COLUMBIA, Missouri – Texas A&M men and women each take a No. 2 national ranking into its first SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships this weekend as they seek to upgrade their third-place team finishes during the indoor conference meet.
“This is probably the best track meet of the year anywhere, because there is a lot of emotion with the schools competing against one another,” stated Aggie head coach Pat Henry. “That’s what is great about the SEC. This meet takes on a little bit different aura about itself.
“This is a head-to-head competition in a lot of events among the schools competing for the team titles. Yet, those fifth through eighth place points become very important, especially in events for us where we may not have somebody placing in the top three.”
Texas A&M enters the conference meet with nine event leaders, five for the men and four for the women. All five of the Aggie men’s SEC leaders also top the collegiate list for the 2013 season.
The men’s group of SEC and collegiate leaders include Deon Lendore (400), Henry Lelei (Steeplechase), Sam Humphreys (Javelin), as well as both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. For the women the SEC leaders include LaQue Moen-Davis (Long jump & Triple jump), Shelbi Vaughan (Discus) and the 4x100 relay.
“I feel good about our team, we are healthy and we head into the meet ready to go,” said Henry. “I think it will again come down to which team has the most people have a good day on that day, because it’s going to be so competitive. That’s our challenge. Coming off the Penn Relays I think our group did a pretty good job of doing that there. So, now we want to repeat those types of efforts.”
Starting this Thursday and continuing through Sunday, the Aggies will be battling for top honors as Missouri plays host the SEC meet at Audrey J. Walton Stadium. Events begin at 11:30 a.m. CT on Thursday, continuing at 11 a.m. CT on Friday, as well as 1 p.m. CT on Saturday and Sunday.
In action first for A&M on Thursday will be Jena Hemann and Annie Kunz in the heptathlon and Casey Strong in the hammer. Hemann and Kunz each bettered the Aggie school record in the pentathlon when they placed third and fifth during the SEC Indoor. Strong improved his school record in the hammer this season over the 200-foot barrier with a 201-5 throw.
Hemann and Kunz have the fourth (5531) and fifth (5442) best heptathlon scores, respectively, among SEC athletes this spring while Strong is ranked sixth among hammer throwers in the SEC.
A dozen Southeastern Conference men’s and women’s track and field teams are ranked among the nation’s top-25, including nine in the top-10, according to the latest national team computer rankings released this week by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
All-session tickets are available for $20 for adults and $10 for youth that provide admission to each day of the championship. Fans can purchase their tickets for the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships today by logging on to http://www.mutigers.com/sectrack/tickets.html.
Live coverage of the meet will air on ESPN3.com on Saturday and Sunday. That coverage will air from 3:40 to 6:45 p.m. CT on Saturday and from 2:50 to 6:45 p.m. CT on Sunday. The meet action on Thursday and Friday, and times outside of the ESPN3 windows on Saturday and Sunday will air live at MUTigers.com.
The SEC boasts four teams in the top-10 on the men’s side, including the nation’s top-two teams. Defending NCAA Champion Florida is ranked in No. 1 nationally, while Texas A&M is No. 2, Arkansas is No. 5 and Georgia is No. 7. LSU is the nation’s 12th-ranked team, while Ole Miss is No. 16 and Alabama is No. 20.
On the women’s side, the SEC features five teams in the top-10 nationally. Texas A&M is the highest-ranked SEC team at No. 2, while Florida is No. 3 and LSU is No. 4. Arkansas checks in at No. 6, while Georgia is No. 10.
The Aggies have 11 returning conference champions, eight men and three women, from their last season in the Big 12, along with six additional medalists. SEC schools total 17 returning champions from a year ago, nine on the men’s side and eight for the women.
A&M’s returning conference outdoor champions include Ashley Collier (100), Donique’ Flemings (100H), Prezel Hardy, Jr. (100, 200), Deon Lendore (400), Wayne Davis II (110H), Henry Lelei (Steeple), Sam Humphreys (Javelin), the women’s 4x100 along with the men’s 4x100 and 4x400.
Returning medalist also includes Collier (200 silver), Webb (200 silver, 100 bronze), Devin Bogert (Javelin silver), Dalton Rowan (Discus bronze), and the women’s 4x400 (bronze).
On the way to winning the Big 12 Performer of the Year honor a year ago, Hardy was a double conference champion in the 100 (10.03w) and 200 (20.33) along with being part of A&M’s winning effort in the 4x100 relay (39.00).
Webb, a two-time NCAA Indoor 200m champion, finished second in the conference outdoor 200m (20.54) last spring and third in the 100m (10.13w). His senior campaign with the Aggies has included triple victory weekends at USC (100, 200, 4x1), Texas Relays (100, 4x1, 4x2) and Penn Relays (100, 4x2, 4x4).
