AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the NCAA track and field championships back in Austin, Longhorns head coach Edrick Floreal wants his athletes to show off.
He means that in the most humble of ways — he wants folks outside of the program to see the results of the work his athletes put in when nobody’s watching.
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“Nobody gets to see what they do in practice. I just want everybody to see how hard these women and men work,” Floreal said. “I want everyone to see that they put in some work and they deserve a handclap or whatever you want to call it.”
The meet begins Wednesday at Mike A. Myers Stadium with men’s preliminaries and multi-event disciplines with one final on the track, the 10,000-meter run, and field finals in the men’s hammer, javelin, pole vault, long jump and shot put. Texas has hopefuls in the shot put, junior Patrick Piperi, and Jeremiah Nubbe in the discus. But with a handful of entries on the men’s side that could produce some medals, everyone at the meet is looking at the 16 entries the Longhorns have on the women’s side when they get started Thursday. They are the top-ranked team in the country and a favorite to win the national title. It would be the program’s fifth title and put them above rival Texas A&M on the all-time list.
No woman has been faster in the NCAA this year than Texas’ Julien Alfred. She qualified for the meet with a time of 10.83 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 22.45 in the 200-meter dash, but she can be faster. She clocked personal bests of 10.74 in the 100 and 22.09 in the 200 at the Big 12 Conference championships, and she’s ready to go.
“I’m really happy with how my season has been thus far,” she said. “I didn’t get a chance in 2019 to run here because I was hurt, but it’s exciting to finish here on my home track.”
Alfred has been a mainstay on the watch list for The Bowerman, the award given to the most outstanding collegiate track athlete every year. She holds three of the top-5 fastest wind-legal times in NCAA women’s history in the 100 and she’s an 11-time All-American who runs legs on both the 400-meter and 1,600-meter relay teams.
She was the high-point performer at the Big 12 championships with 22.5 points, and Floreal said the reason why she’s so good is because she’s coachable.
“She gives me her full attention, and it’s been a rocky road for the last five years, but it’s always cool when a kid has done everything right and you watch it come to fruition,” Floreal said. “She’s a really good teammate.”
Alfred isn’t the only speedster on the squad, however. Ezinne Abba, Kevona Davis and Lanae Thomas are also entered in the 100 and 200, and Abba is the only runner besides Alfred who qualified with a time under 11 seconds in the 100. Thomas qualified with the fastest time in 200 with a 22.12, and all 27 runners have times in the 22-second range.
Texas’ Rhasidat Adeleke is one of the top performers in the 400, and if things work out, there could be one helluva 400 final between her and Arkansas’ Britton Wilson. Wilson ran a national-best 49.13 at the SEC Championships and Adeleke is coming off a personal best of 49.54 at the NCAA West Regional meet. Those are the two fastest 400 times in the country this year.
Wilson is attempting an unprecedented double in the 400 and the 400-meter hurdles.
The Longhorns’ relay teams have the fastest times of the season, 41.89 in the 4×100 and 3:23.27 in the 4×400 with both Alfred and Adeleke running.
Ackelia Smith soared 23 feet, 2 3/4 inches in the long jump for the nation’s top mark at the Big 12 championships and Marilyn Nwora is in the thick of it in the shot put with a personal best mark of 59 feet, 6 1/4 inches at the NCAA West Regional meet.
When Floreal was hired as head coach in 2019, he was charged with “changing the culture,” of the track program as he put it.
“Chris Del Conte hired me and said he wanted a competitive team, year in and year out, and I think we’ve been able to slowly build to get to the point where we have quality young people perform at their highest level,” he said. “I can guarantee you I feel a lot better now than in 2019.”
The meet runs through Saturday and will be broadcast on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN+.