• July 4, 2024

Season in Review: Outdoor Track & Field

Season in Review: Outdoor Track & Field

RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The 2024 outdoor season was the best campaign The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Vaqueros track & field program has had in three years with head coach Shareese Hicks at the helm.

Hicks and her staff hit the recruiting trails hard to bring in loads of talent, and they worked the student-athletes diligently in the fall to push the program to a new level this spring. The Vaqueros created some serious momentum during the indoor season, and they kept building that wave throughout a decorated outdoor run.

UTRGV captured five Western Athletic Conference (WAC) outdoor championships in Utah. Both the men’s and women’s teams tabbed their best finishes and point totals at a conference championship in three years. The Vaqueros accumulated 12 All-WAC First Team honors and eight All-WAC Second Team honors. They set seven outdoor program records throughout the season.

Many Vaqueros shined at various moments in the season, but three in particular solidified themselves as stars in 2024 – sophomores Symoria AdkinsHannah Hilding and Jedidiah Udunna. All three will be back to expand on their UTRGV legacies next season.

Adkins, who was awarded the UTRGV Female Student-Athlete of the Year title, was arguably the story of the year for UTRGV Athletics. She won four WAC outdoor championships as she completed a perfect conference meet, winning individual titles in the 100-meter dash, 100-meter hurdles and 200-meter dash. She also anchored the gold medal-winning 4×100-meter relay. From prelims to finals, Adkins didn’t lose a single race in Utah. She was named the Outstanding Track Performer of the meet.

Adkins qualified for her first NCAA West Preliminary and came within .02 seconds of becoming the first UTRGV student-athlete to qualify for the NCAA Championships since 2007. She ran 13.15 to finish 13th in the 100-meter hurdles quarterfinals. That mark is one of the four program records she set in 2024, along with 11.47 in the 100-meter dash, 23.49 in the 200-meter dash, and 44.42 in the 4×100-meter relay with Nayla Harris, Zoë Adams and Yaria Akers.

UTRGV didn’t leave the WAC with just one women’s top performer award. Hilding secured the Outstanding Field Performer title at the outdoor championships for her efforts in helping the Vaqueros finish fourth with 105 points. Hilding was the silver medalist in hammer throw, took bronze in discus and shot put, and was fourth in javelin. She made her first trip to the NCAA West Preliminary in hammer.

Another WAC Champion in the bunch was Udunna, who won the men’s long jump and became a two-time NCAA West qualifier. Udunna was named the UTRGV Male Student-Athlete of the Year to reward a season that saw him rise to No. 10 in the nation in long jump and break the program record with a mark of 7.92 meters.

Plenty of additional Vaqueros shined as the men’s team made 40 entries into the outdoor record books and the women’s team made 37. UTRGV sent six student-athletes to the postseason, matching the most since 2021. Joining Adkins, Hilding, Udunna and Adams were junior hurdler Daniel Siaffa and sophomore triple jumper Aaron Cooper, who claimed the outdoor program record with a mark of 15.51 meters.

UTRGV also saw freshmen Hebrew Hunter and Weslaco East alum Gael Romo qualify for the USATF U20 Championships. Other standouts were junior jumper Kailah Gilmore, sophomore sprinters Nayla Harris and Jamari Harts, senior sprinter Jermarrion Stewart, junior distance runner Samantha Gonzalez and freshman mid-distance runner Kailey Salazar.

From winning events week to week to racking up 12 medals at their final WAC Outdoor Championships, the Vaqueros made consistent progress in all disciplines. The competitive and supportive environment at practice pushed each student-athlete, returner or newcomer, to continue improving. They couldn’t be complacent or they’d lose their spot on the travel bus, and the “iron sharpens iron” mentality paid off. The depth in the program was on display and the standards were raised, putting UTRGV in a great spot as a new chapter is set to begin next season.

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