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Aggies seek more Championship of America titles at Penn Relay Carnival

April 23, 2014
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

PHILADELPHIA – Embarking on the 120th Penn Relay Carnival this weekend at historic Franklin Field, the Texas A&M Aggies return as winners of 12 events from 2013, including eight victories on the final day. A&M will defend titles in four of the five Championship of America relays they captured last season along with three of the six individual Championship titles.

The A&M women, currently the No. 1 team in the nation based on team computer rankings from USTFCCCA, will defend titles in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays as well as the 100 meters and long jump in individual events. The Aggies also won the shuttle hurdle relay a year ago and captured the 100 hurdles.

For the Aggie men, now No. 3 in the national rankings, titles defenses will include the 4x200 and 4x400 relays along with the 110 hurdles. A&M also won the 100, 5000 and college division long jump a year ago.

This season the Penn Relays will have a live webcast available through Flotrack.com on its Flo Pro subscription service. Live action will broadcast all three days, except for USA vs. The World events which will be broadcast live on NBC Sports during Saturday’s portion of the meet from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (CDT). Start lists and results are available through the www.thepennrelays.com website.

Over the past seven seasons at the Penn Relay Carnival the Aggies have collected their share of Champion of America trophy wheels along with Penn Relays watches. Combined the men and women have won 20 relay titles since 2007, 14 by the A&M women and six for the Aggie men.

In the 4x100 the A&M women have won five consecutive titles at Penn while in the 4x200 the Aggies have captured five of the past six titles. In the 4x400 they have placed third in three of the past four years while claiming a win in 2012. Three titles have been won over the past four years by A&M in the shuttle hurdles. Since 2007 the Aggie women have also registered five runner-up finishes and five third-place efforts over five different relays.

In addition to the A&M men totaling six relay wins over that period they have placed second on four occasions and third a total of six times. The six victories include two wins each in the 4x100 (2009, 2010), 4x200 (2009, 2013) and 4x400 (2011, 2013).

Heading into the Penn Relays season best relay marks for the Aggies include the second fastest collegiate times this season in the men’s 4x100 and 4x400 with a school record 38.30 in the sprint relay from a runner-up finish at the Texas Relays as well as a 3:02.64 in winning the mile relay at the LSU Alumni Gold Invitational this past weekend.

In the 4x200 the A&M men are the collegiate leaders with a 1:20.78 victory from the Texas Relays, while in the 4x800 a 7:25.15 ranks fifth among collegiate teams and a 3:20.33 in the sprint medley ranks third among Division I schools.

For the Aggie women a 43.51 victory at LSU this past weekend in the 4x100 ranks third collegiately as does a 1:31.82 in the 4x200 from the Texas Relays. In the 4x400 A&M’s 3:31.27 is fifth best while a 3:49.56 in the sprint medley also ranks fifth this season.

Individual returning champions for A&M at the Penn Relays include 110 hurdler Wayne Davis II, Olivia Ekponé in the 100 meters and LaQue Moen-Davis in the long jump.

Davis won the 110 hurdles at Penn a year ago with a time of 13.67. It was one of four races he won in his junior campaign, which included the SEC title (13.46) and the NCAA championship (13.14w), before advancing to the semifinals of the World Championships.  Davis has already produced three victories this season at Texas Relays (13.45w), Stanford Invitational (13.50) and LSU Alumni Gold Invitational (13.46w).

Ekponé captured the 100 meters in a then personal best of 11.37, which she has improved to 11.35 this season. Ekponé was also part of the Aggie winning efforts in the 4x200, with a world-leading 1:29.98, and a third-place finish in the 4x400 as A&M clocked 3:27.89 as she split 53.4 on the opening leg.

While Moen-Davis returns as the long jump champion at Penn last season with a 21-2.5 (6.46) effort, she was also runner-up in the triple jump with a windy 43-5 (13.23) which was quite a feat for a freshman. Moen-Davis went on to win the SEC long jump title and place eighth at the NCAA Championships while placing second in the SEC triple jump and finishing third in the event at the NCAA meet.

Moen-Davis will be joined by three teammates in the triple jump with Melissa Mays, Jordan Wilson and Haley Gooch. Wilson and Mays will also join Moen-Davis in the long jump.

Thursday’s action at Franklin Field will include prelims for the women’s 4x100 and 4x400 along with field event finals in the women’s long jump. Thursday evening distance races have A&M involved in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase as well as the men’s and women’s 5,000 meters. 

Isaac Spencer, returning as a runner-up in the 3,000m steeplechase, seeks to improve his position this time in pursuit of a Penn Relays watch for the victor. Dylan Williams joins Spencer in the steeplechase.

Spencer set three PRs in the event last season, running 8:49.43 at Penn. He placed third at the SEC meet and then advanced to the NCAA semifinals after lowering his career best to 8:40.87 during a late night race in Austin during the NCAA West preliminary rounds.

In the women’s 5,000 meters, the Aggie women will have a trio of Hillary Montgomery, Grace Fletcher and Gabby Salazar. For the men Austin Wells and Ryan Miller compete.

This will be the first outdoor 5,000 for Montgomery, who placed 15th at Penn last season, while Fletcher runs in her second outdoor 5k after setting a PR of 16:13.78 at Stanford earlier this month. Fletcher finished 18th at Penn in 2013. Salazar set her career best during the Texas Relays in late March with a 16:59.68 that placed her second in the race.

Wells and Miller will race a third time over 5,000 meters this outdoor season. Miller finished 14th at Penn a year ago with a best of 14:31.14. Wells, a freshman, will get his first experience at Franklin Field. He clocked 14:47.61 for ninth place at the Texas Relays.

Friday, which opens in the morning with the women’s triple jump, will be a combination of prelims and finals in the relays along with prelims in the 100 meters for Aaliyah Brown and Ekponé as well as Davis in the 110 hurdles.

The Aggie men will have a trio of prelim relay races on Friday in the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400. The A&M women will go through the prelims of the 4x200 and have finals in the 4x100, 4x1500 and Sprint medley. Relay finals for the men include the Distance medley and Sprint medley.

Saturday’s finals possibly include the 100 meters and 110 hurdles for the Aggies along with half a dozen relays, which could include men’s 4x100, both 4x200 relays, men’s 4x800 and both 4x400 relays.

While the Aggies have a solid crew competing at the Penn Relays another A&M group will travel to San Marcos for the Bobcat Classic at Texas State. Friday’s competition includes the women’s discus at 3 p.m. for collegiate leader Shelbi Vaughan and Jill Hydrick. The men’s discus follows for Dalton Rowan, Jeff Bartlett and Ben Skrla.

On Saturday at the Bobcat Classic the Aggies will be in action starting at 9 a.m. with the women’s hammer. Texas A&M will have a combination of throwers, jumpers and vaulters competing in field events while a mixture of sprinters, hurdlers and distance runners take to the track starting at 2 p.m.

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