As the track and field team’s indoor schedule concluded with the Conference USA championships on Feb. 20-21, they have now made the switch to outdoor competition with their first multi-day event, the Texas Relays, set for March 25-27.
At the indoor season’s conclusion, the Mean Green landed a school-record 12 athletes on the C-USA All-Conference teams with eight coming from the men’s side and four from the women. All-Conference distinctions were awarded to the top three finishers in each event at the indoor championships.
“It gives us a lot of confidence, but we can’t be too happy with that, we should still be wanting to work more,” Senior thrower Chris Samaniego said. “I think we recognize that too, we’re still not satisfied. It’s a really good feeling to be able to do that and make some history but it doesn’t satisfy us, it just motivates us more to get to that top spot.”
With the outdoor season starting up after it was canceled last year due to the pandemic, senior thrower Jaleisa Shaffer said the team is excited to compete outdoors for the first time in two years.
“It’s so awesome, it literally feels like it’s been two years, which it has,” Shaffer said. “It has been a whole two years for me and some other people who haven’t competed, so I’m just so grateful [to compete again].”
Having competed at the TCU Invitational on March 20 to open the outdoor slate, North Texas now has its sights set on a competitive field at the Texas Relays.
The meet features athletes from Power Five schools like Baylor, Texas A&M and meet host the University of Texas. Additionally, three C-USA schools in Rice, Texas-San Antonio and Texas-El Paso will be competing.
Junior sprinter Antonio Delacruz said the meet’s competitive field will provide important preparation, particularly for the younger athletes, leading up to the C-USA outdoor championships later this spring.
“The higher level of competition that will be at this meet, it gives some of the younger guys who are going [to the meet] kind of the conference championship jitters,” Delacruz said. “Once they get more of a feel of that on a weekly basis, the championship will come around and it will be just another meet, only this time we’re having a chance to win a title.”
Delacruz was the Mean Green’s top performer at the indoor championships, earning the High Point Scorer honor at the meet after winning both the 60-meter and 100-meter dashes. He was the first North Texas athlete in program history to be named High Point Scorer.
In moving from indoors to outdoors, senior sprinter Aneesa Scott said the level of competition goes up a notch.
“Outdoor is more competitive,” Scott said. “I always tell people, that’s where you see where the big dogs are at. Of course, it’s kind of nerve-wracking for [the underclassmen] going into college meets but I always try to tell them confidence is key. No matter what school, I don’t care if it’s Baylor or Texas, it’s just a name across the chest. It doesn’t mean anything.”
At the Texas Relays, Scott will be competing in her first individual race since the spring of 2020 with the 200-meter dash. A bone bruise on her knee made it painful to run and kept Scott from competing during the indoor season, but she is back to 100 percent now. She holds school records for the 200-meter dash at 23.64 seconds, which she set on Jan. 17, 2020, and also holds the 400-meter dash record at 53.13 seconds.
“I’m so excited,” Scott said. “I’m a competitor and this is all on me. With relays, sometimes it’s pointing a finger to who didn’t do their part, but this is all on me, my own lane, my own sticker on my hip. I’m very excited because I’m a competitor and I don’t like losing. One of my goals, before I leave, is to beat my own records. I haven’t run since 2020, so this weekend will really show me where I’m at.”
While the men’s squad placed second at the C-USA indoor meet, Samaniego said the team is still hungry to improve and take the top spot outdoors.
“The best is yet to come,” Samaniego said. “We’re nowhere near where we want to be. Everyone is kind of like, ‘Oh, y’all are doing good,’ but I don’t feel like it’s to our best yet. It’s really exciting just to know we’re not even close to reaching our peak. We still have a lot more in us.”
Featured Image: Freshman Macy Burnham runs during practice on March 23, 2021. Image by Zach Del Bello