Texas Tech track makes history during 2003 outdoor season.
Jan. 15, 2004
LUBBOCK, Texas - The years of recruiting and training fully matured during the 2003 outdoor season. Making not only a name for the program but for the University, as Tech finished in 17th at Nationals with a third place finish at regionals. After the men finished in fourth and the women in 11th at the indoor Big 12 Championships, the team was hungry for greater success during the outdoor season.
The team started out hot with 18 gold medals in the home opener, Red Raider Invitational, including eight NCAA regional qualifying marks. Half of the team's eight marks belonged to Albert Booker and Jason Young, with Booker qualifying in the 200 and 400 and Young in the hammer and discus. Field events came out strong with the other eight qualifying marks belonging to field events.
Tech next headed to the Texas Relays, a standout performance on behalf of the team. The men's sprint medley relay of Matt Stewart, Julieon Raeburn, Booker and Johnson, defended its crown with a school record 3:14.09. The repeat championship is the first school to repeat at the Texas Relays since Arkansas in 1999 and 2000. Only days after setting the school record, the sprint medley relay time was recognized as the top mark in the world giving them Big 12 Male Athletes of the Week. The team's second NCAA regional qualifying mark came from the women's 1,600-meter relay with a finish of 3:41.43. Indoor All-American Bobby Most claimed the men's pole vault title with a mark of 18'-0.5", making him only the second Red Raider in school history to win the pole vault at the Texas Relays. Honors continued to unfold as the team was ranked in a three-way tie for 17th in the first Trackwire 25 rankings of the season, the highest-ever for the Tech program in the seven-year history of the power ranking. Four Red Raiders, Most, Aki Heikkinen, Young and Johnson also earned individual rankings in the Dandy Dozen.
At the UTEP Invitational, women's records fell as Krista Grantham vaulted to a height of 11'-11.75" and Licretia Sibley raced to a 53.11 finish in the 400-meter dash. HREF="/sports/c-track/mtt/schuessler_megan00.html">Megan Schuessler claimed the women's discus with a NCAA qualifying fling of 156'-0". The team took the show to Des Moines, Iowa for the 94th Drake Relays with Young taking home a discus gold medal with a mark of 191'-4". Katie Leonard, Tech's top competitor in the 3000m steeplechase, set a new school record with a time of 11:03.76. On the final day of competition, the sprint medley relay team joined Young as 2003 Drake Relay champions while the women's sprint medley team with a school record 3:53.92, finished in second. Dwayne Benoit and Brionne Yosten joined the roster of regional qualifiers with Yosten turning in a 4:22.48 in the 1,500, the second fastest time in school history. Benoit finished in fifth with a time of 3:49.27.
Before hosting its final home meet of the season, Tech moved up to No. 15 by Trackwire with Most headlining the honors, second in the nation in the pole vault. Two field events were broken as Megan Schuessler recorded a fling of 169'-3" and Dana Rosenbladt cleared 12'-0", also earning qualifying marks.
With months of preparation behind them, the team was now set for the Big 12 Outdoor Championships. Several Red Raiders left day one with all-conference honors as Jason Young finished in second in the discus with Tracie Akerhielm and Bridget Tidwell earning all-conference honors in the 10,000m. Day two saw Tech's first Big 12 Conference title in a field event. Chad Pharis had a 7'-2.5" jump to not only record his personal best but give Tech its first title of the year. The Red Raiders finished off its conference outdoor campaign with the men turning in a 90 point finish good for fourth place, with the women turning in a 10th-place finish with 32.5 points. The team took home two more titles with Johnson defending his 800m title with a time of 1:48.13 and Most with a height of 18'-0.5" gave Tech its second Big 12 Champion in a field event. The team left conference with not only its best finish in the history of the program but 34 all-conference athletes.
Trackwire moved the team up to 16th with the men's 4x400 making an eight spot leap to third in the nation. The team entered uncharted territory as it competed at the first-ever Midwest Regional. Young continued to dominate as in the prelims, he threw a 200'-6", his first mark over 200' on the season and would go on to throw 202'-0" to become Tech's first NCAA Regional champion. Pharis left as the Midwest Region runner-up, clearing a height of 7'-1". Johnson turned in back-to-back gold finishes as he was crowned Midwest Champion in the 800 with a time of 1:47.64. The men's 4x400 relay team clocked a time of 3:03.41, a school record, but finished in second. With a time of 4:22.30 in the 1,500, Brionne Yosten finished in third. Despite running the second fastest time in the history of the 1,600 meter relay, the women's team took fourth and did not automatically qualify for Nationals but later received an at-large bid.
Within a week of heading to Nationals, the men's team jumped to No. 11 with the 1,600-meter relay team of Booker, Raeburn, Stewart and Johnson, Most, Young, Pharis and Johnson in the 800 all earning top ten spots.
The day the team had been waiting for all season, June 11, NCAA Nationals. Tech took 15 athletes to the meet, representing 12 events. The women's 1,600m relay team faced heartbreak as they ran the fastest time in school history, 3:34.95. The time ranked seventh overall in the 18-team field but the time was not high enough in its heat for the team to advance. Injury struck on day three with Most suffering a strained hamstring, unable to advance to finals. It all came down to four events, as Young, Pharis, Johnson and the men's 1,600-meter relay advanced to the finals. Young secured All-American status with a fourth-place finish flinging a mark of 194'-5". After breaking the school record for the second consecutive meet with a time of 3:03.25 in the semifinals, the 1,600m-relay team ran a 3:04.76 for a fourth place finish. Johnson in the 800 was Tech's top finisher with a 1:46.51, a split second behind Penns' Sam Burly who finished with a 1:46.50. Johnson is the first male athlete to place higher then third at the NCAA Championships in school history, turning in a silver finish.
The team made outstanding strides through out the season to elevate its success. With only losing one All-American and the addition of a highly touted recruiting class, the team should continue its journey to a National Championship.
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