Tonja Buford-Bailey

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: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Longhorn men seeking back-to-back titles for first time since 2008 and 2009

For the 25 members of the Texas men’s track and field team heading to Ames, Iowa, on Friday, the indoor season comes down to this — after winning a year ago, the men will try to defend their Big 12 title in hopes of claiming back-to-back championships for the first time since 2008 and 2009.

And what this Texas squad lacks in experience, it makes up for in depth. The Longhorns have athletes in the top 10 of the Big 12 in 18 out of 20 events.

“The goal is to win both the men’s and women’s titles, and it will take a full-team effort because we are not reliant on one event area to do the heavy lifting,” interim head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. “Everyone we are taking to this meet can score points for us, and that’s what we hope to see.”

To do so, the Longhorns will have to go through Texas Tech and TCU, the only two Big 12 teams ranked ahead of Texas in the national standings. Both squads have athletes who have dominated sprints, including Texas Tech freshman Divine Oduduru — who posted the Big 12’s fastest times in the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes.

Long distance running is an area in which Texas can separate from the pack. Freshman Sam Worley has taken a leading role heading into his first Big 12 championship meet, while junior Alex Rogers looks to medal after placing fourth last year in Ames.

Repeating championship seasons is no easy task. Yet this Texas team has put itself in position to give Texas Tech, TCU and the rest of the Big 12 everything they can handle while pursuing a second straight conference title.

Texas women attempt to add to dynasty

A conference championship is on the line this weekend in Ames, Iowa, for the Longhorn women’s track and field team, which is looking to exert its dominance once again at the Big 12 Indoor Championships. If the Longhorns are able to leave Ames as champions, it will be the team’s fourth Big 12 indoor title in the past five years.

Throughout the season, Texas has made notable strides each week. Now, not only do the Longhorns have to continue the trend of improvement, but they also must take their performance to another level in order to recapture the title.

The women’s team performed well at the USATF Championships last week, which weren’t exclusive to collegiate athletes. Graduated athletes and Olympic hopefuls competed as well, and the Texas women gave them a run for their money.

Junior Teahna Daniels set a career mark in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.22 seconds. The goal for her was to get into more races and lower her time after she missed two meets due to the passing of her father. Her time put her at the top of the Big 12’s performance list and No. 8 on the NCAA’s performance list.

“With Teahna, we accomplished exactly what we came to this meet for — one, to get another opportunity to race, which will set her up in a good position for the Big 12s and NCAAs,” Texas interim head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said.

Along with Daniels, competitors such as senior Kally Long, junior Mariam Abdul-Rashid and sophomore Elena Bruckner all are pivotal keys for Texas’ success as the trio are each in the top three of the Big 12’s performance list for their events.

New Texas head coach Mario Sategna is the first UT track coach to oversee a joint men’s and women’s program. 

Photo Credit: Eric Park | Daily Texan Staff

When Texas track and field combined into a joint men’s and women’s program before this season, a monumental effort was needed to form a successful product. Both coaches from the previous year stepped down, but the program was passed to a familiar face. 

Mario Sategna had been an assistant coach for the Longhorns for the last decade, establishing himself as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches. But he never left for another job, and with the merger, he finally got the offer he desired. 

“It was a dream come true,” Sategna said. “This is where I always wanted to be,” 

But how did one man, with no head coaching experience, take over a program that had recently doubled in size? 

He recruited, arguably, the best staff in the country. 

“You want to go after people that have similar philosophies that work well,” Sategna said. “My thing was to go out and find the right fit for Texas.”

Sategna immediately pitched Tonja Buford-Bailey, a three-time Olympian, to be his associate head coach. She already had a women’s head coaching job at the University of Illinois, but the allure of Texas proved too much to pass up.

“I was to the point where I had outgrown my position there,” Buford-Bailey said. “I felt like I would have a better opportunity in recruiting to be able to get a foot in the door with some of the best athletes in the nation.”

When searching for a throwing coach, Sategna looked no further than an old teammate from his days at LSU, Ty Sevin. Sevin was the head coach at University of New Orleans, but, like Buford-Bailey, he couldn’t say no to the opportunity at Texas.

To round out his staff, Sategna recruited Kareem Streete-Thompson, another former Olympian. Streete-Thompson previously served at the University of Missouri coaching sprints, hurdles and horizontal jumps — the same role he holds at Texas. 

Sategna assembled a decorated staff, but the team could not function unless Sategna let his coaches work unimpeded.

“The main thing for them this year was just to have them recruit and coach and me to take on more of an administration role,” Sategna said.

The trust he’s built with his staff has gone a long way. 

“The greatest thing about it is that he trusts me and my operations on a daily basis,” Buford-Bailey said. “That makes it a lot easier for me.”

Sategna understood one man could not handle such a large team by himself, nor could he micromanage his staff once they were in place. For optimal performance, he placed faith in his staff, just like he does with his athletes.