IT’S big, it’s huge – as is typical for Texas.
It’s the Texas A & M University with a campus that covers about 2225ha and has about 70,000 students.
It was also the venue for an athletics event almost as huge, the American NCAA Western Regionals, where the top 48 from all the western half of the United States competed to qualify for the NCAA finals, in Oregon.
Three Southlanders were there.
While remarkable as it seems having three Southlanders mixing with the best athletes in America, all the more remarkable is all were from the same small Surrey Park training squad and had the same coach.
All three won athletics scholarships to American universities.
However, the championships did not go smoothly.
Thunderstorms caused postponement on the second day with the rearrangement of the programme a day later, to fit everything in.
First to compete was former Gore resident Hannah Miller in the 10,000m following up two days later with the 5000m.
Miller graduated with a degree in SMU in Dallas and is now studying for her masters and representing the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
She was disappointed with both races, finishing way down compared to previous results, probably a legacy from health issues which plagued her earlier in the season.
The times did not alter her number one New Zealand ranking in the 10,000m and second in the 5000m.
Jack Beaumont, originally from Winton and now a student of North Texas University (one of America’s top universities located just out of Dallas) is studying for his Masters in Finance.
Beaumont, a three-time New Zealand representative at the World Mountain Running champs and New Zealand steeplechase champion, competed in the 3000m steeplechase. His time of 8.53.58 placed him 18th.
As he said in a Facebook post, “Turned it up a gear for national prelims!! Ended the season on a big high with another personal best of 8:53 in the 3km steeplechase I went into the meet ranked 40/48 and finished 18th.”
This improved his top New Zealand ranking and increased his own university record by three seconds.
Atipa Mabogna, of Otautau, is studying at SMU and was at the Western Finals for the triple jump, the event which won her the athletic scholarship.
Her 12.74m was not up to her 13.02 personal best but is her second best of the season and kept her number two on the New Zealand rankings, just 4cm behind first.
How big is big? The Texas AM football stadium can hold the combined populations of Otautau, Gore and Winton and Invercargill and still have a few seats left over. NCAA athletics has the same impression of size.
While none of the Southlanders qualified for the NCAA finals in Oregon, achieving the second to highest rung of American University athletics is a long way from small Southland towns.