One of Webb’s better efforts in the 200 this outdoor season occurred in Baton Rouge when he posted a winning time of 20.59 into a -3.6 headwind. When adjusting his time for the wind it converts to a 20.32, which would better his career best of 20.46 as well as his indoor best of 20.37.
Hardy and Webb will face returning SEC champions in Keenan Brock of Auburn in the 100 and Isiah Young of Ole Miss in the 200. The last men’s sprint double in the SEC was attained by Richard Thompson (LSU) in 2008 with times of 9.93 and 20.23.
Entering the SEC meet as the collegiate leader in the 400 with a time of 45.00 seconds, which currently ranks No. 3 in the world for 2013, Lendore is favored to complete a sweep of the SEC titles. He won the indoor title in 45.23 after setting a world-leading time of 45.15 in the prelims.
There have been only two sub 45 second winners in the SEC over the past 10 years, Kirani James (Alabama) in 2011 with a 44.86 and in 2009 by Calvin Smith (Florida) with a 44.96.
Few have attained the feat Lendore accomplished as a freshman last season in winning the indoor and outdoor conference titles in the 400 along with being part of the victorious 4x400 relay at both meets. It was last achieved in the SEC in 1998 by Florida’s Jimmie Hackley.
Humphreys seeks a fourth conference javelin title after posting three consecutive wins in the Big 12. The U.S. and collegiate leader at 267-1, which ranks No. 12 in the world, Humphreys returns to the venue of his first conference title. Missouri hosted the Big 12 Championships in 2010 during his freshman year.
“For a guy like Sam that is huge for him to have a chance at a fourth conference win,” noted Henry. “Of the guys we have going into the meet who are potentially favored to win, Sam is probably sitting in the best shape of anybody if he just goes out and has a good day for himself. He’s going to be very hard to beat.”
Bogert ranks second in the SEC javelin with a mark of 238-5, which is No. 8 collegiately, and should be in contention to repeat the Aggie 1-2 finish they achieved last year in the Big 12.
Between cross country and the indoor track and field season, Lelei has already claimed three SEC titles this academic year. He became Texas A&M’s first SEC champion with his cross country title in the fall. Then during the SEC Indoor meet Lelei claimed titles in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters.
For the SEC Outdoor meet Lelei enters as the collegiate leader in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with his school record of 8:32.94 and is ranked third in the SEC 5,000 with his school record effort of 13:45.30. The last steeple-5000 SEC double occurred in 2007 by Barnabas Kirui of Mississippi.
If Lelei were to attain two more SEC titles he would match the five individual conference titles claimed by Godfrey Siamusiye of Arkansas (1995-96) and Alabama’s David Kimani (2000-01) over the three different seasons (cross country, indoor and outdoor track) in an academic year.
Davis tied the A&M school record of 13.37 in winning the 110 hurdles at the Big 12 meet a year ago and went on to place second in the NCAA Outdoor final while finishing the season as an Olympic semifinalist. After opening the 2013 outdoor season in mid-March with a 13.54 win at Arizona State, an injury the following week at USC kept him out of action for four weeks. In late April Davis posted a 13.65 at LSU and then won the Penn Relays 110 hurdle final in 13.67.
Collier earned high point honors a year ago by winning the Big 12 100 (11.01), finishing second in the 200 (22.89) and being on the winning 4x100 relay (42.99). Flemings won the 100 hurdles last season with a swift, wind-aided 12.87. They will both face defending SEC champions in LSU’s tandem of Kimberlyn Duncan (100, 200) and Jasmin Flowers (100H), who are each seeking a third consecutive title in the 200 and 100 hurdles.
Heading into the conference meet Collier ranks second in the 100 (11.15) and eighth in the 200 (23.20) while Flemings is second in the 100 hurdles (13.08) and 10th in the 400 hurdles (59.06).
Depth in the sprints has been a conference scoring staple for the Aggie women. This season they currently have seven of the top 10 times in the SEC 100, four of the top eight times in the 200 and two of the top seven marks in the 400.
Double sprint threats in addition to Collier include Kamaria Brown, who ranks second in the 200 (22.47) and 400 (52.21). Brown defeated defending SEC 400m champion Regina George of Arkansas on her home track earlier this spring.
A&M sprint doublers also include the 100/200 combos from Ashton Purvis (11.20, 23.16), Olivia Ekpone (11.27, 23.19) and India Daniels (11.44, 23.76). Jennifer Madu, who ranks fourth in the 100 (11.26) will double in the triple jump (41-6).
Texas A&M is the current collegiate leader in three of the four relays they will run at SEC, the men’s 4x100 (38.64) and 4x400 (3:02.52) as well as the women’s 4x100 (42.56). The women’s 4x400 (3:27.89) is fourth collegiately and second in the SEC.
