From SFA Athletics
NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)- The 2016 Stephen F. Austin track and field schedule has been officially released, head coach Phil Olson announced on Tuesday afternoon.
"Last year was a terrific year for our program and we'll be trying to build on that when the indoor season gets going in January," said Olson. "In many ways our team is going to be vastly different from a year ago. We have a lot of older athletes, combined with large freshman and sophomore classes. We're really excited about our young kids and look forward to finding out who is going to step up and help us.
"We'll have a great deal of evaluation to do, especially in the early part of the indoor season. Things are going to be pretty wide open but we'll start to figure some things out over the first few meets. The healthy competition within our own team will be very good for us as we move into the important meets later in the year."
The `Jacks will open the season on January 8th at the LSU Purple Tiger Invitational. SFA is set to travel to five major team events overall during the indoor season, including trips to Texas A&M (Jan. 16), Houston (Jan. 29-30) and New Mexico (Feb. 5-6), before taking part in the 2016 Southland Conference Indoor Championships held in Birmingham, Alabama from February 15-16.
Throughout the indoor slate, individuals will be looking to post qualifying marks to earn a spot in the NCAA Indoor Championships. The national meet will be held in Birmingham from March 11-12.
The multi-event athletes will kick off the outdoor season on March 15th with a two-day event at Rice University. The rest of the squad will see its first action a few days later on March 18-19 at the UTSA Invitational in San Antonio. The `Jacks will then be represented by competitors at the Rice Victor Lopez Classic in Houston from March 25-26 and at the Texas Relays in Austin from March 30-April 2.
SFA will then begin preparing for its lone home meet on the 2016 schedule -- the annual Skechers Carl Kight Invitational. The first events will start on Thursday, April 7th and run through the 9th at Homer Bryce Stadium.
Down the stretch, the `Jacks will take park in the Central Arkansas Invitational (April 16) and the Michael Johnson Invitational at Baylor (April 23) to prepare for the SLC Outdoor Championships from May 6-8 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Some individuals and relay teams will also have the opportunity to compete on bigger stages throughout the year, with the Stanford Invitational (April 1-2), Mt. SAC Relays (April 14-16) and the Drake Relays (April 27-May 1) all penciled in on the calendar for the upcoming year.
"If we don't win the conference meet on both sides I think it's a disappointment to us because that's what we strive for each and every year," said Olson. "The conference is so tough. It just keeps getting better and better because there are so many good athletes at all of the schools. We have to be at our very best this year for us to do something special."
After qualifying eight different events for the 2015 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds, SFA will strive for even more contenders at the meet held in Lawrence, Kansas from May 26-28. The NCAA Outdoor Championships run from June 8-11 back in Eugene, Oregon -- the same site where Demi Payne became SFA's first Division I National Champion at the end of last year. She will have the opportunity to defend her title with one year of outdoor eligibility remaining.
Payne's NCAA title was just one of the many highlights for the SFA track and field program last spring. The `Jacks dominated the SLC scene in 2015, sweeping the indoor and outdoor team championships on the both the men's and women's sides. Since Olson took over as head coach in 2000, SFA has won a league-best 30 conference titles.
"As I always say, we have really great coaches on this staff who will coach our athletes up and we have wonderful young men and women in this program that compete for us," Olson said. "They know what the expectations are and that never goes away. We're ready to go."