Track And Field To Open Outdoor Season

Shakima Knox and the Blazers open the outdoor slate this weekend at Samford.

March 13, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--The UAB track and field team is back in action this weekend, opening the 2013 outdoor season at the Samford Multi and Invitational at Samford's Track and Field and Soccer Complex, March 15-16.

Friday's events are set to start at 1 p.m. CT, while Saturday is set for a 3 p.m. CT start.

"The whole team and staff always get excited to start the outdoor season," head coach Kurt Thomas said. "As important as indoor is, outdoor is everyone's favorite in the track world, so we're excited to get started this weekend at Samford."

The Blazers look to build on a successful indoor season, where UAB took third at the C-USA Championship with 83 points, the most since also finishing in third during the 2005 campaign.

Leading the way for the Green and Gold are redshirt senior Rhiannon Johns and junior Elinor Kirk, who combined for 48 of UAB's point total at the conference indoor meet. Johns won the 5000m while Kirk won the 3000m. Kirk was also named high point scorer of the meet with 26 points earned over the two days of competition.

"Outdoors brings a few events they don't contest indoors, like the 10,000m and the 400m hurdles," Thomas added. "We have a two-time C-USA Champion in the 10k, and have placed athletes in the top three in the 400m hurdlers over the past three years, so that will add to what we can do at the outdoor conference meet."

For outdoor, the Blazers will see a number of athletes who didn't compete during the indoor slate, including Shakima Knox, Alexis Bates, Renay Ransaw and Kristie Leybourne.

"We also have a number of athletes coming back from injuries during indoor, so adding them to the mix will be exciting and add to our overall success," Thomas continued. "Alexis Bates and Shakima Knox are our best short sprinters, so that can really help the 100m and 4x100m, as well as Renay Ransaw in the jumps and hurdles. Kristie Leybourne will come back and help out the distance crew's depth as well"



UAB will have 10 regular-season outdoor meets this year, starting with this weekend's competition. On March 22-23, the Blazers will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to compete in the Alabama Relays, followed by the Texas Relays March 27-30 in Austin, Texas.

"We have some great meets to help get us ready for the championship portion of our season at the Conference USA Championships, the NCAA Prelim meet and hopefully at the NCAA Finals," Thomas said. "Alabama Relays is a quality meet that's close to home and gets our season underway in late March."

While some of the team travels to Auburn on April 6 to compete in the Auburn Invitational, the distance runners will travel to Palo Alto, Calif. to compete in the Stanford Invite that same day.

"We'll split squads and send most of our sprinters and jumpers to Texas Relays, which is one of the most prestigious and fastest meets in the country every year," Thomas added. "The distance group will go to Stanford for arguably the best 5000m, 10,000 and 3000m steeple races in the country every year. We'll group together for some closer meets at Auburn, which is always competitive, and Vanderbilt and Samford."

The Blazers will split up again as the distance runners take the trip to Mt. Sac, Calif. for the Mt. Sac Relays on April 19-20, and the rest of the squad will compete in the Vanderbilt Invitational in Nashville, Tenn. over the same two-day span. The team will reunite on April 27 at the Samford Invite.

"We'll get to send a strong distance group to Mt. Sac Relays to get more quality races in late April," Thomas said. "All of that is to prepare us to be at our best at the conference championships at Rice. If we can keep building on our indoor success, this outdoor season can be special."

This year's Conference USA Outdoor Championships are scheduled for May 9-12 in Houston, and hosted by Rice. The NCAA East Preliminaries will be hosted by North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C., and the NCAA Championships will be hosted by Oregon in Eugene, Ore. June 5-8.