June 8, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa - A school record in the men's 4 x100 relay and a bronze medal in the men's javelin kicked off Texas A&M's title defense at the NCAA Championships at Drake Stadium on Wednesday.

Two Aggie setbacks, though, occurred in the sprint semifinals when Jeneba Tarmoh false started in the women's 100 and Tabarie Henry did not advance to the final of the men's 400.

Sam Humphreys earned a bronze medal in the men's javelin on the first day of the NCAA Championships with a final round effort of 246-2 (75.05) and finished ahead of a Florida Gator by one inch in the process, giving the Aggies a one-point edge early in the team-scoring chase.

The mark by Humphreys is the eighth best performance on the A&M all-time list and his eighth mark on the top 10 performances list.

In the semifinals of the 4 x 100 relay the Aggie foursome of Prezel Hardy, Jr. clocked a school record of 38.38 seconds to take down the 38.51 established in the 2009 NCAA semifinals.

A 42.99 secured a heat victory in the 4 x 100 for the A&M women, who ran with a foursome of Gabby Mayo, Tarmoh, Dominique Duncan and Ashley Collier. LSU had the top qualifying time at 42.94.

The rest of the qualifying rounds into finals had A&M advancing Jessica Beard in the women's 400 with a collegiate leading 51.24 while Demetrius Pinder (45.35) and Bryan Miller (45.29 PR) made the finals in the men's 400.

In the men's 100 Phiri (10.31) and Hardy (10.30) advanced while defending champion Jeff Demps of Florida (10.40) did not. Andrea Sutherland ran her third personal best time of the season, 56.49, to place second in her heat of the 400 hurdles and qualify for the final.

Joey Roberts and Michael Preble did not advance to the finals of the 800. Roberts (1:48.22) finished sixth in his heat while Preble (1:48.97) placed eighth in the final heat. Collier (11.65) placed sixth in her heat of the 100 meters.

In third place throughout most of the competition, Humphreys shifted to fourth in the sixth round when Virginia Tech's Matthias Treff jumped into second placed with a 255-6 (77.88) toss.

"It was a great competition," said Humphreys, who placed fifth as a freshman in 2010. "The winner throws 80 meters on his first throw and I was in third the whole way until the Virginia Tech threw 77 meters in the last round. I love this type of competition."

Florida's Stipe Zunic threw in the first flight with Humphreys along with winner Tim Glover of Illinois State. Glover unleashed a 263-6 (80.33) in the opening round and didn't surpass 245 the rest of the competition. Zunic hit 246-1 (75.01), also in the opening round, to occupy second place.

Humphreys opened with a 238-4 and then improved to 245-8 in round two. He was in third place after the completion of the first flight and the order of the top three remained the same after flight two.

With the field of 24 trimmed to nine finalists, the only movement among the top three came in the final round when Treff moved from fourth place to second. After a 245-6 mark in round five, Humphreys then regained bronze medal status with a toss of 246-2 that bettered Zunic by one inch, or four centimeters in metric.

"I was happy with my series, staying in the 245 range for most of my throws," noted Humphreys. "Being involved in an event that included Florida was similar to Trinity Otto being in the decathlon last year with Gary Horn. Coach Henry told Trinity you have to keep that guy in your sights.

"I did the same thing this year and managed to get past the Florida thrower on my last throw."

Howell and Phiri were part of the last school record in the 4 x 100 and ran the first two legs in breaking the school record on Drake's blue track. Texas A&M becomes the fourth fastest school in collegiate history with the sixth fastest performance.

"I knew I had to get out and make sure we get the stick around," Howell said of his starting position from the blocks. "Running that time was unexpected, we were just trying to win our heat. That was the main goal for me.

"Our passes were safe and smooth. To run 38.38, it was just a great race. Our potential is unlimited."

Texas A&M broke the Drake Stadium record of 38.42 set by LSU in 2008, the last time the NCAA Championships were held here.

On the all-time collegiate list the Aggies currently trail TCU (38.04 in 1998), LSU (38.24 in 1998) and Florida (38.35 in 2000). On the 2011 world list, A&M is the second fastest behind a 38.33 for Jamaica, which was recorded at the Penn Relays in late April.

"During the final call I gathered the guys and told them we don't know what the weather is going to be like in the final," said Phiri. "We have great weather today so lets go out there and run fast. Today is about running fast, the final is about winning.

"I'm really excited about running a school record, especially with Hardy running the anchor. As a freshman he came out there and anchored a 38.38, that's big time. We are still seeking that elusive title in this event. My freshman we placed second, then we haven't finished the past two years. This year is about burying the ghost."

