All-Big 12 Conference honors are hard to come by, but Ryan Hampton has found them before.
Hampton, a junior for Missouri, is competing at the Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend. Preliminaries and the first day of the combined events competition are today, with the finals and the conclusion of the combined events on Saturday.
Hampton earned All-Big 12 honors last year with an eighth-place finish in the mile. This year, though, has been up and down for him.
“There’s been a couple hard races,” he said. “There’s been times that I just haven’t competed as hard as I would like to, but I’m happy with how fast I’ve run and how I feel.”
Hampton’s time of 4 minutes, 5.47 seconds at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational on Feb. 7 came within one-half second of an NCAA provisional qualifying mark.
Hampton also runs cross country, in which he earned All-Big 12 honors in 2002 in the 10-kilometer run with a time of 30:29. He was forced to take a medical redshirt season in the fall when he developed tendinitis in his knees, but is back at full strength.
“Last fall I was hurt and I couldn’t even run at all, so really I’m just happy that I can run and be healthy again more than anything,” he said.
Hampton excels at more than running. He was named to the Academic All-American team for outdoor track in 2003 with a 4.0 grade point average. He said he has no trouble balancing athletics and academics.
“People act like it’s hard, but for me it’s really not,” he said. “I just don’t do the stuff other than school and track. The hard part is just choosing what you really want.”
Jill Petersen is also looking for big things this weekend.
Last year, Petersen was All-Big 12 in the mile, but this year she is focusing on the 3,000-meter run. She will also compete on the women’s distance medley relay team.
The relay team of Petersen, Ashley Patten, Jessica Stockard and Amanda Bales is first on the Big 12 performance list, 12 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor. They earned a provisional qualifying time at the Iowa State Classic of 11:18.24.
“I really want to put up a good time in the 3,000, and help out the team and get some points,” Petersen said. “I want our (distance medley relay) to do well, too.”
Petersen’s decision to run came from her mom.
“My parents made me do it,” she said. “I really didn’t know anything about it prior to high school, so I just started freshman year. Each year I got better and better, so I just did it.”
Petersen’s background as a distance swimmer has helped her running.
“I swam for 10 years before track,” she said. “I did distance swimming, so my mom and I figured that might help me out with distance running.”
Missouri expects strong results in other events as well.
In the men’s 1,000-meter run, Neville Miller, a junior, and Tipper O’Brien, a freshman, are expected to contend for top spots. Both rank in the top five of the Big 12 performance list in the event.
Other Missouri athletes to watch include Bales (mile, distance medley relay), Patten (800), Conrad Woolsey (shot put) and Holly Scherder (weight throw).