve got to be 110 percent the first round,” Kittley said. “So I’m going to really emphasize to them, they’ve got to be ready to go, just like a final. You’ve got run this like a final.
“This is not the conference meet where some of your best kids can coast a little bit, save a little bit, having four hard races. We’ve got to roll.”
After hosting the NCAA championships this week, Hayward Field will stage the U.S. Olympic trials from June 18-27.
The historic venue, already long considered a track and field shrine, further cemented its stature with a renovation that began in the summer of 2018. The facility overhaul cost an estimated $270 million, according to an Oregon athletics financial report obtained this spring and reported in March by the Wall Street Journal.
The $270 million figure is according to an appraisal, the Wall Street Journal reported. The imprecise estimate is because of the privacy preferences of Nike co-founder Phil Knight, the lead donor in a group of 50 who contributed.
In addition to building in multiple new amenities, the renovation increased Hayward Field’s capacity to nearly 25,000, including 12,650 permanent seats with an overhang.
Kittley called it “a Taj Mahal.”
“Beautiful facility,” he said. “It’s second to none.”
TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPSIONSHIPS
at Hayward Stadium, Eugene, Oregon
Texas Tech athletes’ schedule
All times CDT
Note: Times and marks shown are season bests.
400-meter relay: Texas Tech (Courtney Lindsey, Jacolby Shelton, Ashton O’Conner, Terrence Jones), 39.07 seconds, 7:02 p.m.
100: Courtney Lindsey, 10.15; Jacolby Shelton, 10.21, 8:16 p.m.
200: Courtney Lindsey, 20.24; Terrence Jones, 20.36, 9:14 p.m.
Pole vault: Chinne Okoronkwo, 14 feet, 0 inches, 6 p.m.
Long jump: Ruth Usoro, 22-2 ¼; Monae’ Nichols, 21-8 ¼, 7 p.m.
400-meter relay: Texas Tech (Virginia Kerley, Kiah Dubarry-Gay, D’Jenne Egharevba, Peyton Ricks), 44.01 seconds, 5:32 p.m.
1,600 relay: Texas Tech (Jadsia Warden, Sara Limp, Amanda Crawford, Lexye Price), 3:31.74, 8:48 p.m.
Triple jump: Safin Wills, 52 feet, 9 ¼ inches; Jalen Seals, 52-4 ¾, 7:20 p.m.
400-meter relay: x-Texas Tech (Courtney Lindsey, Jacolby Shelton, Ashton O’Conner, Terrence Jones), 39.07 seconds, 7:02 p.m.
100: x-Courtney Lindsey, 10.15; x-Jacolby Shelton, 10.21, 7:52 p.m.
200: x-Courtney Lindsey, 20.24; x-Terrence Jones, 20.36, 8:37 p.m.
Heptathlon: Kaylee Hinton, 5,809 points; Callie Jones, 5,663 points, 2 p.m.
Heptathlon: Kaylee Hinton, 5,809 points; Callie Jones, 5,663 points, 1 p.m.
Discus: Seasons Usual, 196-4, 4:35 p.m.
Triple jump: Ruth Usoro, 47-7, 5:20 p.m.
400-meter relay: x-Texas Tech (Virginia Kerley, Kiah Dubarry-Gay, D’Jenne Egharevba, Peyton Ricks), 44.01 seconds, 7:02 p.m.
1,600 relay: x-Texas Tech (Jadsia Warden, Sara Limp, Amanda Crawford, Lexye Price), 3:31.74, 9:21 p.m.