EUGENE – Attempting to win a fourth national championship team title over the past five years has the No. 1 Texas A&M men and the No. 2 Aggie women visiting Hayward Field from June 5-8 with a squad of 29 athletes who total 36 entries in 21 events at the NCAA Championships.
The A&M men, who moved into the No. 1 position in the USTFCCCA national computer rankings after the NCAA West preliminary rounds, will have 17 athletes with 20 entries in 12 events. The Aggie women total 12 athletes with 16 entries among nine events.
“I’m very pleased with the group we have here,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “We’re in good shape and in good spirits. I’m just ready to get the competition started. This is a group where we have some people who have been here before and we have a lot of young ones who are excited about being here too. We have a good balance of talent.”
As far as national championship venues go, there are few places that have the fan base and crowd support that is on display at Hayward Field.
“That’s the thing about Eugene, Oregon, this is a track capital,” said Henry. “These people know the sport, the athletes and who is good in each event. They want the University of Oregon to win, there is no question about it, and there will be 18,000 to 20,000 people screaming and hollering for Oregon. However, they also recognize and respect the talent from other schools and that is a fun environment.”
Action begins on Wednesday and continues through Saturday. Coverage of the national championship meet will be available through the Pac-12 network, via the website: http://pac-12.com/live/goducks.aspx?DB_OEM_ID=500, while ESPN has coverage via ESPN3.com on Thursday with ESPNU covering Friday and Saturday.
BROADCAST SCHEDULE (Pacific times)
Wednesday, June 5: Noon to 8 p.m. (Pac-12 Live Stream)
Thursday, June 6: 11 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. (Pac-12 Live Stream), 3:50 p.m. to 8 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
Friday, June 7: 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Live Stream), 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Saturday, June 8: 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. (Pac-12 Live Stream), 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
Contending teams for the men’s team title include Arkansas, who matched the Aggies leading total of 20 entries, host Oregon as well as defending champion Florida. Kansas is favored to claim the women’s title with Oregon, Arkansas and Texas A&M strong contenders.
“Our schedule allows us to see the competition and we have, we’ve seen everybody and know what the challenge is,” noted Henry. “Now we have to go out and do what we’re capable of doing.”
The Aggie men and women each placed third in team scoring a year ago following a three year unprecedented run of men’s and women’s NCAA Championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The six national team titles for Coach Henry, now in his ninth season with the Aggies, increased his career total to 33, following the 27 NCAA Championships he collected while at LSU.
Sprinting events make up half of entries for Texas A&M, where the Aggies have 18 entries between the 100, 200, and 400 meters along with three relays. Seven sprinters qualified in the 100 meters, four entries for the women and three for the men; six sprinters are in the 200, three apiece for the men and women; while the A&M men have a pair of entries in the 400.
The Aggie men return three athletes who were NCAA runner-up a year ago with Wayne Davis II in the 110 hurdles, Sam Humphreys in the javelin and Ameer Webb in the 200 meters. Henry Lelei was on his way to finishing second last year in the 3,000-meter steeplechase until he fell after clipping the final hurdle and placed fourth.
Davis recently ran a season best of 13.27w (2.1), the 2013 collegiate-leader under all-conditions, at the NCAA West meet and is undefeated among collegian competition in the 110 hurdles this season. Davis missed four weeks of races in the hurdles earlier this spring after suffering a injury running the anchor leg of a second unit A&M 4x100 relay at USC in March.
After missing action in the 110 hurdles at USC, Texas Relays, Oregon and Arkansas, Davis returned to racing at the LSU Alumni Gold Invitational and placed second to Aries Merritt, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and world record holder. Merritt ran 13.37 while Davis clocked 13.65 to finish ahead of three-time SEC Champion Barrett Nugent (13.72), who won the 2011 NCAA title for LSU. Davis then collected victories at the Penn Relays (13.67) and SEC Championships (13.46).
