With the Conference USA championships on the horizon, the North Texas track & field team took the short trip north to Norman, Oklahoma for the J.D. Martin Invitational. Hosted by the University of Oklahoma, the event started on Friday but the Mean Green players were just spectators on day one in anticipation of their participation on Saturday.
After three straight weeks of extremely competitive running, coach Carl Sheffield gave some of his upperclassmen runners the weekend off in preparation for conference play, which arrives on February 17th and 18th in Birmingham, Alabama.
For this weekend, it was about staying sharp, ready and confident.
“One of the things that we were trying to come away with was high level performances so that we tried to improve our confidence in getting ready for Conference USA,” Sheffield said. “We came off a three week stretch where we were going against some big dogs in some big places. So we just needed to try to build our confidence a little bit, get some really good marks and work on execution to get us ready for conference play.”
With that said, Sheffield was pleased with the results. The male unit of the squad totaled 103 points, which was the best at the Invitational by 14 points. The women finished with 81 points and second as a team.
“I think overall we were pretty competitive against the Division I teams we faced,” Sheffield added. “I was pleased with the effort that they gave. Zack Kirkland was a big competitor today. He was first in the 1000 meter run and second in the 800 meter.”
The men dominated the 1000 meter, claiming gold, silver, bronze and the fourth place slot. Kirkland, a senior, won gold, senior Rick Nally notched silver, sophomore Florian Lussy grabbed bronze and senior Mike Lowe finished just behind the trio in fourth.
A Northlake, Texas native, Kirkland had a medal-decorated Saturday.
“It was a big confidence boost,” he said after the day’s conclusion. “That’s exactly what we were looking for coming in to this meet. To get out hard, be confident and close hard. The plan was just to use each other and ‘hang and bang’ as coach says.”
For the women, this weekend wasn’t just about strong results, but also about gaining invaluable experience.
“Our women’s team is really, really young,” Sheffield said. “We had a lot of young competitors this week. We left some of the upperclassmen distance runners at home and brought a lot of the freshman. They just needed the competition and the repetition. I felt good about how they did today.”
Freshman Lyric Choice represented the Mean Green well across the Texas border. She participated in the 60 meter dash and 60 meter hurdles, claiming a second place finish in the latter.
“For the 60 meter dash, I feel like I was warming up for the hurdles since it was right after,” the Mesquite native said. “But my hurdle event, I feel like I did really well.”
With the conference games approaching, Lyric had some positively choice words regarding the important upcoming event in Alabama.
“I feel like I can work more, but as for my confidence level so far and for the following weeks, I feel very confident. After today’s meet I felt very confident and I am am very excited for conference. I’m excited to see what’s to come.”