Henry Lelei breaks A&M record, Aggies qualify 14 athletes to Eugene
AUSTIN – Another day of solid performances at Mike A. Myers Stadium had the Aggies advancing 14 more athletes to Eugene for the NCAA Championships. Half of that total came in the 100 meters where Texas A&M qualified seven of its eight sprinters, four for the women and three men.
Then Henry Lelei capped the long night with a school record performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
All of this occurred after waiting through a six hour rain and lightning delay. Action resumed at 8 p.m. and the final event involving the Aggies, the 3,000m steeplechase started at 12:30 a.m. and was completed just after 1 a.m.
The Aggies now have a total of 18 athletes qualified for nine events at the NCAA Championships in Eugene as Friday’s collection added to the pair A&M advanced on Thursday, Dalton Rowan (discus) and LaQue Moen-Davis (long jump) along with the two already qualified in the heptathlon, Jena Hemann and Annie Kunz.
Amid first round action on Friday evening, the Aggies also advanced nine of 10 athletes in the sprint hurdles and 200 meters for Saturday’s quarterfinals.
A busy Saturday awaits Texas A&M as they contest all six field events, plus the men’s hammer that was postponed from Friday. In addition the Aggies have entries in nine of 12 track events, which will include four relay races.
Lelei punctuated the evening with a school record of 8:27.62, lowering his collegiate best and producing the 18th fastest time in the world this season, as he bettered the field by 16 seconds. His previous school record was 8:32.94 set in Eugene back in April when Lelei won the Oregon Pepsi Team Invitational.
Lelei also bettered a seven year old Myers stadium record of 8:35.87 set by Nicodemus Naimadu of Abilene Christian in 2006. Now the Aggie senior is just five seconds away from making the collegiate all-time top 10 list.
Running late into the evening produced cool temperatures for the steeplechase and A&M’s Isaac Spencer responded with a career best time of 8:40.87 to place second in his heat to UTEP’s Anthony Rotich, who won the heat in 8:37.49. The time by Spencer moves him to No. 2 on the Aggie all-time list with the No. 5 performance.
Finishing behind Spencer were Thomas Cotter of Wichita State (8:41.02) and John Colye of Weber State (8:41.64). On the final lap, running in fourth place, Spencer used the backstretch to charge into second. When Spencer was back in third on the homestretch he kicked to the finish line to secure second place.
Deon Lendore and Ricky Babineaux advanced to Eugene in the 400 meters. Lendore won his heat with a stellar 45.10 over a 45.49 for Kyle Clemons of Kansas. Babineaux needed a strong finish to place third in 46.56 to claim an automatic advancement to the NCAA semifinal.
Lendore posted the top time with Clemons second. Another pair of sub-46 second times were turned in by Oregon’s Mike Berry (45.83) and USC’s Bryshon Nellum (45.97).
The Aggie women were able to send four of its five sprinters in the 100 to Eugene. Olivia Ekpone (11.62) and Jennifer Madu (11.66) both were second in their respective heats, earning automatic advancement.
Meanwhlie, Ashley Collier (11.72) and Ashton Purvis (11.77) were both fourth in their respective heats and each advanced on time. LaKeidra Stewart ran 11.89 to place fifth and didn’t advance on time as she placed 18th overall.
Ameer Webb won his 100 heat in 10.28 as Michael Bryan finished fourth in the same heat with a 10.59. Prezel Hardy, Jr. ran 10.50 for fourth in another heat and he and Bryan were able to advance to Eugene on time.
In the 800 the Aggie tandem of Hector Hernandez and Josh Hernandez both qualified for the NCAA semifinal in a very tough heat. Hector placed third in a career best time of 1:48.42, moving to No. 7 on the A&M all-time list, while Josh placed fifth and snared the final time qualifier with his career best of 1:49.55.
The winner of the third heat of the 800 was Oregon’s Elijah Greer in 1:46.20, breaking the stadium record of 1:46.44, while Patrick Rono of Arkansas claimed second in 1:46.49. Rono was one of four Razorbacks to qualify for Eugene in the 800.
Ibukun Mayubgbe placed fifth in her heat of the women’s 400 with a 53.37 that left her 13th overall and just 0.02 of a second away from the 12th position that would have advanced to Eugene for the NCAA semifinal.
The leading time in the women’s quarterfinal was a collegiate-leading 50.88 from defending NCAA champion Ashley Spencer of Illinois. Spencer topped the collegiate-leading mark of 51.09 that Regina George of Arkansas set in the first of three heats.
Greg Coleman ran 50.50 in the 400 hurdles, placing third in the final heat to secure an automatic position to Eugene over a 50.51 for Iowa’s Ethan Holmes. The winning time in the heat, 49.90, was produced by Michael Stiger of Kansas.
In the first round of the sprint hurdles Wayne Davis won his 110 hurdle heat comfortably in 13.76 while Donique’ Flemings placed second in her heat of the 100 hurdles with a 13.53 behind a 13.43 from UTEP’s Janice Jackson.
The women’s 200 had three Aggies earning automatic advancement to Saturday’s quarterfinals. Kamaria Brown blistered a 23.05 (0.9 wind) to win her heat while Ekpone ran 23.39 (0.7) to claim another heat. Then Purvis won the final heat in 23.60 (1.2). India Daniels ran 24.12 (0.9) for fifth place in her heat and didn’t advance on time.
Four A&M sprinters moved on to the men’s 200 quarterfinals. Jermaine Davis placed third in the first heat with a 21.12 to claim an automatic advancement. Then in the fourth heat the Aggie trio of Webb, Bryan and Hardy, Jr. went 1-2-3 with times of 20.65, 20.92 and 21.02, respectively.
Three fouls in the women’s discus knocked Shelbi Vaughan out of the competition. She was one of four throwers who suffered the same fate.
The top mark in the discus competition, which started at noon and finished around 11 p.m. due to the weather delays, was 181-0 (55.18) by Jessica Maroszek of Kansas. The 12th best mark that advanced to Eugene was 170-0 (51.82).
NCAA Championships – Eugene, Oregon – June 5-8
Texas A&M qualifiers
MEN (11 athletes, 6 events, 11 entries)
100: Ameer Webb, senior; Prezel Hardy, Jr., junior; Michael Bryan, junior
400: Deon Lendore, sophomore; Ricky Babineaux, senior
800: Hector Hernandez, freshman; Josh Hernandez, sophomore
400H: Greg Coleman, sophomore
Steeplechase: Henry Lelei, senior; Isaac Spencer, sophomore
Discus: Dalton Rowan, sophomore
WOMEN (7 athletes, 3 events, 7 entries)
100: Olivia Ekpone, sophomore; Jennifer Madu, freshman; Ashley Collier, junior; Ashton Purvis, sophomore
LJ: LaQue Moen-Davis, freshman
Hept: Jena Hemann, sophomore; Annie Kunz, sophomore