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Finish line in sight Track and field entering conference finale

Bryan Ramos
THE RIDER

As the year winds down and students prepare for finals, the UTRGV Track and Field Team is ramping up its intensity and preparation for one of its final tests of the season, the Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships.

Beginning May 11, track and field student-athletes from eight WAC universities will come together at the WAC Outdoor Championships to compete for conference supremacy and a shot at regionals in their respective events. It is what every team spends the year building toward as all the hard work and sweat expended throughout the season can pay off in a huge fashion.

Head Coach Xavier Richardson, who refers to his track squad as “a team of individuals,” expounded on the team’s process as it approaches the WAC Outdoor Championships.

“From the first conversation we have in August, we talk about conference, we talk about nationals. It’s never far from conversation,” Richardson said. “As we move through every team meeting, every competition, we remind them what we’re working towards, that we have to keep those short-term and long-term goals in mind all the time.”

The track and field team has had numerous top 10 finishes across multiple events this outdoor season and doesn’t plan on slowing down as it enters the most critical part of its year.

Freshman sprinter Yariel Matute has burst onto the scene in a major way, earning First Team All-WAC honors at the Indoor Championships in February and has set high goals for himself as he enters his first WAC Outdoors Championship.

“My mentality is ‘stay strong, stay committed, stay focused on the prize’ and that’s to get gold at conference,” the freshman said. “Individually, I’m chasing the UTRGV record, which is 46.60, but one other goal is to just make it to regionals, win conference, make it to regionals and see what I can do at regionals, maybe break the record there because I’ll be pushed to the limit there.”

As UTRGV Track and Field concludes its first year since the merger, the first group of seniors to put UTRGV on the map is mentally preparing for the upcoming challenge it has worked toward for four years.

Senior hurdler Stephanie Vazquez, an Edinburg native who finished third in the 400-meter hurdles at last year’s WAC Outdoor Championships, spoke about taking in the experience and her mindset as she heads into what could be her final competition.

“It’s bittersweet. It’s my last outdoor championship. It might be the last time I’m ever going to race, so I really have to soak everything up,” the Edinburg High School graduate said. “I really don’t want it to be my last. I really want to go into regionals, but I have to imagine it as my last race, my last hurdle, my last finish, striving to finish, striving to get that PR [personal record].”

The WAC Outdoor Championships begins May 11 in Lawrence, Kan., and runs for four days as student-athletes compete for the conference crown. You can keep up with the results at GoUTRGV.com.

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