In NCAA finals the past two years Davis has run 13.60 twice. In 2011, running with a 3.6 tailwind he finished sixth. Then in 2012, facing a -3.5 headwind, Davis claimed NCAA silver as the runner-up. As the top returning NCAA finalist, Davis headlines a field that includes Oregon’s Johnathan Cabral (13.33), Eddie Lovett of Florida (13.39) who was fifth last year, NCAA bronze medalist Spencer Adams of Clemson (13.40) and Cal’s Ray Stewart (13.43).
The U.S. and collegiate leader in the javelin this whole outdoor season, an undefeated Humphreys will attempt to become the first A&M thrower to score four consecutive years at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. His progression in the national meet started with a fifth place finish as a freshman in 2010, third in 2011, and second in 2012.
Humphreys will have to contend with two-time defending NCAA Champion Tim Glover of Illinois State as well as Oregon’s Sam Crouser throwing on his home runway and the NCAA bronze medalist in Virginia Tech’s Matthias Treff. Humphreys, who won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field, recently increased his school record at A&M to 268-8 (81.90) during the NCAA West meet and moved to No. 7 on the all-time collegian list.
Joining Humphreys in the javelin is A&M’s Devin Bogert, who placed 12th in the NCAA meet last year. Bogert placed fifth in the SEC and has produced a career best of 238-5 (72.66).
Webb has claimed a pair of NCAA Indoor championships in the 200 meters the past two years and is the top returning NCAA Outdoor finalist from 2012. His season outdoor best of 20.30 during the SEC prelims was the collegiate leader for a day. Isiah Young of Mississippi, fourth in the NCAA final last year, lowered the collegiate leading time to 20.20 in winning the SEC final. Other challengers include current collegiate leader Anaso Jobodwana of Jackson State (20.13), Charles Silmon of TCU (20.23) and USC’s Bryshon Nellum (20.23).
Joining Webb in the 100 and 200 are Aggies Prezel Hardy, Jr. and Michael Bryan. Hardy placed eighth in the 100 during his freshman season in 2011.
Lelei lowered his school record in the steeplechase with an 8:27.62 he completed at 1 a.m. in the morning during the NCAA West meet. Isaac Spencer joined Lelei with a career best time of 8:40.87 during the late night race in Austin to also qualify for Eugene and could supply the Aggies with extra points in the event.
There were 11 seniors among the 14-runner NCAA steeplechase final a year ago. Henry was the top finisher among the three returning finalists, which includes UTEP’s Anthony Rotich (6th) and Colorado’s Aric VanHalen (10th). Lelei broke his A&M record twice this season, the first effort of 8:32.94 came on a rainy day in Eugene during the Oregon Pepsi Team Invitational in early April.
Lelei claimed the SEC title in the steeplechase with an 8:38.11 while Spencer finished third with an 8:53.73. Also qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 5,000 meters, Lelei broke a 1985 A&M record set by Arturo Barrios (13:46.37) when he won the Penn Relays in 13:45.30. Following a runner-up finish in the SEC (13:58.02), Lelei rallied late in his heat of the 5,000 at the NCAA West to win in 14:11.52, moving from 11th place to the victory over the final couple of laps.
Two returning scorers for the Aggies include Deon Lendore and Dalton Rowan, who both finished eighth in their respective events as freshmen in 2012. Rowan threw 193-1 last season to place eighth in the discus and has set a career best of 196-4 this year. Four discus finalist return this season, including the defending champion in Nebraska’s Chad Wright. Rejoining the fray this year is 2011 NCAA champion Julian Wruck of UCLA, who recently broke the discus collegiate record with a 223-7 (68.16).
Lendore swept the SEC titles in the 400 this season and has been undefeated during the outdoor campaign while posting times of 45.00, career best at LSU, 45.02 at SEC and 45.10 at NCAA West. Joining Lendore in the NCAA semifinal round is teammate Ricky Babineaux, who recorded a career best of 46.55 to place seventh in the SEC.
