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Taking the right steps UTRGV distance runners approaching conference meet

In the spring, Track & Field is split into an indoor and outdoor season. The divide allows colleges around the country with harsh weather to first compete indoors.

Both seasons are accompanied with their own conference and national championships.

For UTRGV, the work put in during three meets in January and one this month will be put to the test Feb. 25, when the men’s and women’s track teams travel to Nampa, Idaho. They will convene with their Western Athletic Conference counterparts during the WAC indoor championships.

For distance runners, who also competed in cross-country in the fall, indoor is essentially their second of three reasons.

The team has competed in Corpus Christi, Houston and College Station this indoor season.

Assistant Track & Field Coach Rob Hansen, who coaches mid- and long-distance runners, says all three seasons build on top of each other, allowing improvement.

“We start at the beginning of summer with our base training, we move into cross-country season,” Hansen said.

“Cross-country is a springboard to indoors and indoors is a launchpad to being successful at the outdoor championships. Our emphasis is building on ourselves throughout the entire year.”

Hansen says the meets against larger schools help UTRGV challenge and push themselves competitively.

“It gives them a perspective that it’s not just UTRGV versus Corpus Christi or UTSA and some of these other small schools,” said Hansen, the former distance runner at University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

“Now we get to race against teams like Texas A&M and Texas and we get to feel like we’re on that same level because we are.

That’s who we’re competing against, that’s who we’re recruiting against, that’s who we want to beat. That’s our ultimate goal, to beat these big conference schools.”

On the men’s side of competition, senior Jose Juan Wells has given UTRGV more of the results they have grown used to since he transferred to the program in 2014.

For the senior, the number of times he’ll run collegiately is quickly dwindling.

Wells reflected on the end of his career as a college runner.

“The feeling is just like ‘Wow, I’m here. I’m running my last few meets. I’m never going to do this again,’” the runner from Cottonwood, Ariz., said. “I might as well enjoy as much as I can. One of the best memories I’ll have is coming here and meeting the individuals that I came across on the time. How I was able to influence them with some of my philosophies with running and training.”

Wells isn’t completely against looking at the times of his WAC opposition before the meet. He doesn’t want to go blindly
against competition.

“I’d rather see it coming, and try to analyze and do my best when I’m actually there,” Wells said.

On the women’s side, their strong spot has often been sophomore Teresa Sova. Standing at 5-foot-1-inch, Sova hails from nearby Mercedes and has run her best career times this year.

“I do have nerves coming into the meet, but I try to make it seem like it’s another meet and I just got to concentrate on my time and my race to make sure that I get points,” she said.

Coach Hansen referred to Sova’s improvement as “exponential” compared to 12 months ago. Sova, on the other hand, points toward guidance from her coaches.

“I think my progression has something to do with the summer,” the education major said. “I trained a lot in the summer and made sure to do whatever my coach told me to do. I think with that it helped me progress into this year, helping me [set personal records] and hit times I couldn’t hit before.”

Sova finished 33rd in the conference cross-country meet as a freshman and a season later finished ninth as a sophomore.

In January, she was named WAC Track & Field athlete of the week after posting her career best time of 18:12.21 in the 5,000 meter run. Her time in the first-place finish also set a meet record in College Station for the Aggie Team Invitational.

She takes a different approach than Wells regarding scouting opponents’ times before the conference meet.

“I don’t really like to think or look at the other people’s times because it makes me get nervous and I feel like it’s a barrier,” the Mercedes High School alum said. “I just got to do what I have to do, hit the times. I just go in there and focus on my race.”

Sova, Wells, the entire distance running team as well as sprinters and field athletes will travel to the campus of Boise State Feb. 25 to compete in the WAC indoor championship.

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