By Wynton Thomason
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
The University of the Incarnate Word Track and Field team can always expect changes, but now they are experiencing one of the most intriguing changes, the move to Division I.
The Cardinals now are in the Southland Conference, which features schools such as Sam Houston State University, Stephen F. Austin University and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.
Although UIW’s team won’t officially be considered a Division I program until the 2015 track season and won’t be eligible for NCAA championship events until the 2018 season, according to Southland’s athletics website, the Cardinals still will have to prepare for their future which means the Cardinal athletes competing this year will be participating in meets with much more competitive teams than the ones they have seen in the past. This means their training routines will be have to have much higher standards than before and workouts will be much more grueling, said Marcos Mora, a junior distance runner from Karen Wagner High School in nearby Converse.
“What a satisfying workout was a year or two ago is now considered an unsatisfying workout,” said Mora. “We have to work that much harder to compete in Division I.”
Recruiting has also had to change in many ways for the Cardinals coaching staff as a Division I member. The athletes they would’ve looked for three or four years ago are much different than the athletes they look for now. Today’s athletes have to have a much more established resume on the track running or on the field running.
Around the world, athletes whose passion is running the 400-meter relay or pole vaulting all
dream of being on a Division I track and field team to compete with the best in the collegiate ranks and to win an NCAA championship. Now that UIW is one of those Division I schools, they can offer that to prospective athletes looking to live their dream. Athletes that probably wouldn’t have looked at attending Incarnate Word to be a member of the track-and-field team in the past would probably look into pursuing their athletic and educational endeavors at UIW.
While there is a lot of hype going into the reclassification transition, there is a lot of hype going into this season. They will lose standout sprinter Tommy Brown, who was the Lone Star Conference’s Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year, but they have a lot of talented student-athletes coming back this season including senior engineering major major Chance Dziuk of Stockdale, Texas, who placed 11th in the discus throw at the Division II National Championships in Pueblo, Colo., this past May, and senior accounting major Shaneve Swift of San Antonio, who competed for the Belizean national team this summer as a 2016 Olympic hopeful.
Other athletes looking to have a standout year are junior distance runners Emma Jewell and Irma Garza, who have showed some promise in their respected events and also pose a threat in the fall during cross-country season, which only makes them even more ready when spring comes around. On the men’s side, junior sprinter Chris DeWitt, a sports management major from San Antonio, is returning. He finished right at the top with Brown in the 100- and 200-meter runs and is expected to flourish in his last two years of eligibility.
Although these Cardinals have had their previous success, it will be a different race now that their coaches expect them to work even harder than they ever have before, which they will have to do in order to compete at the next level.