In his first 22 seasons as Texas Tech track and field coach, Wes Kittley never took a team to a competition in Florida.
This weekend’s Tom Jones Memorial, with its high level of competition and where it falls on the calendar, was too good to pass up. Florida hosts the annual meet in Gainesville, Florida, and Kittley called and asked to be included.
“I felt like we run at home so much indoors,” Kittley said, “and I think it maybe helps us to get out a little bit more with our younger group. I feel like we’ve got so many new people that need to be put in the fire maybe a little bit earlier, and this just happened to be the best meet in the country this weekend.”
Tech is actually sending split squads to opposite sides of the country. Red Raiders athletes in combined events, horizontal jumps, the high jump and some distance races went to the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, California, that started Wednesday.
Nearly all the Texas Tech sprinters, hurdlers, pole vaulters and throwers are going to the meet in Florida, which unfolds Friday and Saturday.
Tech makes its annual trip to Baylor’s Michael Johnson Invitational next weekend, then hosts the Corky/Crofoot Shootout on April 29-30 and the Big 12 championships May 13-15.
The Tom Jones Memorial checks a box.
“I feel this week is a real true test of where we are,” Kittley said, “and this is planned because I wanted to have something really hard. Then it’ll be medium next weekend, then light at our meet and then we’ll rest up a week and have conference.
“Before we hit that gauntlet of Big 12, regionals and nationals, I wanted to have one big-time that we test and see where we are.”
Both Tech teams are ranked No. 7 this week in the performance-based ratings of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Other top-25 men’s teams at the Florida meet are No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Florida, No. 10 Alabama, No. 19 Georgia, No. 20 North Carolina A&T and No. 23 Clemson.
Other top-25 women’s teams are No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 3 Florida, No. 5 LSU, No. 11 North Carolina State, No. 21 North Carolina A&T and No. 25 North Carolina.
“Our kids are looking forward to this meet,” Kittley said. “They know it’s going to be tough, but they’re looking forward to hooking up with the best in the country, and I think it’s going to bring out the best in these kids.
“So some of them will get their feelings hurt a little bit this weekend, but it won’t be bad. It’ll just be something that they realize, ‘Wow, still got some work to do.”
Here are Texas Tech athletes ranked in the top 30 in NCAA Division I in their events, with season best marks and times. An “a” indicates a time or mark converted to account for higher altitude.
High jump: 18. Sidney Sapp, 5 feet, 11 1/4 inches.
Pole vault: 10. Chloe Wall, 14-3 1/4; 22. Ryleigh Redding, 13-7 3/4.
Long jump: 3. Monae’ Nichols, 22-3 3/4; 30. Callie Jones, 20-3 1/2.
Triple jump: 8. Onaara Obamuwagun, 43-9 1/4; 13. Brya Brewer, 43-2 1/4.
Shot put: 3. Kayli Johnson, 57-9 3/4.
Discus: 2. Seasons Usual, 195-2; 16. Malin Smith, 179-5.
200 meters: 13. Aneesa Scott, 23.07 seconds
400: 10. Knowledge Omovoh, 52.45.
100 hurdles: 3. Demisha Roswell, a-12.70.
400 hurdles: 14. Sylvia Schulz, 57.90.
400 relay: 5. Texas Tech (Virginia Kerley, Kiah Dubarry-Gay, Demisha Roswell, Rosemary Chukwuma) 43.11.
Decathlon: 29. Cole Whatley, 7,031 points.
Pole vault: 25. Colton Naffziger, 17 feet, 3 3/4 inches.
Long jump: 24. Jalen Seals, 25-1 1/4.
Triple jump: 2. Chris Welch, 53-3 3/4.
Discus: 12. Gabriel Oladipo, 193-4.
100 meters: 28. Jacolby Shelton, 10.24 seconds.
200: 1. Courtney Lindsey, 20.20; 17. Jacolby Shelton, a-20.54.
800: 2. Moad Zahafi, 1:46.02.
400 hurdles: 2. Malik Metivier, 49.15.
400 relay: 5. Texas Tech (Terrence Jones, Jacolby Shelton, Ashton O’Conner, Courtney Lindsey), 39.12.
1,600 relay: 19. Texas Tech (Eran Siboni, Ryan Champlin, Marco Vilca, Sven Cepus), 3:07.42.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Fast company: Texas Tech track athletes set to face potent competition at Florida