“Of the four relays we run at the SEC we have the best time in the country in three of those four,” noted Henry. “We produced those times in big meet environments. This weekend is an opportunity to run even faster.”
In conference action the Aggie women have claimed six consecutive Big 12 4x100 titles dating back to 2007. In five of those six victories A&M has delivered sub 43 second winning times – 42.88 (07), 42.97 (08), 43.74 (10), 42.90 (11), 42.99 (12). The women’s 4x400 won conference titles in two of the past three seasons – 3:31.79 (10), 3:31.28 (11).
The Aggie men’s sprint relay has won a conference title in four of the past years – 38.85 (08), 38.86 (09), 39.04 (11), 39.00 (12) – while the A&M men’s 4x400 has attained three consecutive league titles – 3:04.45 (10), 3:02.38 (11), 3:03.04 (12). Only three times in the past 20 years has the same school won both men’s relays at the SEC meet. LSU was the last team to accomplish the sweep in 2006 while Florida achieved it in 2005.
Aggie freshmen lead the SEC in three women events heading into the conference weekend. LaQue Moen-Davis tops the long jump (21-2.5) and triple jump (44-2.75) while Shelbi Vaughan leads the discus (193-4).
A fourth place finisher in the Olympic Trials last summer, Vaughan is undefeated by collegians in the discus. Moen-Davis won the SEC Indoor triple jump with an indoor PR of 44-2 and recently claimed a win in the Penn Relays long jump while placing second in the triple jump at the historic meet.
Rowan recently set a career best in the discus, hitting a mark of 196-8, and is ranked third among the SEC throwers. Other Aggies heading into the conference weekend ranked among the top five include Greg Coleman, who is second in the 400 hurdles (50.67); James Bonn, fourth in the 800 (1:48.64); Isaac Spencer, fourth in the steeplechase (8:49.43); and Chase Wolfle, tied for fourth in the pole vault (17-9).
TEXAS A&M - SEC TOP 10 MARKS
100 3. Ameer Webb 10.08
8. Prezel Hardy, Jr. 10.30
9. Michael Bryan 10.34
200 4. Ameer Webb 20.59
10. Prezel Hardy, Jr. 20.80
400 1. Deon Lendore 45.00 Collegiate Leader
10. Ricky Babineaux 46.71
800 4. James Bonn 1:48.64
6. Hector Hernandez 1:49.35
1500 4. Henry Lelei 3:44.78
5000 3. Henry Lelei 13:45.30
110H 2. Wayne Davis II 13.54
8. Kenneth Minkah 14.13
400H 2. Greg Coleman 50.67
6. Aikan Graham 52.22
Steeple 1. Henry Lelei 8:32.94 Collegiate Leader
4. Isaac Spencer 8:49.43
4x100 1. Texas A&M 38.64 Collegiate Leader
4x400 1. Texas A&M 3:02.52 Collegiate Leader
HJ =7. Devion Harris 6-10 ¾
PV =4. Chase Wolfle 17-9
LJ 10. Jonathan Turner 24-5 ½
TJ 10. Dave Brown 50-9 ½
Discus 3. Dalton Rowan 196-8
10. Ben Skrla 174-3
Hammer 6. Casey Strong 201-5
Javelin 1. Sam Humphreys 267-1 Collegiate Leader
2. Devin Bogert 238-5
100 2. Ashley Collier 11.15
3. Ashton Purvis 11.20
4. Jennifer Madu 11.26
5. Olivia Ekponé 11.27
7. Kamaria Brown 11.39
8. India Daniels 11.44
10. LaKeidra Stewart 11.50
200 2. Kamaria Brown 22.47
6. Ashton Purvis 23.16
7. Olivia Ekponé 23.19
8. Ashley Collier 23.20
400 2. Kamaria Brown 52.21
7. Ibukun Mayungbe 52.99
10,000 9. Tara Upshaw 37:14.80
100H 2. Donique’ Flemings 13.08
400H 10. Donique’ Flemings 59.06
4x100 1. Texas A&M 42.56 Collegiate Leader
4x400 2. Texas A&M 3:27.89
LJ 1. LaQue Moen-Davis 21-2 ½
TJ 1. LaQue Moen-Davis 44-2 ¾
7. Jennifer Madu 41-6
8. Haley Gooch 40-11 ¾
Shot Put 7. Shelbi Vaughan 51-9 ¼
10. Brea Garrett 50-3 ¼
Discus 1. Shelbi Vaughan 193-4
Javelin 6. Kendall Munoz 154-0
9. Jean Deason 150-0
10. Jena Hemann 147-10
Hept 4. Jena Hemann 5531
5. Annie Kunz 5442