No one has to tell Texas Tech track and field coach Wes Kittley what three men pulling together can achieve. At last year’s NCAA indoor championships, Tech finished fifth in the men’s standings — the program’s all-time best showing — with only a three-man contingent.
That’s worth noting, because for the second year in a row, the Red Raiders men’s contingent at the NCAA indoor is three athletes, none a fringe contender. High jumpers JaCorian Duffield and Bradley Adkins are tied for the sixth-best clearances in the nation, and shot putter Kole Weldon is ranked fifth going into the two-day meet in Albuquerque, N.M.
“If we come in here and do like we’re capable, then I think we can score quite a few points,” Kittley said Thursday. “I’m confident with Bradley and JaCorian, and of course Kole’s been here to the indoor meet before. I’m excited for all three of those guys, because I think they can all score high.”
Last year in Fayetteville, Ark., Tech scored 28 points with distance runner Kennedy Kithuka and triple jumper Bryce Lamb winning national titles (10 points apiece) and Weldon finishing second (eight points).
On that alone, Tech missed by one place getting an NCAA meet team trophy.
Repeating that might be too much to ask, but each of the three can be an all-American — the top eight finishers — by performing to his pre-meet ranking.
The best bet is Weldon, given that he finished second last year at the NCAA indoor and third at the NCAA outdoor.
“Kole may be ranked fifth,” Kittley said, “but there’s no way in the world I think he’s going to finish fifth. He is a competitor. He also has been here twice on this wooden ring. It’s a wooden ring, which is very different from a concrete ring. He’s got the experience of being here, and he’s always kind of money in the bank when it comes to big meets.”
One of the bright spots of the Tech men’s team so far is how well Duffield and Adkins have jumped early in the year. Their co-sixth place NCAA rankings are from matching bests of 7 feet, 33/4 inches — the school record — at the Big 12 indoor championships at Iowa State.
The two used to go against each other as Class 2A state-meet rivals, Duffield at Universal City Randolph and Adkins at Idalou. Now competing as teammates in practice each day, they’re delivering on the potential they showed back then.
“They had a good year last year, both of them, and jumped really well from the conference meet to regional to nationals,” Kittley said. “They’ve been in the program two and three years now. We knew they were talented kids when we recruited them. I think they bought in, and coach (James) Thomas has done a fabulous job with those two guys developing them.”
The 15th-ranked Tech women’s team has sophomore Le’Tristan Pledger competing in the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump, sophomore Shanice Stewart also in the long jump and junior Cierra White going in the 200 meters.
Also, Tech’s Big 12 champion 1,600-meter relay team of Amoy Blake, Christen Rivers, Montenae Roye-Speight and White will try to make a splash again. The team returned three athletes from the 1,600 relay that finished seventh last year, the second year in a row for the Tech relay to achieve all-America status.
All the Tech women except White are ranked in the top 10 in their events.
“Every kid we brought I think has a chance to be all-American,” Kittley said. “If they all do something, I think we can be a top-20 team. If we have a really good meet, I think we have a chance to be a top-15 team.”
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Track and field
What: NCAA indoor championships
Where: Albuquerque, N.M., Convention Center
Rankings: Tech women No. 15, Tech men No. 24
Live results: FlashResults.com