DENTON (1/18/07) The North Texas track and field team is set to begin the 2007 campaign at the Texas Tech Invitational, Saturday in Lubbock.
“These kids have been training since September,” head coach Rick Watkins said. “I think they are ready to start running against someone other than themselves.”
The Mean Green men return several key performers from last season, including thrower Heath Smith. The regional qualifier broke the North Texas javelin record three times in 2006, and took titles in the javelin, weight throw, and shot put over the course of the season as well.
High jump extraordinaire Mark Lee is also back for another go-around. Lee claimed both the Sun Belt’s indoor and outdoor high jump titles in 2006, and is eyeing a repeat performance in 2007.
After winning the 3000-meter steeplechase in 2006, Frank Ngeno returns for his senior season and will look to defend his crown and anchor the Mean Green distance squad.
The Mean Green returns key members from each of its relay teams, but is also looking for new talent to step in. Ryan Roberson returns to a 4x100 relay team that ran the school’s third-best time in each of the last two seasons, while Kelvin Wright and David Schwein return to a 4x400 relay team that finished third at last year’s Sun Belt championship. Texas Tech transfer Ryan Varner is expected to contribute immediately on the relay squad and sprints after being a regional qualifier for the Red Raiders. Temitayo Harriman could also see action on the 4x400. Harriman earned all-conference honors in the distance medley relay at the indoor championship in 2006 and posted the team’s three top 800-meter times of the year. Freshmen Byron Washington and Willie Sneed, Jr. could also be counted on in either relay.
On the women’s side, hopes are high for 2007 as Brandi Stanfield returns for her sophomore season. In just one year in Denton, Stanfield has accomplished more than most athletes can dream of accomplishing in four. After being named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, Stanfield lassoed a combined five gold medals over the indoor and outdoor seasons in addition to becoming the first female jumper at North Texas to qualify for the NCAA championships since 1988 by qualifying in the triple jump.
Ryan Hill and Heather Wood are a pair of seniors to keep an eye on this year, with Hill earning all-conference honors every season she has competed. Wood, a University of Georgia transfer, claimed both indoor and outdoor Sun Belt crowns in the shot put, and in just one season put up four of the top five throws in the school’s history.
Rachael Runnels and Chi Chi Echebelem are no strangers to fast relay times as they were key members of the 4x100 relay squad that posted the two fastest times in North Texas’ history in 2005. The Mean Green will be counting on them to provide leadership to a talented group of freshmen sprinters that will be looking to step up and contribute in each of the relay events.
Overall the Mean Green will field a combined 19 freshmen between the men and women in 2007, forcing youth into the immediate spotlight for the upcoming season.