EUGENE – Texas A&M captured its eighth national championship over the past six years when the Aggie women won its fourth NCAA Outdoor track and field team title since 2009 at historic Hayward Field on Saturday.
Two victories, a runner-up effort and third place finish on the final day, in front of a crowd that numbered 11,344, earned A&M 34 points on the day. After winning the 4x100 relay in a collegiate leading 42.80 and producing a 1-3 finish in the 200 meters that was won by Kamaria Brown, the Aggies locked up the championship prior to running the 4x400.
“We did some things all the way through this meet that got us in a position to do what we did today,” noted Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry, who earned his 35th NCAA team championship and eighth with the Aggie program. “Today always looks like you sprint this, or hurdle that, but today was a big cap off day. The ladies did very well in the two relays and 200 meters to win the team title.
“It’s gratifying to win it all before the 4x400 even starts. If it would have come down to the 4x400 we would have been happy for that. It was a great win for our team.”
Texas A&M women totaled 75 points for the team championship with Texas runner-up at 66 points. The rest of the top 10 included Oregon (59), Florida (55), Georgia (35), LSU (34), Kentucky (26), Boise State (23), Arkansas (21.5) and Akron (20).
“It’s an amazing feeling,” stated Brown. “I’ve been through so much this season and I’m thankful my hard work paid off. Coach Henry and Coach Vince Anderson kept encouraging me to trust in my training.
“I’m so happy we won the sprint relay, broke the school record in the 4x400 and won a national title. It’s great to be an Aggie!”
Oregon men claimed its first national championship since 1984 with 88 points as Florida finished second at 70 points. The Aggie men totaled 41.5 points for third place ahead of LSU and USC, who tied for fourth with 29 points apiece. The rest of the top 10 included Georgia (24), Arizona (23.5), Baylor (21), Arkansas (20) and Wisconsin (20). Texas (19.5) placed 11th a half point ahead of Nebraska (19).
Texas A&M nearly broke the collegiate record in the men’s 4x400 as they set a school record of 2:59.60. LSU holds the collegiate record with a 2:59.59 set in 2005. The Aggies now have the No. 2 collegiate time ever as they moved from eighth on the all-time list past Florida (2:59.73), UCLA (2:59.91), Georgia Tech (2:59.95), Florida State (2:59.99), Baylor (3:00.04) and Oklahoma (3:00.26).
“That is a huge run for us,” said Henry of A&M’s collegiate leading effort for the 2014 season. “We felt like we were capable of doing it. We lined up and people got after it today.”
The Aggie foursome included Aldrich Bailey, Jr. (46.5), Carlyle Roudette (44.7), Bralon Taplin (44.31) and Deon Lendore (44.11). Their winning time bettered the Aggie school record of 3:00.45 set in 2011 during a Texas Relays victory. The previous best time by A&M in a NCAA final was 3:00.62 also set in 2011.
Texas A&M won its third NCAA 4x400 title since 2010 and fourth overall in the program’s history. Bailey, Roudette and Lendore were on the squad last season when a dropped baton had the Aggies placing eighth and tying Florida for the national championship.
“It was an amazing experience and I’m happy to be here as a senior,” Roudette said. “It was an amazing run, I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out. I just wanted to put my team in a good position to win. I was able to come back on Florida and close the gap so we could make it a close run for Deon on the anchor.”
A&M was among the top three with Florida and LSU on the first lap and moved into second place behind the Gators completing the second lap with Roudette’s carry. Taplin moved the Aggies into the lead and withstood the challenge by Florida’s Dedric Dukes, who had anchored the Gators to a 4x100 victory before winning the 200 in a wind-aided 19.91. Taplin turned the baton over to Lendore with a couple of strides cushion over Florida anchor Arman Hall.
“The main goal was to get the collegiate record,” said Taplin. “That’s what we wanted to do. It’s a great feeling to win the 4x400 and come that close to the collegiate record.
“My main focus was to give the baton to Deon in the lead. No matter how far ahead they were I was going to try to gap them and give Deon a lead. I didn’t make it into the 400 finals, so coming into the 4x400 my only purpose was to give Deon the lead.”
Lendore cruised to the finish for the victory as Hall split 44.73 with the Gators clocking 3:00.42 for second place. LSU finished third with a 3:01.60 as Vernon Norwood split 44.52 on the anchor carry. The rest of the field included Western Kentucky (3:03.99), Arizona State (3:04.11), Nebraska (3:04.14), Baylor (3:04.89) and Arkansas (3:07.26).
“Going into the race we had a lot of hope for each other especially after the time we ran in the semifinal,” said Lendore. “We knew there was a chance we could break the collegiate record. We came so close, but we missed it this time. Hopefully next year or in the near future we will get the record.”
The Aggie women also set a school record in the 4x400 to close out the meet as runner-up in 3:25.63 behind a meet record of 3:24.21 set by Texas for the win. It’s the second consecutive year for A&M to place second in the 4x400 and the third time since 2010. The new school record for the Aggies places them as the No. 4 school on the all-time collegiate list.
A foursome of Shamier Little (52.0), Kamaria Brown (50.9), Janeil Bellille (51.69) and Olivia Ekponé (50.78) bettered the Aggie school record of 3:26.31 set in 2011 when A&M won the NCAA title. Finishing behind the Aggies were Oregon (3:29.03), Florida (3:30.13), Penn State (3:31.17), Arkansas (3:31.94), USC (3:32.35) and Kansas State (3:34.76).
“I didn’t really know we had the team title won until I was in the blocks,” Little revealed. “Seeing that we were already the national champions just got me hyped. I knew I had to go out and get some more points even though it didn’t make a difference in us winning the championship as it turned out.”