In relay action Lendore has been very impressive with a series of sub 45 second splits. His 44.3 carry in the prelims of the Penn Relays 4x400 was the 11th fastest ever recorded at the historic meet. Lendore also produced a 44.4 on the Aggie distance medley relay that placed second at Texas Relays.
Other 4x4 splits for Lendore included 44.6 (3:02.76 Texas Relays), 45.1 (Collegiate leader 3:02.52 Penn Relays final); 45.01 (3:03.14 SEC) and 44.6 (3:02.55 NCAA West). Joining Lendore on the A&M 4x400 are Babineaux, Aldrich Bailey, Jr., and Carlyle Roudette.
The women’s 4x100 is favored for victory in Eugene and the Aggies enter the NCAA Championships with the collegiate leading time of 42.56 they set in equaling the Texas Relays meet record back in late March.
The A&M foursome on that sprint relay included LaKeidra Stewart, Ashton Purvis, Kamaria Brown and Ashley Collier. They later won the Penn Relays in 43.05. For the SEC Championships, Jennifer Madu replaced Collier on the anchor leg as the Aggies won in 43.43.
Texas A&M claimed four consecutive NCAA titles in the 4x100 from 2007 to 2010 and have been runner-up the past two years to LSU, although the 2012 title was vacated by the Tigers along with their team championship.
Members of the Aggie sprint relay are also qualified in various individual events. Collier, Purvis and Madu are in the 100 along with Olivia Ekponé. Brown qualified for the 200 along with Ekponé and Purvis. Madu is also in the triple jump.
Collier placed seventh in the 200 NCAA final last season and anchored the 4x100 to a runner-up finish. In the 100 Collier (11.15w), Purvis (11.20w), Madu (11.26w) and Ekponé (11.27w) rank 6-7-8-10 among the 24 entrants in the NCAA semifinal.
This year’s 100 meters will feature four of the fastest sprinters in the history of the event, led by LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan (10.96 from 2012), defending champion English Gardner of Oregon (11.00), Collier (11.01 from 2012) and UCF’s Octavious Freeman (11.02). They each rank among the top 10 performers on the all-time collegiate list.
Brown will face LSU’s Duncan in the 200 where she is the two-time defending champion. Brown finished second to Duncan in the SEC final with a 22.58. Earlier this season, Brown recorded victories in the 200 at Arizona State (22.73), Oregon (23.27 in a downpour), and LSU (22.47).
While running the third leg of the 4x100 relay, Brown is the anchor leg of the Aggie 4x400, which has a season best of 3:27.89 from the Penn Relays. Joining Brown on the relay are Stewart, Ekponé and Ibukun Mayungbe.
Another returning scorer for the Aggies is Donique’ Flemings, who placed sixth in the 100 hurdles. Prior to Flemings winning the SEC title in 13.03 she posted victories at Oregon (13.35), Arkansas (13.15) as well as the Penn Relays (13.11). The top returner from last year’s NCAA final is silver medalist Brianna Rollins of Clemson.
Greg Coleman overcame a disqualification in the 400 hurdles at the SEC meet, where he initially finished second, to run a career best of 50.50 and move to No. 10 on the A&M all-time list.
A surprise qualifier for the NCAA Championships came from junior Dave Brown, who improved his career best from 50-9.5 (15.48) to 53-0 (16.15) and finished as the top qualifier in the NCAA preliminary rounds.
Newcomers to the NCAA Championships include a crew of Aggie sophomores and freshmen. A&M freshman LaQue Moen-Davis, the SEC champion in the long jump and runner-up in the triple jump, qualified for the NCAA Championships in both events. She will be joined in the triple jump by fellow frosh Madu.
Sophomores Jena Hemann and Annie Kunz will contest the heptathlon that begins on Thursday while the men’s 800 will have freshman Hector Hernandez and sophomore Josh Hernandez, who each ran PRs of 1:48.42 and 1:49.55 in the NCAA West meet. In the women’s javelin A&M will be represented by frosh Kendall Munoz, who threw a career best of 155-7 (47.43) to advance.