West Coast

The Longhorns will travel to the West Coast this weekend for a pair of outdoor duals against the two-time defending NCAA champion California Golden Bears (2-0) and the Stanford Cardinals (1-0). The Cal dual will start at 3 p.m. CDT Friday while the Stanford dual is Saturday at 2 p.m. CDT.

“It’s a great opportunity to swim against some of the best teams in the country,” said Texas head coach Carol Capitani, who will be going against her alma mater for the first time.

“California won the national championship last year, and Stanford was fourth at the NCAA Championships. It should be a great chance to see if we can put two days of great racing together.”

But the Longhorns, under their first-year head coach, have still trained rigorously this week despite the early season dual meets.

“We want to continue to improve upon the little things,” Capitani said. “We need to race tough. We’re not going to sacrifice training in favor of dual meets. We need to learn how to race well when we’re tired. We can only learn to be tough by swimming tough teams.” 

No. 27 Texas races to the West Coast for the Pac 12 Preview Elite Invitational 5K Friday, Sept. 21. The event will start at 7:40 p.m. CST at Robinson’s Ranch Golf Course, and Texas is ready to start the season with a bang. The Longhorns won four meets last season on the way to a second-place finish in the Big 12 Championships. That tournament’s all-league honors juniors Marielle Hall and Sara Sutherland are anticipating this week’s race.

“[Hall] is a blue-chip caliber athlete,” seventh-year assistant coach Stephen Sisson said. “This year we’re working on balancing her speed element and strength element so she can be successful. She’s a proven conference competitor but one who really wants to take that next step to the upper echelon.”

As her coaches work to balance her racing skills, Hall is already balancing her many commitments. An impressive track record sums up her first two years of eligibility: She holds titles as both the 2011 Big 12 Indoor 1000-meter champion and the UT school record holder for the indoor mile, with a time of 4:43.53 in the distance medley relay. Yet these athletic accomplishments don’t preclude academic excellence. Although Hall devotes long hours to practice, she has still maintained a spot on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll every semester.

Hall joins upperclassmen Laleh Mojtabaeezamani, Anne Jones, Sara Sutherland, Megan Siebert, Jessica Harper and Brittany Marches as leaders for this weekend’s team. Academic sophomores Jenna Read and Marissa Lee step up to the line as well, welcoming classmate Alaina Perez to her first match following a redshirt season. Freshmen Kendall Howen and Claire Andrews complete the lineup. The impressive newcomers finished their high school careers as a 3200-meter track state finalist and all-region cross country honoree, respectively. With the solid lineup, Sisson brims with confidence in his team.

“Believe me, they’re competitive,” Sisson said. “They see the beauty in each other, but they’re competitive enough to take their strengths and keep working to try and become better. They want to beat each other, but they don’t want to beat each other at the expense of the other. They’re learning how to lift each other up.”

The Stat Guy: BYU a good option for Big 12

Senior running back Bryan Kariya, No. 33 above, shakes off a defender in the CougarsÂ’ 14-13 win over Ole Miss last week.
Senior running back Bryan Kariya, No. 33 above, shakes off a defender in the CougarsÂ’ 14-13 win over Ole Miss last week.

Never has college football seen such a whirlwind in conference realignment. Yes, beloved conferences have been disbanded over the years, such as the classic Southwest Conference (1914-1996), but nothing at this accelerated pace. Last year, Nebraska and Colorado bid farewell to the Big 12, and now the conference is on the brink of extinction with Texas A&M’s imminent departure.

So what is the Big 12 to do? There are two options, the first of which is give up, let the conference break apart and potentially lose money and historic rivalries. Or, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe can add to the conference. You may be asking yourself, what schools are out there? The answer is quite simple: Brigham Young University.

The Big 12 North Division hasn’t had much success in football in recent years and is especially vulnerable now without the Cornhuskers or the Buffaloes. Adding a school like BYU would contribute serious talent to the division and open up the West Coast audience to the conference. Some skeptics out there don’t believe the Cougars (a recently declared independent school) could succeed in a BCS division; however, the statistics could certainly raise some eyebrows.