The combination of Little and Brown had A&M (1:43.17) with a slight lead after the first two laps over Texas (1:43.27). Bellille maintained that advantage through most of her carry as Longhorn Morolake Akinosun, who split 51.37, pulled even at the final exchange.
“I’m really blessed and happy to be part of an amazing team,” Bellille said. “As a senior it’s great to go out with a bang and win a national championship. I was pleased with the points we scored in the 400 hurdles yesterday, but I wasn’t too happy with my performance. Today meant a lot to the team, so I came out and put my best foot forward in the relay.”
Collegiate record holder and NCAA 400m champion Courtney Okolo split 49.58 on the anchor leg for Texas to capture the win and break the meet record of 3:24.54 set by Oregon in 2012.
In the first race of the final day of action the Aggie women motored to a collegiate leading 42.80 for a sixth victory in the 4x100 relay at the NCAA Championships. The time ranks as the No. 15 performance on the collegiate list and A&M has recorded seven of those 15 marks.
Texas A&M has won the NCAA title in the sprint relay in 2007 (43.05), 2008 (42.59), 2009 (42.36 collegiate record), 2010 (42.82), 2013 (42.88) and 2014 (42.80). The Aggies are the only school to run sub 43 seconds in each of the past seven seasons.
The A&M foursome included Jennifer Madu, Ashton Purvis, Brown and Ekponé. Finishing second in the race was USC in 43.00 followed by Texas (43.19), Florida (43.43), Ohio State (44.08), Alabama (44.19) and Florida State (44.82). LSU did not finish.
“We’ve been trying to get everything together and finally ran a 42,” noted Brown. “Everything came into place at nationals, and that’s what we wanted.”
When Ekponé received the baton from Brown the Aggies were trailing USC, but Ekponé charged to the finish line, passing the Trojan anchor Tynia Gaither and establishing a lead by a couple of strides.
“Overall it was just an amazing day,” stated Ekponé. “I was really impressed with how we came together in the 4x100. It was really close between us and USC, but I wanted to make sure I did my part. I didn’t leave too early for Kamaria since we had a couple of problems in the semifinal.
“My freshman year we were third in team scoring and last year we placed second. So to finally come away with the team win is unbelievable. I’m so excited.”
Brown and Ekponé returned to place first and third a very close 200m final. Brown, the NCAA runner-up a year ago, claimed the victory in a wind aided 22.63 (22.623) over Oregon’s Jenna Prandini, who also clocked 22.63 (22.630).
“I really didn’t know if I won because we were all so close,” stated Brown. “Usually when someone wins they pop it right up on the screen, so I was just anxious and worried to see if I won and when it popped up with my name, I just started screaming.
“I just wanted to make sure I held my composure, just keep my form and stay open. I wanted to maintain my focus and it all paid off. I didn’t really know where I was in the race, so I Just wanted to make sure I had a strong finish and leaned at the right time. It gave me the race so I’m happy.”
Ekponé’s 22.64 (2.2 wind) earned third ahead of Penn State’s Mahagony Jones (22.68) and Akinosun of Texas (22.89).
“In the 200 I wanted to give it my all and put team points up on the board,” said Ekponé.
The 16 point production for the Aggies, the second event this weekend A&M scored that many points, increased its lead towards the team title. Brown title is the fourth in the NCAA Outdoor 200, joining Simone Facey (2008) and Porscha Lucas (2009, 2010). Ekponé, eighth a year ago, is the second A&M sprinter to place third after Dominique Duncan (2012).
“I know it’s hard for people on the outside to see what kind of recovery Kamaria has had,” Henry explained. “She was hurt in the final of the NCAA Indoor 200 after running a world-leading 22.50 during the indoor season. She had a long recovery, and to come back and do the things she did here today was pretty amazing. She did a tremendous job to get herself back on the track and running for our team.”
In the men’s sprint relay final the Aggies clocked 38.84 as runner-up to Florida’s 38.73 with LSU third in 38.85. The A&M crew included Shavez Hart, Aldrich Bailey, Jr., Prezel Hardy, Jr. and Deon Lendore. It’s the sixth time in program history for the Aggies to place second in the 4x100 – 1986, 1987, 1989, 2008, 2011 and 2014.
LSU’s Shermund Allsop held the edge on the final exchange with Lendore in second place. Florida’s anchor Dedric Dukes passed both in the race to the finish line and claimed the win. With a lean at the finish Lendore grabbed second ahead of Allsop. The rest of the field included USC (39.30), Western Kentucky (39.43), Iowa (39.55), Arizona State (39.73) and Alabama did not finish.
Wayne Davis II finished third in the 110 hurdles with a time of 13.24 as the win went to Oregon freshman Devon Allen, who is a member of the Duck football program. Allen ran 13.16 to break the NCAA Championship meet record of 13.21 set by Aries Merritt of Tennessee in 2006. Finishing in third was USC’s Aleec Harris with a 13.18 that equaled his career best.
This was the fourth consecutive year for Davis to score in the NCAA 110 hurdles. He placed sixth as a freshman, finished second as a sophomore, and won the NCAA title as a junior. Davis produced 27 points for the Aggies over that four-year span.
The rest of the hurdle field included Greggmar Swift of Indiana State (13.35) in fourth place, followed by Florida’s Eddie Lovett (13.44), Radford’s Vincent Wyatt (13.60), Durell Busby of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (13.70) and Hampton’s Trey Holloway (13.91).
Devin Bogert finished 12th in the javelin for the third consecutive year. His mark of 217-0 (66.14) placed Bogert fifth among the first flight of throwers. When the second flight was completed, Bogert had been bumped back to 12th place. In the triple jump Olabanji Asekun finished 22nd with a mark of 50-7.5 (15.43).