College Station

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — O’Brien Wasome knew as soon as it happened.

The sophomore got up from his fifth attempt in the triple jump and jumped in the air, pumping his fist in exclamation. His jump was recorded at 6.82 meters, the longest collegiate jump this season. That was all he needed on Saturday to take home first place at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

“I hit each phase and my body reacted the way I wanted,” Wasome said. “As soon as I hit, I was like, ‘Yes, I finally put a good one out there.’”

But Wasome put out more than just a “good” jump. In the attempt, he set the school record and became the first Longhorn to ever win the NCAA championship in the triple jump.

“I don’t even know how to explain (my emotions),” Wasome said. “When I saw (my distance), I was like, ‘Yes!’ I was just excited.”

Wasome has battled through injury this year. He hadn’t recorded a jump on par with his freshman year until the final meet of the season. Yet with his tenacious work ethic, Wasome willed his way to this national championship and put out the best jump of his career when he needed to.

“He is an incredibly motivated kid,” Texas assistant coach Zach Glavash said. “He knew his body this year. He knew when to take a step back and let himself recover. He’s really found his composure.”

Senior Alan Zapalac had his own moment of elation after seeing his score in the weight throw. On the final throw of his indoor career, Zapalac broke the school record by one inch, placing eighth in the competition.

“I still don’t believe it. In 2013, if you’d have asked me this, I would’ve said, ‘Hell no, I’m not going to do that. There’s no possible way,’” Zapalac said. “It’s crazy what can happen with a little bit of time and dedication.”

The senior’s entire indoor career culminated in one final throw. All the work he had put in the last four years finally paid off.

“It was worth it,” Zapalac said. “The four years were worth it. All the late nights and early mornings — weekends I could’ve had fun but decided to rest and go work out. It all just added up today.”

The Longhorn men wrapped up the indoor season with a solid weekend in College Station, placing 12th in the team standings with 17 points. Sophomore heptathlete George Patrick, who finished 14th in the heptathlon, picked up valuable experience in his first championship meet.

“(I need to work on) my mindset,” Patrick said. “When I get down on something, like after I long jumped, I was like, ‘Man, I wish I could’ve jumped further,’ and I kind of brought that with me to the shot put. I wish I could’ve shed that a little earlier.”

For some, like freshman distance runner Sam Worley — who finished 15th in the mile after a collision with another runner — this meet provided just a little extra motivation heading into the outdoor season.

“It will definitely fuel the fire,” Worley said. “I felt like I had the ability to make the final and earn All-American status. To come up short of that kind of feels like I’m going to be carrying a chip on my shoulder going into outdoor.”

Sophomore Serenity Douglas leads the Texas women's 4x400 relay to a season-best time at the NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday. The women’s 4x400 relay team won eighth place with a total time of 3:33.06.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Disappointment was the underlying theme over the past two days at the NCAA Indoor Championships for the Longhorn women.

They hadn’t been able to get the amount of competitors in the meet that they wanted in the first place. Then, with the six athletes they had over four events, the women weren't able to get the results that they wanted.

On the first day, Texas had three runners compete. All three competitors were in the top three at the Big 12 Championships. But none of them were able to place higher than 10th in the standings in College Station.

Texas interim head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey was disappointed, but she was less than shocked at the performance.

“The women didn't come in strong at all. The expectation was for them to try and come in and see if we could get somebody in the finals,” Buford-Bailey said. “We weren't successful in that, but like I said, they didn't come in as a strong team from the start.”

With the shortcomings on Friday, the attention and pressure of putting points on the board shifted to senior pole vaulter Kally Long and the 4x400 relay team on Saturday.

Long finished in 13th place in the pole vault with a clearance of 4.21 meters. On her third and final attempt, Long was unable to reach the pole and had to bail early.

“It was kind of a risky move,” Long said. “I actually went up a pole on that last attempt. I ran in guns blazing, which actually messed me up for my takeoff.”

Despite the low finish, Long was still optimistic.

“I’m happy with my performance based on the fact that I injured my arm on Thursday,” Long said. “I’m proud of myself for overcoming the pain each and every jump.”

After Long’s performance, the only event left for the women was the 4x400 relay. The expectations for the team weren't astronomical. They came into the race seeded 16th after the NCAA expanded the group from 12 to 16.

But the relay team was still able to bring a little light to the weekend. Their time of 3:33:06 was good enough to win their heat, which was the first of four, and set a season best. They eventually finished eighth, with USC taking home the crown with a time of 3:27:45. The top-10 finish was the only one of the meet for the Texas women.

Overall, the weekend put a damper on a season that consisted of a Big 12 championship and several personal and school records set. Leaving College Station with only one top-10 finish for the entire weekend is not the way Texas wanted the season to end.

With the indoor season now closed, the focus turns to the outdoor season, which begins March 16 at the UTSA Invitational in San Antonio.

“We’re going to have to regroup for outdoors and make sure we can get on the podium in some events in the outdoor meet,” Buford-Bailey said.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Athletes from universities around the nation gathered at Texas A&M on Friday to open day one of the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Schools sent their best to compete for a national championship. For Texas, however, the upsets needed for that opportunity could not be pulled off. The three women who competed for Texas all finished sixth or lower in their respective events.

