LUBBOCK, Texas – The unofficial opening weekend for indoor track and field across the country takes place this weekend, and Lubbock will be part of it. Texas Tech is set to host the second-annual Corky Classic Saturday afternoon.
The men's team will look to defend their Big 12 Indoor title as well as prove correct their ranking as the number one program in the nation, as voted by the USTFCCCA and FloTrack this week. For Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Wes Kittley, it is important to treat the opening weekend – and the national ranking – like business as usual.
"You don't win any championships in January," Kittley said in an interview with FloTrack. "We're going to keep a blue-collar attitude about it and just take it week by week."
The Corky Classic will be the first of seven meets – including the Big 12 Championships – Tech will host this indoor season. Kittley considers this a monumental advantage for the Red Raiders.
"We get to sleep in our own beds and show up two hours before our event," he said. "We get to go back and sleep in that same bed, we don't have to travel and we're not missing school. I think we have the greatest advantage getting to run on the fastest track and best facility in the country [every week]."
A five-team meet, the Corky Classic will be Tech's smallest of the indoor season. However, the Red Raiders will be getting a close look at squads they will certainly be seeing later in the season, most notably Big 12 foe Oklahoma and in-state competitor Houston.
Kittley expressed surprise at the Cougars traveling ten each of their top men and women to the Corky Classic considering they themselves have a home meet this weekend.
"They're bringing their cream," Kittley said. "They're going to try to run fast in certain events, and they're coming to this track for that specific reason. They have a home meet, so it's kind of odd that they're coming to this one. I think it's a compliment to this facility."
The Sooners will travel a big team to Saturday's meet, which will allow Tech athletes to go head-to-head with some of the same competition they will be seeing in just six short weeks at the Big 12 Championships.
"We'll get an opportunity to see another Big 12 team right off the bat, so we're going to know their strengths and weaknesses right off," Kittley said. "It'll be fun to see them."
The men's team will enter indoor with seven returning All-Americans, including Bowerman watch list candidate Divine Oduduru. He will be joined by Andrew Hudson and transfer Derrius Rodgers to form a powerful sprints core for Tech. Hudson and Rodgers will get their season debut in the 60m at 2:50 p.m. on Saturday, while Oduduru will pass on his usual specialties – the 60m and 200m – for the opportunity to train up in the 300m at 1:50 p.m.
Elsewhere on the track, the women's squad will be seeing the debuts of Damajahnee Birch in the 600-yard and D'Jenne Egharevba in the 60m. Birch's first run in the Scarlet & Black will be at 1:20 p.m., while Egharevba will debut at 2:40 p.m. A notable men's debut will come from Sven Cepus, a Croatian mid-distance runner who will go in the 600-yard at 1:30 p.m.
All-Americans Brandon Bray and Drew McMichael, who were picked top-10 in the nation in the pole vault, will get their indoor season started at 2 p.m. They will be joined by a host of freshmen making their debut in the event, including Adam Alborn, Logan Fraley and Luke Williams. The women's pole vault will feature Wisconsin transfer Chinne Okoronwko making her debut alongside sophomore Chloe Wall and freshmen Ashton Moon, Allyn Tyer and Ryleigh Redding. The women's vault will be at noon.
Texas Tech's jumps crew will be just as strong this season as well. The men's long jump will feature returning All-American Charles Brown alongside outdoor All-American Odaine Lewis. Three of Brown's marks last indoor season counted as top-10 program times, including his high of leap of 8.12m (26'-8.5") he recorded at the Big 12 Championships. They will be joined by junior Justin Hall and strong freshman Jequan Hogan, all of whom will get started at 3 p.m.
The women's jumps team is strongest in the high jump thanks to senior Zarriea Willis, the lone returning All-American for the Lady Raiders. Willis will jump next to junior Cyre Virgo, who is coming off an outdoor campaign during which she went to nationals as well, at 3:30 p.m.