To start, BYU has never lost to Texas in football. Albeit the two teams have only met twice on the gridiron, but the Cougars held their ground against the Longhorns with a 47-6 win in 1988. BYU has never lost to Oklahoma, most recently defeating the Sooners in 2009 with a score of 14-13, a game in which Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game. BYU’s winningest coach, LaVell Edwards, tallied his first win against current Big 12 member Kansas State.

BYU has posted an impressive 8-3 record against current Big 12 schools since 1980, and their all-time record of 12-14 is not too shabby. Certainly, these are numbers worthy of consideration.

Football, however, isn’t the only item taken into consideration when realignment talks occur. Schools have to provide athletic opportunities to many student athletes that stretch far beyond the football field. BYU fields 21 NCAA varsity teams and consistently finished at the top of its old conference, the Mountain West Conference (80 conference titles, including 14 of 17 in 2007). In 2005-06, 234 student athletes made the Academic all-MWC team, a conference high. The school has excellent facilities, a great fan base, very strong academics and has established a winner’s reputation. The Big 12 would be smart to sign the Cougars up right now.

MINERAL, Va. — The most powerful earthquake to strike the East Coast in 67 years shook buildings and rattled nerves from Georgia to Maine on Tuesday. Frightened office workers spilled into the streets in New York, and parts of the White House, Capitol and Pentagon were evacuated.

There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

The National Cathedral said its central tower and three of its four corner spires were damaged, but the White House said advisers had told President Barack Obama there were no reports of major damage to the nation’s infrastructure, including airports and nuclear facilities.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered magnitude 5.8 and was centered 90 miles southwest of Washington. It was mild by West Coast standards, but the East Coast is not used to quakes of any size, and this one briefly raised fears of a terror attack less than three weeks before the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

“I thought I was having maybe a heart attack, and I saw everybody running,” said Adrian Ollivierre, an accountant who was in his office on the 60th floor of the Empire State Building when the shaking began. “I think what it is, is the paranoia that happens from 9/11, and that’s why I’m still out here — because, I’m sorry, I’m not playing with my life.”

Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station, in the same county as the epicenter, were automatically taken off line by safety systems, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

At the Pentagon, a low rumbling built until the building itself was shaking, and people ran into the corridors of the complex. The shaking continued there, to shouts of “Evacuate! Evacuate!” The main damage to the building, the largest single workspace for the federal government, came from a broken water pipe.

The Park Service closed all monuments and memorials on the National Mall, and ceiling tiles fell at Reagan National Airport outside Washington. Many nonessential workers in Washington were sent home for the day. The Capitol was reopened by late afternoon for people to retrieve their things.

The National Cathedral said cracks had appeared in the flying buttresses around the apse at one end. “Everyone here is safe,” the cathedral said on its official Twitter feed. “Please pray for the Cathedral as there has been some damage.”

In lower Manhattan, the 26-story federal courthouse, blocks from ground zero of the Sept. 11 attacks, began swaying, and hundreds of people streamed out of the building.

The New York police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, was in a meeting with top deputies planning security for the upcoming anniversary when the shaking started. Workers in the Empire State Building spilled into the streets, some having descended dozens of flights of stairs.

“I thought we’d been hit by an airplane,” said one worker, Marty Wiesner.

New York District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance was starting a news conference about the dismissal of the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, when the shaking began. Reporters and aides began rushing out the door until it became clear it was subsiding.

On Wall Street, the floor of the New York Stock Exchange did not shake, officials said, but the Dow Jones industrial average sank 60 points soon after the quake struck. The Dow began rising again a half-hour later and finished the day up 322 points.

Shaking was felt as far south as Charleston, S.C., as far north as Maine and as far west as Cincinnati and Atlanta. It was also felt on Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, where Obama is taking summer vacation and was starting a round of golf when the quake struck at 1:51 p.m. EDT.