Junior Teahna Daniels was the first Longhorn to compete. Her event, the 60-meter dash, is one that she has not only been able to be competitive in but also win, as she did in 2016. On Friday, Daniels ran in lane one and finished in a respectable 7.24 seconds.

Her time was consistent with the range of times she has produced all season long. But Daniels’ time was not enough to lead her to the top of her heat, as she finished sixth and failed to qualify for the finals.

The second and final event of the night for the Longhorns featured both senior Pedrya Seymour and sophomore Rushelle Burton. The Big 12 Championships saw the duo finish first and second. Friday, they finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Seymour finished 10th overall and .01 seconds away from qualifying for Saturday’s final.

Seymour revealed after the race that she had battled a hamstring injury coming into the NCAA Championships.

“I’ve been battling a little hamstring injury, so that was on the back of my mind,” Seymour said. “I strained it at Big 12, ran a fast time and actually won on it. But injuries sometimes mess with your confidence, and I think that played a part in my performance today.”

Despite the injury and the disappointing finish, Seymour didn’t want to let that affect her moving forward. Her goal now is to come back at the start of the outdoor season healthier and stronger.

“The only thing you can do is bounce back,” Seymour said, “and I know how to bounce back.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — On lap five of eight during the mile run on Friday at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Texas distance runner Sam Worley was comfortably running in the middle of the pack, staying close enough to strike late in the race. In an instant, however, that all changed.

A runner in front of Worley stumbled, forcing the freshman to maneuver around him. Worley quickly fell behind the rest of the group.

“I was swinging to the outside to make my move and get around people and just start gunning for it,” Worley said, “and the Oregon athlete in front of me fell, and I had to stop.”

After the fall, Worley attempted a comeback but was never able to regain his rhythm. He finished seventh in his heat and did not qualify for the finals on Saturday.

“I was building momentum and I was really ready to move and go for it, and it just completely cut it all off,” Worley said. “There’s a million ways I thought that could’ve gone, and that was not the way I wanted it to go.”

Earlier in the day, sophomore heptathlete George Patrick, competing in the NCAA Championships for the first time, faced a different kind of adversity.

“I never get nervous before a race … (but) when I was in the blocks today, my arms were shaking, I was so nervous,” Patrick said.

He fought off the nerves with a solid time in the 60-meter dash and through three events had performed well. But on his last event of the day, Patrick could not overcome a lingering pain in his knee, falling from eighth in the overall standings to 15th.

“Just the way he fought through, he never got down on himself,” Texas associate head coach Ty Sevin said. “That’s some of that maturity that I'd like to see as we move forward.”

Elsewhere, the Longhorns managed a great showing in the long jump, with junior Steffin McCarter finishing fifth and sophomore O’Brien Wasome placing 10th.

Freshman Tripp Piperi finished seventh in the shot put — a good sign as the team heads into the outdoor season.

“He came to me and said, ‘Coach, I’m going to do better outdoor. I promise,’” Texas interim head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. “That’s his mindset — that it’s never good enough (and) he needs to be striving for better.”

On Saturday, Patrick will get back on the track to wrap up the final three events of the heptathlon. Later on, senior Alan Zapalac will compete in the weight throw, and Wasome will participate in the triple jump.

From 1894 to 2011, the Longhorns faced off against the Texas A&M Aggies a total of 118 times, holding a record of 76-37-5 against their in-state rivals. 

Although the rivalry is often deemed one of the best in college sports, the rivalry ended before the 2012 season, as the Aggies moved to the SEC, effectively ending the annual matchup between schools. Because of Texas A&M’s conference change, the Longhorns and Aggies have completely moved their battles off the field to the hotly contested recruiting sphere. 

But the stakes are uniquely high this season in the recruiting battle between the Longhorns and Aggies, as the top-ranked linebacker prospect in the nation is currently deciding whether to take his talents to Austin or College Station next fall. Malik Jefferson, the 6-foot-2-inch linebacker from Poteet High School in Mesquite, is not only the top-ranked linebacker prospect in the nation but is the second-ranked prospect in the entire state of Texas per Rivals.com.  

On Nov. 24, Jefferson tweeted out a picture with a list of the seven schools he was still considering. Jefferson’s list of schools comprised Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and UCLA, but, according to most predictions, it is now a dead heat between the Longhorns and the Aggies for Jefferson’s services next year. Jefferson has visited LSU and Texas A&M and is currently in the process of scheduling a visit to come out to Austin to meet with head coach Charlie Strong and the rest of the Texas coaching staff.

Jefferson is touted as a hybrid defender who can play both outside linebacker and defensive end. In addition to rushing the quarterback, he was primarily used to aggressively attack the line of scrimmage. At “The Opening,” an esteemed camp for top recruits held in Oregon every July, Jefferson clocked in a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and recorded a 39.7-inch vertical leap — top marks for linebackers at the event. 

With a defense that will have five starters graduating in the spring — including linebackers Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks — the Longhorns are looking for an influx of talent on the defensive side of the ball. And many believe Jefferson, with his remarkable athleticism and playmaking ability, to be a game changer — a player who could possibly shape the Longhorns defense in years to come. But only if Texas is able to attract the young star away from College Station.