North Texas Daily

Track and field experiencing youth movement in 2018 season

Track and field experiencing youth movement in 2018 season

February 07
21:08 2018

The North Texas track and field team is undergoing a youth movement of sorts. The team is going into the 2018 season with 77 athletes on its roster, and exactly 50 of those athletes are underclassmen.

The team emphasizes having several athletes compete for them to earn points and win against Conference USA competition, explaining why North Texas recruited so many athletes this past year.

“The more athletes we can get at one time, the more competitive we could be sooner,” Carl Sheffield, head coach of track and field said.

Sheffield was surprised to hear the exact number of young athletes on his roster, but acknowledged that having depth was one of his goals entering the season.

“I think we recognized over the past two years that we needed depth and then a quality of it,” Sheffield said. “It was intentional, but it’s kind of mind-blowing when you realize how many [athletes] it actually was.”

Thirty-one of those 50 underclassmen are making their Mean Green debut this year.

Sheffield added this was the largest group of incoming freshman in his six seasons as a track and field coach at North Texas.

Senior jumper Dominique Drayden has seen a lot of athletes come and go, but even he was shocked to see this many underclassmen on one team.

“It’s very abnormal coming from last year and the year before that,” Drayden said. “When I first got here, we had a lot of upperclassmen. This past year we lost a lot [of upperclassmen], so we had to bring a lot of new faces in, and it was a big adjustment.”

Drayden believes that there are obstacles to being a young athlete on the team, which she knows from experience. However, the young athletes have adjusted well in the first year.

“It’s really a challenge because a lot of them are coming from high school,” Drayden said. “It’s a big change coming from high school to college because of the atmosphere, classes, and training, but they’ve adjusted pretty well to it.”

Freshman sprinter Abdon Campbell was similarly shocked to know that the majority of the team were underclassmen.

“I’m not used to seeing so many young people on one team,” Campbell said. “We have very few upperclassmen and seniors to look up to, so it’s kind of weird.”

Sheffield needed leaders for this young group.

For the women, he mentioned senior Victoria Junious, juniors Bria Williams, Susannah Lynch, and sophomore Breanna Eckels as being those influences the team needed.

Eckels, who was hurt towards the end of the fall semester, is just now getting back up to speed, and Sheffield hopes that she can continue setting an example for her teammates.

“She was a conference champion as a freshman, so she knows what it takes,” Sheffield said. “We’ve missed her a little bit towards the end of the semester, but she’s back now and she’ll be another voice that will help.”

Out of this year’s freshman class, one athlete Sheffield was impressed with was Taylor Blackshire’s performance throughout this indoor season.

“She’s a freshman from Mesquite, [a school that] has a pretty glorified history and was on one of the fastest relay teams in the state of Texas this past year,” Sheffield said. “They were ranked No. 2 nationally, so she’s added a lot to the women’s team.”

Blackshire seems to have had the biggest impact from the veteran leadership due to her strong outings during indoor season.

“I rely on the upperclassmen like Bria [Williams], Jahyda [Dixon], Bree [Eckels],” Blackshire said. “They’ve been very supportive, and they tell me to stay focused even when times get hard.”

For the men’s team, Sheffield thinks senior Mike Lowe, junior James Cole, and Drayden have all been good mainstays who have grown up in the system as leaders and captains.

Drayden feels privileged to be relied on as a leader and veteran presence in his final year.

“It’s an honor because when I first got here, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, so I had to work my butt off and keep training hard,” Drayden said. “[Sheffield] saw the amount of effort that I put in and knew I wanted to be great.”

While having a lot of underclassmen may seem like a challenge, Sheffield knows there are benefits to it as well.

“They feed off each other,” Sheffield said. “They’re competitive, so it makes practice environments better and challenges us as coaches to teach more.”

Campbell believes that there’s something special brewing for this young group of athletes as they continue to improve with one another at North Texas.

“I think of it more as building a new team,” Campbell said. “Most of the [upperclassmen] are going to graduate [soon], so I think it’s good that we have a lot of people to create a team bond, knowing that it’s just gonna be us growing up together.”

Featured image: Colin Heard set a career-best time of 10.56 in the 100-meter dash at the Baylor Invitational in 2014-2015. Courtesy | North Texas Athletics

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Deondre Jones

Deondre Jones

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