Though they may end up winning a national title, Texas’ men’s 1600 relay didn’t even win their own conference.
Instead they were politely benched, replaced by a B-squad and told they weren’t needed because Texas had pulled away in the team standings heading into the final event of the Big 12 meet on Sunday in Fort Worth.
It was that sort of weekend for the Longhorns, who dominated to become the first school in league history to sweep the men’s and women’s outdoor titles in consecutive years. The women, ranked fifth nationally entering the meet, scored 167.7 points and topped Oklahoma with 137.5. The men, also ranked fifth, had expected to be pressured by No. 8 Texas Tech but instead held off Kansas, 134 to 116.
Despite the thorough wins, Texas dropped in this week’s national poll — the men to eighth, the women to sixth.
Prior to the start of the men’s 200-meter final, UT coach Mario Sategna said he approached Zack Bilderback and encouraged the senior to “wrap up” the team title so he could be excused from running the 1600 relay. Obeying orders, Bilderback did his part and finished seventh, fitting in behind teammates A.J. Bailey (first), Senoj-Jay Givans (fourth) and Charles Anumnu (sixth). The 20 points scored between them sealed the title for Texas, which enacted a bit of redemption after dropping the Big 12 indoor title to Oklahoma State by 1.5 points.
“We really took care of what we needed to in those qualifying rounds,” Sategna said. “It was an enjoyable day (Sunday) to watch the finals and watch our athletes compete at such a high level.”
In additional to the twin titles, UT produced the meet’s top point scorers — Bailey (20.5 points) and Morolake Akinosun (22.5).
Akinosun, who earlier this spring became the first woman to win the 100-meter title three times at the Texas Relays, again made history. This time, the senior from Aurora, Ill. became the first woman to win three Big 12 titles in both the 100 and the 200. Akinosun, who is ranked first nationally in the 100, also anchored UT’s winning 400 relay with Caitland Smith, Courtney Okolo and Zola Golden.
“She doesn’t cut corners or do the bare minimum,” Sategna said. “You don’t have that type of success unless you’re putting in the work and you have attention to detail from the time you warm up to your cool-down.”
On the men’s side, Bailey won the 200, finished second in the 400, and anchored the winning 400 relay with Anumnu, Givans and Bilderback. Bailey was competing in his first Big 12 outdoor meet after sitting out all of last season when Texas A&M declined to release him from his scholarship. Had he been needed, he would’ve joined Bilderback in the 1600 relay, in which the Horns rank second nationally. Instead, Sategna sent out backups that finished fifth.
“I think he’s now really starting to put things together,” Sategna said of Bailey. “The good thing is it’s at the most important time of the year.”
Other Longhorns to win titles were Byron Robinson (400 hurdles), Ariel Jones (400 hurdles), Courtney Okolo (400) and Sandie Raines (5000).
John Burt, a wide receiver on the football team, was second in the 110-meter hurdles.
“He’s getting better every race,” Sategna said. “I’m excited to see him mix it up at the regional meet.”
Next up are regionals, May 26-28 at Kansas.