With the SEC Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., Feb. 25 to 27, head coach Ralph Spry said the main focus of his track and field team is to sharpen up technically and focus on details.
"The SEC is always a war--it's so competitive," Spry said. "Normally one or two points can separate three of four teams, so our goal is always to be in upper third of the SEC every year."
According to Spry, who has coached at Auburn for 14 years, the biggest difference in outdoor and indoor competition is the size of the running track.
"Indoors the track that we race on is a 200-meter track, which is half the size of an outdoor track, so it makes the race a little more technical," Spry said.
The technicalities come from additional laps and congestion, he said.
Spry said the team will compete in 18-20 different events, and he anticipates the team's strongest events will be the sprints, shot put and several of the distance races on the men's side. As for the women, sprint races, distance races and the high jump are the most promising events.
Ten teams are competing in the men's division, with every SEC team represented with the exception of Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
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Twelve women's teams from every school in the SEC will be represented in the women's division.
Spry said he was concerned about the team's potential at the start of the year because Auburn doesn't have an indoor track facility, and the weather put a damper on early season preparations.
However, the recent warm weather has helped the team's training.
According to Spry, the SEC tournament is the team's biggest indoor competition other than the NCAA National Championships and serves as an important step in preparing for nationals.
The indoor national championships will take place the second week of March and will mark the end of the indoor season and the beginning of the outdoor spring season.
The outdoor season will go until the National Championships in June.
Holly Knight, senior in human development and family studies, said she is looking forward to the SEC tournament and expects the team to do well.
"Last year we had a pretty bad year--we had a lot of bad luck--people kept getting injured," Knight said. "I think this year will be a lot better, and we are going out there to try and win."
Knight is an All-American and has set two school records this season in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters.
"There are a lot of good people in the SEC, so it would definitely be a highlight of my season to win," Knight said. "It would give me a lot of confidence for the races coming up after that."
Knight said this race will be slightly different for her because the track at Arkansas is banked in the corners. So far this season Knight has only competed on flat tracks.
Stephen Saenz, sophomore in health promotions and kinesiology, said he is preparing for the tournament by cutting back on weightlifting this week and trying to relax mentally.
Saenz is a redshirt freshman who currently leads the SEC and is tied for third in the nation in the shot put.
Saenz said he is pleased with his and his teammates', Eric Werskey and Marcus Popensoose, performances thus far. Werskey is currently ranked second in the SEC and fourth in the country behind Saenz.
For the indoor competition, Saenz and his teammates will compete in the shot put and weight throw.
Discus throwing only takes place in outdoor competition.
Saenz said his greatest accomplishment this season was having his best on his last of six throws in his previous competition.
"I feel like I've dealt with pressure very well this season, and hopefully I can do the same here at SECs and nationals," Saenz said.
According to Saenz, the competition should be exciting because there are three other men in the SEC who have already qualified for nationals in the shot put. He said one player from Florida is especially close to his and Werskey's throws.
Saenz said his teammates Werskey and Popensoose have been key factors in his success this year because they are always encouraging and pushing each other to be better.
"Our team as a whole is really united," Saenz said. "Even though we're real competitive on the field, we're a really tight-knit group of guys."
Saenz said throwing indoors is slightly different than outdoors because the shot put is bigger and plastic, as opposed to the metal shot put.
According to Spry, measuring the team's overall success can be difficult because events are primarily based on the performance of individuals and not the team. The team's success is often measured by individual qualifications.
"We have quite a few people that have already qualified for the National Championships, which is a big deal," Spry said.
Because Auburn is a combined program, Spry is the coach for both the men's and women's teams. He said the advantage of this system is all six coaches are able to spread their insight throughout the whole team as opposed to being limited to three coaches per side.
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