Building an Identity
The Texas Tech coaching staff has guided Tech to two successful meets to begin the indoor season.
January 26, 2012
by Britton Drown
Rock Light saw something on Saturday afternoon inside the Athletic Training Center. Never mind the flurry of action surrounding the veteran jumps coach as he stood beside a sturdy red pole vault pit--the same pit where moments earlier sophomore Kyal Meyers lifted himself over 17 feet in the air.
More than 600 athletes were in the midst of completing the second and final day of the Texas Tech Open meet that afternoon. Despite the chaos that surrounds an indoor track meet, Light clearly witnessed something that brought clarity to the potential of this team.
And no, it wasn't solely from that Saturday afternoon, but it resembled a culmination of two weekends of competition that took place inside the Athletic Training Center.
"I see a lot of really good things out of this team," Light, the associate head track and field coach, said. "I see this team beginning to form an identity on both sides."
It's an identity that's been carefully built over the course of two weeks. In that time, Light has had plenty to watch too. Senior Kelly Closse and junior Katie Grimes broke school records. Bryce Lamb began his season with a jump that now leads the nation. The women's 4x400 relay team beat a South Plains team that won a national championship just last year.
Oh, and that pole vault pit? It marked the spot where Meyers, the former Big 12 Indoor Champion, kicked his indoor season off by grabbing two first-place finishes and tying a personal best of 17'-4.50" Saturday afternoon.
Perhaps most importantly though, it all happened just as Light, and the rest of the Texas Tech coaching staff planned it.
"We love it," he said. "We love being here at home, and we love opening at home. It is just good because it is a dress rehearsal before we get on the road."
Light and the Tech track squad will be making their first road trip this weekend by traveling to traditional power Texas A&M and competing in the Texas A&M Mondo Challenge.
As its name implies, the meet will truly be a challenge as several powerful programs such as Oregon, Florida, Arizona State and Tennessee will join Tech in the early season showdown. But Tech, who brings a team with 12 athletes currently ranked in the Top 20 nationally, including the nation's top long jumper in Lamb, has had two complete weekends to prepare for the challenge.
That in itself has given the squad confidence as they prepare to hit the road.
"It's really important because we wanted to give them some confidence before we go to Texas A&M," head coach Wes Kittley said. "There are going to be a lot of great teams there. It is going to be a great meet, and I think our kids are ready."
In just those two meets alone, Kittley has seen several performances that give the veteran head coach confidence as he takes them into the Texas A&M challenge. Junior Katie Grimes has set the top two times in school history in the 55m hurdles in back-to-back meets. She opened the season by breaking the school record by running a 7.74, and followed it up with a 7.77 performance last weekend. Meanwhile, in his opening jump of the season Lamb, the former Big 12 Performer of the Year, leaped an impressive 26'-0.75" to instantly lead the nation in the event.
Each of these are steps. Glimpses of what each coach on the Texas Tech staff hopes will evolve into a season they know this team is capable of having. There's a reason they scheduled their first two indoor meets at home, and it's to take these crucial steps forward at a time in the season that allows just that.
"We look at these two home meets as exhibition styles," assistant coach Dion Miller said. "When I look at the team, I can see some things coming together. I can see the kids start to get the feel of being in season. The thing that I am looking forward to is how well we do later on down the road."
It's something the athletes have grown comfortable with as well.
"It helps a lot," Meyers said. "It's a lot easier to keep your composure at home. You train here every day and you know the facility. It just really helps being in this environment and keeping you focus."
Now, they are set to take another step forward, and this time do it away from home. The Texas A&M Mondo Challenge will provide just the backdrop they've been looking for to do just that.