The UConn men’s track and field team gets its outdoor campaign started this week, heading down to Austin, Texas to compete in the 88th running of the Texas Relays, held from March 25-28.
The meet is one of the largest in the country, behind only the prestigious Penn Relays held in April. Tens of thousands of spectators attend the event, as well as thousands of athletes competing from the high school level up through international invitational events.
Hosted by the University of Texas, the meet features top schools from all over the country, including several of UConn’s conference foes. USF will make the trip, bringing several entrants, and Houston will also make the in-state journey with a large contingent of athletes.
UConn will send entrants for nine events down to Austin. The focus this week is primarily on relays, with the Huskies entering teams in the 4×200 meter relay, the 4×400 meter relay, the 4×800 meter relay, the 1600-meter sprint medley relay and the distance medley relay.
Although the relays make up five out of UConn’s nine entries, the Huskies are also bringing four individual competitors to showcase their skill. Senior Cory Duggan will compete in Section B of the pole vault, while sophomore teammate and fellow pole-vaulter Craig Hunter is entered in Section A. Junior thrower Chris Ackell will compete in the hammer throw, while senior javelin thrower Brian Eilers rounds out the squad for the Huskies.
The Texas Relays will feature some of the top athletes in the nation, giving the Huskies a good sense of where they stand on the national stage. One such athlete is Akron’s Shawn Barber, a junior who passed on entering the college competition in the Texas Relays in order to enter the open invitational division.
Barber, who has won back-to-back indoor pole vault titles, has posted the second highest mark in the world this year, according to the International Association of Athletics Federation. Only world record holder Renaud Lavillenie, who Barber will compete against later this year, has posted a higher mark. He also broke the collegiate record three times during the indoor season.
Barber is on the watch list for the 2015 Bowerman Award, given to the top overall collegiate track and field athlete in the nation and is a finalist for the AAU’s Sullivan Award, given to the top amateur athlete in the United States.
The meet kicks off Wednesday March 25 and lasts until Saturday, March 28.