Strong start for track and field

Men%E2%80%99s+4x4+relay+members+Abiola+Onakoya+%28left%29+and+Carnell+Horn+%28right%29+warmup+at+the+Kidd+Field.+

Cristina Esquivel/The Prospector

Men’s 4x4 relay members Abiola Onakoya (left) and Carnell Horn (right) warmup at the Kidd Field.

Luis Barrio, Staff Reporter

The UTEP track and field team has started their indoor season on a bright  note. Their individual accomplishments have also earned them many gold medals.

At the beginning of the season, the men’s squad were ranked 22nd nationally.

The men’s team is led by junior distance runner Anthony Rotich. In the preseason, Rotich was named to the Bowerman Men’s Watch List, which is presented to the nation’s top collegiate track and field athletes by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

“I think the competition is as a good as it gets for us this year,” said head coach Mika Laaksonen. “There is a bunch of teams. It gives everybody an opportunity to really find out what they can do.”

Rotich already has three wins in this young season. At the New Mexico Cherry and Silver Invitational, Rotich clocked a time of four minutes, 1.11 seconds in the mile run. It is also a personal best  that earned him the No.1 spot nationally in the mile run.

Senior sprinter Janice Jackson leads the charge on the women’s side. She already has two gold medals from the Lobo Collegiate Open Jan. 18.

Her time of 8.20 seconds in the 60-meter dash put her first in Conference USA and tied for sixth place nationally. She holds the school record as well in the 60-meters with hurdles with a time of 8.17 seconds that she garnered in 2013. She also holds the school indoor record for the 100-meters hurdles and will look to take the outdoor record of 12.95, which is held by former Miner Kim Turner.

“That was definitely a confidence builder because I ended the season (2013) with an 8.17 indoor last year,” Jackson said. “So opening up (2014) with an 8.20 is a big deal for me, which means there is a lot more to come. It’s the beginning of a big time for me.”

Her work in the Lobo Collegiate Open garnered her a national ranking of sixth in the 60-meter with hurdles.

She topped her win at the Lobo Collegiate Open with a gold at the New Mexico Cherry and Silver Invitational and posted her new personal best of 8.09 seconds. It pushed her higher in the national rankings to the fourth spot and to No.1 in the program’s history.

Nickevea Wilson finished first in the triple jump at the competition giving her a national ranking of sixth place.

“I feel like our women’s team is better than last year,” Laaksonen said. “We definitely want to improve where we place in the conference as a team. Definitely I think we should place top in the conference.”

Also succeeding with flying colors was senior Mark Jackson in the triple jump. At the New Mexico Cherry and Silver Invitational, he posted a personal best of 16.21-meters, which gave him a No. 3 national ranking and eighth place in the program’s history.

The Miners have been competing in Albuquerque, where NCAA Indoor Championships will take place. Many of the team’s members have set their eyes set on reaching the championships.

“I feel like we have a very good men’s 4×4,” Laaksonen said. “I think it’s better than last year and last year the guys made nationals. They did not reach the finals, but made nationals. I think they could surprise people.”

Sophomore and El Pasoan, Daniel Tarango, hopes to go to nationals as part of the 4×4 relay team.

“I was training and trying to put some miles in,” Tarango said. “Doing the workouts and trying to get stronger for the season.”

As far as expectations, he wants to finish in the top three in conference. As far as the season goes, he said the team is just trying to get as many qualifiers for nationals as possible.

Next up for the Miners will be the Texas A&M Invitational at College Station on Feb. 8.

Luis Barrio may be reached at [email protected]