The end of the season is in sight for the North Texas track and field team heading into this week’s NCAA West preliminaries.
The Mean Green will take 12 athletes to the meet in Fayetteville, Ark., including a few with a chance to advance to the national finals in Eugene, Ore. What is particularly encouraging for UNT coach Carl Sheffield is that all but two are scheduled to return next season.
For that group, this week’s meet isn’t so much an ending, but a beginning — one Sheffield says could help UNT quickly improve heading into next season.
“That will pay off for us down the line,” Sheffield said of UNT having so many younger athletes compete. “We will have a lot of young kids next season. The guys who are going to nationals will be able to share their experiences.”
Sprinter Clinton Collins and long jumper Clint Clarke are the only two seniors who will compete for UNT this weekend. Collins is tied with Steven Solomon of Stanford for the fifth-fastest qualifying time in 400 meters in the West Region at 45.76 seconds, a time that puts him in a tie for 15th nationally.
Collins likely has the best chance among the dozen UNT athletes competing this weekend to advance to the national finals. The top 12 finishers in each event at each of the two the preliminary-round meets — one in the east and one in the west — will advance to the national finals.
Troy Taylor will compete in the 1,500 and also has a chance to advance. He enters the competition ranked 40th in the region with a time of 3:44.82.
“If Clinton can run the same time he ran at the conference meet again, he will advance,” Sheffield said. “It wasn’t that hard for him to run that time. Now that he has done it and hit the 45-second mark, he realizes he can go out there and run that fast again.”
Mona Landry is one of several younger UNT athletes who will aim for a similar breakout performance. Landry advanced to the preliminary round as a freshman last season as a member of UNT’s 400 relay team and will compete in the long jump this year.
“I qualified last year on a relay team, but it’s nice to be here in my own event,” Landry said. “It’s a great sign for the future to have so many younger athletes here. This shows that if you work hard and are dedicated you can make it to regionals and then go on to nationals.”
UNT sent three athletes to the national finals last season in Jo Adams, Shahaf Bareni and Steven White.
White finished third in the 400 hurdles, the best finish for a UNT individual or relay team since Bill Schmidt finished second in the javelin in 1970.
UNT will have a few veterans aiming to follow the path that trio blazed and a few younger athletes aiming to gain some vital experience.
Clarke, the long jumper, enters the meet trying to extend his career.
“It’s a great opportunity and a good sign for the team to have this many younger athletes qualify,” Clarke said. “We want to be a regional and national program. We have a chance to get some athletes to make it to the final round.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
The following is a list of North Texas athletes who will compete in this week’s NCAA Division I outdoor track and field West preliminary meet in Fayetteville, Ark.
400 meters, 1,600 relay
200 meters, 1,600 relay
100 hurdles, 400 hurdles
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