Obama led a conference call Tuesday afternoon on the earthquake with top administration officials, including his homeland security secretary, national security adviser and administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Around Mineral, Va., a small town close to the epicenter, people milled around in their lawns, on sidewalks and parking lots, still rattled and leery of re-entering buildings. All over town, masonry was crumpled, and there were stores with shelved contents strewn on the floor. Several display windows at businesses in the tiny heart of downtown were broken and lay in jagged shards.

Carmen Bonano, who has a 1-year-old granddaughter, sat on the porch of her family’s white-frame house, its twin brick chimneys destroyed. Her voice still quavered with fear.

“The fridge came down off the wall and things started falling. I just pushed the refrigerator out of the way, grabbed the baby and ran,” she said.

By the standards of the West Coast, where earthquakes are much more common, the Virginia quake was mild. Since 1900, there have been 40 quakes of magnitude 5.8 or greater in California alone. There have been 43 of magnitude 6 of greater.

Quakes in the East tend to be felt across a much broader area.

“The waves are able to reverberate and travel pretty happily out for miles,” said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough.

The Geological Survey put the quake in its yellow alert category, meaning there was potential for local damage but relatively little economic damage.

The agency said the quake was 3.7 miles beneath the surface, but scientists said they may never be able to map the exact fault. Aftershocks may help to outline it, said Rowena Lohman, a seismologist at Cornell University. There were at least two aftershocks, magnitudes 2.2 and 2.8.

The last quake of equal power to strike the East Coast was in New York in 1944. The largest East Coast quake on record was a 7.3 that hit South Carolina in 1886. In 1897, a magnitude-5.9 quake was recorded at Giles County, Va., the largest on record in that state.

A 5.8-magnitude quake releases as much energy as almost eight kilotons of TNT, about half the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The earthquake that devastated Japan earlier this year released more than 60,000 times as much energy as Tuesday’s.

The Virginia quake came a day after an earthquake in Colorado toppled groceries off shelves and caused minor damage to homes in the southern part of the state and in northern New Mexico. No injuries were reported as aftershocks continued Tuesday.

On the East Coast, Amtrak said its trains along the Northeast Corridor between Baltimore and Washington were operating at reduced speeds and crews were inspecting stations and railroad infrastructure before returning to normal.

In Charleston, W.Va., hundreds of workers left the state Capitol building and employees at other downtown office buildings were asked to leave temporarily.

“The whole building shook,” said Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court. “You could feel two different shakes. Everybody just kind of came out on their own.”

In Ohio, office buildings swayed in Columbus and Cincinnati, and the press box at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, shook. At least one building near the Statehouse was evacuated in downtown Columbus.

In downtown Baltimore, the quake sent office workers into the streets, where lamp posts swayed slightly as they called family and friends to check in.

John Gurlach, air traffic controller at the Morgantown Municipal Airport in West Virginia, was in a 40-foot-tall tower when the earth trembled.

“There were two of us looking at each other saying, ‘What’s that?’” he said, even as a commuter plane was landing. “It was noticeably shaking. It felt like a B-52 unloading.”

Immediately, the phone rang from the nearest airport in Clarksburg, and a computer began spitting out green strips of paper — alerts from other airports in New York and Washington issuing ground stops “due to earthquake.”

The earthquake caused a stir online, where people posted to Facebook and Twitter within seconds and described what they had felt. The keywords in posts, or hashtags, included “DCquake,” ‘’VAquake” and “Columbusquake,” an indication of how broadly the quake was experienced.

“People pouring out of buildings and onto the sidewalks and Into Farragut Park in downtown DC,” Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, posted on Twitter.

Quake photos and videos also made the rounds. A handful were authentic. Many more were not — they were favorite earthquake scenes from Hollywood blockbusters or footage of people shaking their glasses and plates at an Olive Garden.

Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: U.S. eastern seaboard sustains mild yet surprising earthquake.