Texas training will be put to test for fresh faces and vets.
By Kristin Otto
Be it a University of Texas freshman or a Texas Ex, leave it to a Longhorn to eagerly declare that Austin, a city that bleeds burnt orange, is the best place on earth to be a sports fan.
It is undeniable that UT boasts a powerhouse athletic program that pumps out top-notch competitors prepared to pursue pro careers. And for those critics of the UT sports system who are repulsed by the feeding frenzy among media and Longhorn fanatics, what better way to test the success of this process than seeing how Texas athletes measure up on an international platform?
Past and present Longhorns will epitomize the pursuit for perfection mentality, rooted in the tradition of Texas athletics, in their performances at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field, the biggest national championship meet in the world. From June 21 through July 1, fans and athletes, including the majority of the current Texas men’s and women’s teams, will convene in Eugene, OR, (aka, Track Town, USA) to attend the trials.
However, among the thousands of collegiate, sponsored and unattached elites scheduled to compete at the historic Hayward Field—the University of Oregon’s former football-turned-track-and-field stadium—there are a handful of Longhorns who are highly anticipated to reach marks and clock in times that will earn them one of the 141 track-and-field spots on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
The well-rounded talents of Texas athletes will be showcased with elite decathlete Trey Hardee facing off at the trials against Isaac Murphy, UT’s premier competitor in the event, who currently occupies the second national seed. Following reconstructive surgery that repaired a detached ulnar collateral ligament sustained during a javelin throw last summer—a personal record throw that secured his second consecutive title as world champion—Hardee has been limited by an accelerated recovery regime. Meanwhile, Murphy has been closing in on the ex-Texas athlete’s legacy. In April, the junior broke the 8,000-point barrier with a career-best finish to become the first Longhorn to win the decathlon at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays since Hardee’s victory at the meet in 2006. So, while on paper Hardee looks like he should be the favorite in London, Murphy is an impending threat that the former Longhorn would be foolish to ignore.
Marquise Goodwin and Keiron Stewart form a jumping junior duo that also has a good shot at advancing to the Olympic games this summer. With 91 catches good for 975 yards during the course of 16 starts, Goodwin is widely identified as one of Texas’ go-to wide receivers. But Goodwin’s talents reach far beyond handling a football. While he habitually competes in the 100-meter dash, Goodwin holds a school record in the long jump. In addition, he was the 2010 NCAA outdoor champion, the 2011 USA outdoor champion, and qualified for the 2011 IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) World Championships in South Korea. Recently dubbed Big 12 Men’s Track & Field Athlete of the Week following his third consecutive win, he currently holds the third-longest jump in the conference and sits in fifth place in the Division I NCAA rankings.
Stewart, who will be representing Jamaica, has evolved from one of the best young cricket batters in Kingston in to a two-time first-team All-American hurdler. He currently holds the UT record for both the 60-meter hurdles and the 110-meter hurdles, an event in which he has recorded the sixth-best time in the nation this outdoor season.
On the rise is sophomore Danielle Dowie, in many respects Stewart’s female counterpart at Texas. Dowie, who also plans to represent Jamaica at the trials, complements Stewart’s standout short-distance performances with her natural knack for the 400-meter hurdles. Although the sophomore had not participated in the event prior to this year, she has prevailed with three first-place finishes this season. In her most recent win at the Longhorn Invitational in Austin, Dowie finished with the fourth-fastest time in the nation, beating out unattached ex-Longhorn and the UT school record-holder in the event, Raasin McIntosh.
Eight-time Big 12 champion and 2003 USA outdoor champion, McIntosh closed out her career at Texas with a fifth-place finish at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials finals. The now 30-year-old will go head to head against Dowie in Eugene, looking to reinforce her title as the fastest Longhorn in the 400-meter hurdles with a top-three qualifying time.
Arguably the most prominent Longhorn on the standing women’s track and field team, sophomore Allison Peter will be competing for the U.S. Virgin Islands at the trials. A multi-individual event and relay runner, Peter earned two first-team honors for her second-place finish in the 200-meter and, along with Dowie, for running the fastest leg in the runner-up 4-by-400-meter Longhorn quartet at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships. Peter has carried the momentum from the indoor to the outdoor season, leading Texas to the No. 1 overall seed in the USTFCCCA NCAA Division I outdoor track and field national team computer rankings for the first time in five years. In both the 100-meter and 200-meter, she is currently tied for sixth in the country. In addition, Peter is part of the No. 5 4-by-100-meter UT relay squad, which broke the Drake Relays record at the last regular meet of the outdoor season, as well as the top-ranked 4-by-400-meter Texas team.
Twenty-year reigning head coach of women’s track and field Beverly Kearney has likened the sophomore to one of the most influential and decorated figureheads in the sport, Sanya Richards Ross. While at Texas, Richards Ross competed alongside other now-pro runners, including McIntosh and Nichole Denby, who, after barely missing the cut at the 2008 Olympic Trials, will be another former Longhorn looking to prove herself worthy of a spot on the U.S. team. Under the guidance of Coach Bev during her two-season career at UT, the 11-time All-American won five NCAA championships and currently holds both indoor and outdoor school records in the 400-meter.
Since leaving Texas, Richards Ross, who married NFL cornerback Aaron Ross in 2010, has won four World Championships and has garnered two Olympic gold medals for her clutch performances in the 4-by-400-meter relay. While she has been long ranked the best 400-meter runner in the world, Richards Ross has recorded more sub-50s in the event than any other female in the history of the sport, and she is ready for an individual gold in London.
While the eyes of Texas fans will be upon current and former UT track-and-field competitors to represent burnt orange in a big way at the 2012 Olympic Trials, the eyes of Texas athletes will undoubtedly be upon the ultimate prize—the coveted opportunity to compete in London at the Games of the XXX Olympiad.