For the USC track and field team, everything is bigger in Texas.
That’s because the Trojans will face what USC head coach Ron Allice calls “the best competition in the country” at the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas, from April 1 through April 3. The meet comes a week after the team rested most of its best athletes in lieu of the Stanford Invitational.
“This will be our biggest test of the season,” Allice said. “It will be a very intense, very competitive meet.”
When asked what kind of performance he expected from his team considering the quality of the competition, Allice simply said, “We’ll see.”
Allice has reason to be cautious with his prognosticating. The Texas Relays feature some of the top track programs in the country, including Florida State, Oklahoma, Baylor and the host Longhorns.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Allice said. “These are some of the best athletes in the nation.”
He noted that he is not sure the athletes that will compete for USC this week will be the ones he will choose to race at some of the later, more crucial meets of the season.
“Our sprint relays are kind of a makeshift deal right now because we don’t necessarily have the four people that will be on [the final team] yet,” Allice said. “For example, we’ll put out a good 4×400-meter team at the relays that won’t necessarily be the best team we put on the track later on.”
He said the health and energy of his athletes is what spurred him to hold back his best combinations until later in the season.
“You just have to make decisions as you go through the season to keep people from getting injured,” Allice said. “But you still want to stay in a competitive mode, especially in Texas, because we’ll have all we can handle. If we survive Texas with some of the combinations we have, that will be a very good thing. But we could have some setbacks too, so we’ll see.”
Allice said he would hold some of USC’s more “dinged up” competitors out of the Texas Relays to keep them fresh and instead send them to the Cal State San Marcos Mangrum Invitational in San Diego. Among those staying in California are senior men’s triple jumper Aven Wright and sophomore men’s hurdler and sprinter Duane Walker.
“We can’t take chances,” Allice said. “The UCLA Dual Meet is the first day of May, and we want to be prepared.”
USC should still have a very strong showing in some of the individual events in Texas. Freshman standout Reggie Wyatt will run in the men’s 400-meter hurdles.
Junior Brendan Ames will compete in the men’s 110-meter hurdles.
For the USC women, senior Shalina Clarke will run in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, an event in which she currently holds the fastest time in the nation at 13.41 seconds.
Whatever the results, USC should have a much better idea of where it stands in the nation’s hierarchy of the best track programs in the country at the end of the weekend.
“Everything before this has led up to this,” Allice said. “It will be interesting to see where we stand when it’s over.”