A crew of record-setting UT Arlington athletes will compete in the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore., beginning Wednesday, looking to stay focused on the little things.
With a group led by sprinter Clayton Vaughn, the Mavericks have made a habit of surprising teams with their speed all season.
Despite entering the NCAA preliminaries as the 13th-seeded team, Vaughn anchored the 4x100 relay squad with Quentin Butler, Christian Clark and Cameron Newson to a school-record time of 39.55 seconds to post the sixth-fastest time in the event.
Vaughn, who returns to the championships for the first time since 2011, will also run the 100- and 200-meter dashes, but his role as a confident leader is what has coach John Sauerhage optimistic about UTA’s chances.
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“They all look up to Clayton and the way he goes about his business,” he said. “If we can get out there and relax, we’ll be fine.”
Emil Blomberg will participate in the 3,000-meter steeplechase after qualifying with a time of 8:44.78, also a school record. He’s the 13th-seeded runner in that event.
Being on the biggest stage in NCAA track and field, it’s understandable that staying calm and focused on the flow of the race is what separates athletes from one another. Sauerhage has sent teams to Eugene in the past, only to watch them fail to earn a single point.
“We don’t need to go up there thinking we’re a big deal,” he said. “We need to be the ones that can go out there and handle the pressure with a clean race.”
The 4x100 relay is the first track event of the week, which will give Vaughn a chance to get moving before his individual events. He’s the fifth-seeded 100-meter sprinter in the nation with a 10.14-second run in the preliminaries, and a top-15 seed in the 200-meter dash.
But instead of focusing on who they’re up against, Sauerhage wants his athletes to stay within themselves and remain committed to what brought them to Eugene in the first place.
“We don’t have to do anything incredible. If we just run what we’re capable of running, we’re going to have a great week,” he said.