Runner-up to A&M in the third heat of the sprint relay was Texas in 39.23, which advanced the Longhorns on time to the final. Illinois won the first heat in 38.72 while Florida claimed heat two in 38.49, the collegiate leader until A&M responded with its school record effort.

Also making the men's final in the 4 x 100 are Florida State (38.75), LSU (39.01), Baylor (39.09), and Indiana (39.12).

Finishing behind the Aggie women in the 4 x 100 was Houston (43.38), Ohio State (43.71), Baylor (43.98) and Oklahoma (44.46). Only Houston joined A&M in the final from the first heat.

LSU (42.94) and Central Florida (43.52) won the other two heats, but Oregon did not finish. LSU became the first school other than Texas A&M to run a sub-43 second time in the sprint relay since LSU ran 42.59 in 2008.

"This is the first time we're going into the final second best from the semifinal," noted Mayo. "We'll be ready Saturday for the final.

"I've gone through blood, sweat and tears to make it back to the NCAA Championship after missing last year's meet due to an injury."

The Aggies have recorded sub-43 seconds the past four years in winning four consecutive NCAA titles in the 4 x 100, including the collegiate record of 42.36 in 2009.

"Getting the stick around was the main focus today," said Duncan.

Other squads making the women's 4 x 100 final were Clemson (43.54), USC (43.59), Florida State (43.65) and Texas (43.65).

Beard powered her way to an impressive 51.24 collegiate-leading time to claim the first heat of the women's 400. It's the eighth fastest performance by Beard on the Aggie all-time list.

Runner-up to Beard was a 51.85 by Ciara Short of Cal State Fullerton. Other heat winners included Auburn's Joanna Atkins (51.69) and Diamond Dixon of Kansas (51.64).

Tabarie Henry ran in the first heat of the men's 400 and ran 45.60 for sixth place. Florida's Tony McQuay won the heat in 44.87 while Texas Tech's Gil Roberts finished second in 45.22. USC's Josh Mance advanced on time to the final with a 45.29.

Miller lowered his career best to 45.29 after clocking 45.49 twice this season. He moves to No. 7 on the Aggie all-time list ahead of a 45.34 by Justin Oliver from 2009 and just behind the 45.21 of Howard Davis in 1989.

That PR earned Miller third place and he advanced to the final on time as Oregon's Mike Berry (45.23) and USC's Joey Hughes (45.27) earned the two auto qualifying positions. Placing fourth in 45.30 behind Miller was Errol Nolan of Houston while Baylor's Marcus Boyd finished fifth in 45.54.

The third heat of the 400 started without Georgia's Torrin Lawrence, who suffered an injury during his warm-up for the race. Pinder controlled the race with a 45.35 that placed him ahead of Alabama's Kirani James, who was second in 45.51.

Facing a -2.4 headwind Phiri won the second heat of the men's 100 in 10.31 while Florida's Demps placed third in 10.40.

"My heart sank for Jeneba when she false started in the 100," noted Phiri. "It was disappointing because I thought she had a very good chance of winning the final. Something like that reminds you that if you even move a little bit with those sensors you're going to get caught.

"I tried to stay patient in the blocks, I didn't try to get the same start I had at Texas Relays (10.06 meet record). It was just about qualifying, so that's what I focused on today."

Hardy claimed third in the final heat with a 10.30 and advanced on time to the final.

"You can ask any of my teammates, I was a nervous wreck coming in here," stated Hardy. "But I had to calm myself down and settle my nerves. Running the relay earlier really helped out a lot, it boosted my confidence.

"Some of my teammates weren't as fortunate in qualifying for the finals today. So, even as a freshman, I knew I had to step it up and try to qualify in all of my events to fill that void."

Sutherland ran the final race of the day involving the Aggies. She led the field through nine hurdles of the race, and then was passed in the final strides by Arkansas' Brittany Hyter (56.46). The 56.49 by Sutherland is the fifth fastest performance on the A&M all-time list and it's her third mark amid the top 10 performances.

Second day action for Texas A&M includes finals in the women's javelin and men's long jump. Laura Asimakis and Emily Humphreys throw the spear for the Aggies while the senior crew of Melvin Echard, Julian Reid and Tyron Stewart seek points in the long jump.

Daphne Fitzpatrick starts the heptathlon on Thursday while semifinal heats include A&M involved in the 200, 100 hurdles, 110 hurdles and the 4 x 400 relays.