The Texas Tech track and field team is ready to travel to Ames, Iowa to compete in the Big 12 Championships this weekend in Lied Recreation Center.
The competition begins at 10 a.m. Friday and continues competition all day Saturday, with the awards ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m Saturday.
The men’s track and field team moved ahead two places in week five, placing them at fourth overall in the national standings. Tech is the highest-ranked team in the nation within the Big 12 conference. The second-highest nationally ranked Big 12 team is Oklahoma State at sixth in the nation, followed by Texas at eighth.
“It’s exciting to see us move up in the polls,” Tech coach Wes Kittley said. “It’s great for our athletes to gain some confidence heading into the conference meet and the national meet. I’m very proud of how our team has progressed through the indoor season.”
With seven athletes and two relay teams now in the top 20 qualifying list, the team is under pressure this weekend to increase the number of Tech athletes ranked in the top 16 nationally to be sent to the national competition.
“Everyone is having their conference meets — the SEC, the Big 12, everyone’s is this weekend, so it’s pretty important how we do,” Kittley said.
Tech senior distance runner Kennedy Kithuka is ranked No. 1 nationally, as well as first in the Big 12 in the 5,000-meter run. Tech junior pole vaulter Kyal Meyers and Tech senior jumper Bryce Lamb also are first in their events in the Big 12 going into the competition this weekend.
Tech’s seven athletes in the top 20 also are ranked in the top five of the Big 12. Those athletes are hoping to make the top 16 nationally, which would send them to the national competition.
“Those top people, we’re really hoping that they’re going to get some better marks and (that will) help them nationally to move up or at least hold on,” Kittley said. “The top 16 spots get to go to nationals, so the top 16 is very important.”
Feb. 22 is full of conference meets for the entire country. The performance of the athletes in every conference during these meets will further determine their spots in the national championship beginning March 8.
The track upon which the athletes will compete this weekend is nothing new to the older athletes, Lamb said. The returning athletes for Tech track and field have the benefit of returning to the Lied Recreation Center and are confident about the atmosphere for the meet this weekend.
“My freshman year, I actually went to this actual venue and same meet and won both of them,” Lamb said, “so I’m looking to do that again.”
Though the stakes are high going into the Big 12 Championship this weekend, so too is the level of confidence Tech athletes have in their abilities.
“Everybody is gunning because everybody is so close in time.” Tech senior sprinter Candace Jackson said. “I’m excited, it’s my last year, so I’m trying to go out with a bang.”