DENTON (2/14/07) The Mean Green track and field team will put the finishing touches on the indoor season this Saturday and Sunday at the Sun Belt Conference Championships in Jonesboro, Ark.
The Mean Green women have taken second place in four of the past five SBC Indoor Championships including placing second in 2006 behind Western Kentucky. The women brought back the conference title last in 2005. Last season the men had their highest finish at an indoor meet finishing fourth.
Through four indoor meets the Mean Green has had its share of highlights, none brighter than Brandi Stanfield. The sophomore has already provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships in the triple jump when she flew 41-08.5 at the J.D. Martin Invitational. Along with picking up a win in the long jump this year, she has also holds the Sun Belt’s sixth-best time in the 200 meters.
“Brandi has just gotten so much stronger this year,” head coach Rick Watkins said. “When she really learns how to harness all of that newfound strength and speed, it is really going to be something to see.”
Stanfield will be one of three for the Mean Green looking to defend conference indoor crowns this weekend. Stanfield won the triple jump in Murfreesboro, Tenn. as a freshman.
Another defending champion that will be making the trip for the Mean Green is senior thrower Heather Wood. Wood took gold last season in the shot put in her first SBC Championships since transferring from the University of Georgia. Wood had her best throw of the season last year when she tossed 46-02.5; this season her throwing pattern seems eerily similar and she will be looking for a similar finish this weekend.
The third defending champion making the trip to Jonesboro for North Texas is senior Mark Lee. Last year’s indoor and outdoor high jump champion, Lee cleared 6-11 in winning the Texas Tech Invitational at the beginning of the season. That is the second-best jump of the season by anyone in the Sun Belt, only behind Arkansas State’s James Jenkins.
North Texas is also getting quality work out of its group of young sprinters, a group that claimed the school record in the 4x400 at the Iowa State Classic. The team consisted of three freshmen Ciara Smith, Jamia Robinson, and Fernanda Mackenna - and one sophomore Shayla Hart as they turned in a time of 3:44.15 that is also the best the Sun Belt has seen this season by nearly two full seconds.
Two of those freshmen Ciara Smith and Fernanda Mackenna have taken event titles this season. Most recently it was Mackenna that claimed the 400-meter dash at the Sooner Indoor on her way to being named Sun Belt Conference Female Runner of the Week. Smith won the 200 meters at the J.D. Martin Invitational in the season’s second week.
In the field events, the Mean Green has had two throwers that have gone head-to-head in the weight throw throughout the season: sophomores Alana Tyler and Shauna Shepherd. Tyler entered the season holding the school’s record in the weight throw, only to have it broken in the first meet of the season by Shepherd; however, Tyler reclaimed that record in the following meet and bettered it by nearly three feet last week in Norman, Okla. with a mark of 55-10.25. Tyler claimed fifth last season in the weight throw and was the only freshman in the top five.
The men have been led by senior thrower Heath Smith, who is coming off a personal best throw of 52-08.25 in the shot put over the weekend at the Sooner Indoor. Smith has increased his throws in both the shot put and weight throw in each of his three meets on the season and will be looking to improve on his performance as a junior. Last year Smith finished fourth in the shot put, but currently holds the conference’s third-best toss of the season.
Terry Lewis also earned his first conference honors last week after his performance at the Sooner Indoor merited his being named Sun Belt Male Runner of the Week. The transfer from McNeese State has been impressive in the sprints and in the hurdles entering this weekend. Lewis took first in his first meet of the season in the 60-meter hurdles and will be looking to medal for the Mean Green in Jonesboro; his converted time to the 55-meter hurdles stands as the fifth-fastest time in the conference.
All events will take place at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark. with the preliminary running events on Saturday. Field events will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday. Running events begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Updates will be posted on www.sunbeltsports.org.