By Min Jiao
Staff reporter

Cassie Hollenback, biology freshman and Cori Hunt, business marketing major junior, stretch beginning practice Tuesday at Helmer Family Track. The track and field teams open the indoor season Jan.26 at the University of Central Oklahoma Invitational. (Min Jiao/Collegian photographer)

The men’s and women’s track teams begin the indoor season Jan. 26 in Norman, Okla. at the University of Central Oklahoma Invitational.

Jim Helmer, head men’s track and field coach, said “It’s our first indoor meet of the season. We had a really good fall preparation with our fall track athletes. We had a good cross-country season, and our distance runners are in good condition, ready to open up the season.”

“We hope for national qualifying performances from the beginning of the season on, but the most important thing is to just basically see where we are at this point. To get it going, to see where our strengths are, to see where we need to improve, and then we just go from there,” said Helmer.

Mike Kirkland, head women’s track and field coach, said “Half of our team right now are freshmen or sophomores and we have experience. At the same time, we have a lot of youth, and these first two meets are going to be probably a little slow coming around.”

“We will be a team that just keeps getting better every weekend and as the season goes on into April and May, I think there is a lot of good potential that we could have a good team this year,” said Kirkland.

Christopher Paddock, mathematics junior, said, “My goal for the UCO track meet is just to get a good start for the season and to kind of use it as a spring board into a good year.”

Wendee Harris, physical performance and sports and early childhood education freshman, said “My goal is just to run well. I don’t have to get a personal record but I want our team to do well and I’d like to contribute to that.”

Helmer said, “We have several who are national class athletes, and we always look to our juniors and seniors, particularly seniors for leadership and we have some really good seniors who are ready to step up and take on that leadership role.”

Frank Adelman, psychology senior, is a two-time All-American in cross country and is a track and field All-American. Conner Barragree, biology sophomore and Sam McDaniel, business administration junior, are track and field All-Americans.

Sydnee Nelson, biology senior, Alyssa Zentner, business administration senior, and Rhea Rollins, physical performance senior, have experience for the women’s team. Kirkland said, “I would consider those three as far as leaders on the team.”

Kirkland said “The practice has been good so far. The weather has been nice. We practice predominately outside, and so fortunately, the weather has cooperated, so we have got a lot done the last three weeks.”

Helmer said “We practice Monday through Fridays, and then some of the athletes also practice on Saturdays. Usually it’s an hour and a half to two hour practices in the afternoons.”
“I’ve been very pleased with our practices the past two weeks and I think our team is prepared and ready to start competitive schedule,” said Helmer.

The track teams have led the conference for many years. “We are not always as talented as we’ve been at times. Every team is different. Athletes graduate. New athletes come into the program. It’s a little early to know yet how good we’re going to be,” said Helmer.

Paddock said “My personal goals are to be All-Conference and strive for nationals. National track meet is such a dream of mine, if I take care of myself and do what I know I can do.”
Harris said “I hope that we are pretty up there in our conference, and we will all be All-Conference runners and that we just run well for the school.”

Helmer said “Our goal is always to be as good as we are capable of being, to try to put ourselves in a position to win conference championships, to get athletes qualified for the national championships, and to make a good showing once we get to the national meet.”

Kirkland said, “I have a lot of high hope. We are young but I think the team will get steadily better as they gain experience over the next three months.”

Min Jiao is a junior majoring in communication. You may e-mail her min.jiao@sckans.edu.