Heading into the final day of the NCAA Championships at Hayward Field, USC and Texas share the men’s team lead with 32 points each. Arkansas is in third place with 30.5 followed by Florida State with 21.5 and the Aggies with 21. There have been 13 finals scored, eight more remain.
Deon Lendore (44.94) and Henry Lelei (8:23.16) each set career best times in placing second in the 400 meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase, respectively. Ameer Webb placed sixth in the 100 with a 10.14 while Dalton Rowan finished seventh in the discus with a mark of 195-4 (59.53).
“I thought we had a chance at winning both the 400 and steeplechase,” stated Aggie head coach Pat Henry. “Both ran good races. I think Henry lost a bit of concentration over the last water jump and it cost him. For him to get up and still PR, though, that’s a big run.”
Six Saturday finals for Texas A&M men include Dave Brown in the triple jump, Sam Humphreys and Devin Bogert in the javelin, Webb in the 200, Wayne Davis II in the 110 hurdles, Lelei in the 5,000 meters and the 4x400 relay.
LaQue Moen-Davis scored in her second final this week by placing third in the triple jump, with a windy 44-8 (13.61), after finishing eighth and getting one point in the long jump on Wednesday. Jennifer Madu placed fifth in the 100 with a career best time of 11.31.
The Aggie women now have 11 points and are tied for 16th place. Kansas is the team leader through 13 finals with 48 points as Oregon follows with 33. The rest of the top five currently includes Arizona State (26), Stanford (25) and LSU (23).
On tap for the A&M women on Saturday are four finals in the 4x100 relay, Kamaria Brown and Olivia Ekpone in the 200, Donique’ Flemings in the 100 hurdles and the 4x400 relay.
Lendore ran on the inside lane adjacent to USC’s Bryshon Nellum, the collegiate leader coming into the meet, and challenged him all the way to the finish. Nellum ran 44.73 for the victory while Lendore produced his first time under 45 seconds with a 44.94 as Florida’s Arman Hall placed third in 45.02.
“I wanted to score as many points as I could for my team,” said Lendore. “I gave it my all and ran a PR. I was able to score eight points, so I’m happy. Now I’ll come back out Saturday and run the 4x4 and try to do some more work for Texas A&M.
“I really want to be in a race for the team title in the 4x4. It’s going to be a tough one tomorrow and it’s the last race of the meet. I’m just waiting to see what happens.”
In moving to No. 6 on A&M all-time list, Lendore is the first Aggie sophomore to finish that high in a NCAA 400 final since Leslie Kerr claimed silver in 1979. Lendore also is equal to the No. 8 performance on the A&M all-time list.
Lelei was ready to reclaim the lead of the 3,000-meter steeplechase from UTEPs Anthony Rotich with 150 meters and a water jump remaining. Lelei tripped on the barrier and landed in the water. He recovered and finished in second place with a school record of 8:23.16 while Rotich claimed the win in 8:21.19 while Stanley Kebenei of Arkansas finished third in 8:24.45.
“My plan was to attack at the 400, but Rotich was still strong so I waited,” explained Lelei. “When I was near the water barrier I knew that I had him, so I was expecting us to jump together and I would kick from there. I wanted to clear the barrier, and then try to step down quick to start running faster.”
Running a comfortable pace early on, the race became a three-man event with Kebenei joining Lelei and Rotich. Each runner had his time in the lead as the gap to the rest of the field grew to 40 meters. Lelei went to the front of the pack from the start and held a lead for the first couple of laps.
With three laps remaining Lelei returned to the lead role. Then Rotich went to the front with two laps remaining. Rotich and Lelei pulled away from Kebenei with a 62 second split on the seventh lap. Lelei was eager to retake the lead with 400m remaining but waited as he gauged Rotich’s speed.
Then with less than 200m remaining in the race Lelei was prepared to strike, but his fall at the last water jump put paid to his planned kick. Lelei broke his own school record in race, topping the 8:27.62 he ran at the NCAA West meet in Austin two weeks ago. Lelei also fell at the last barrier in the 2012 NCAA final, giving up his grasp on second place to finish fourth.
“I’m disappointed since I wanted the win for the team,” said Lelei. “I was pleased to still get eight points for second place. If I didn’t fall I think I would have run under 8:20 today.”
Moen-Davis put together a very solid series in the triple jump, improving in each of her first three jumps to move from eighth place to third place. She opened with a windy 43-4.5 (13.22w), then hit a wind-aided 43-11.75 (13.40w). In the third round Moen-Davis improved to a windy 44-8 (13.61w) to slide into third place.
No improvement in the final three rounds left Moen-Davis in the bronze medal position behind winner Shanieka Thomas of San Diego State (46-4.75) and Kansas’ Andrea Geubelle (44-8.75). Moen-Davis became the third Aggie frosh to place third in the NCAA triple jump final, matching the effort of Twylana Harrison in 1992 and Yasmine Regis in 2006.
“It’s an amazing feeling to come out here and get third place,” noted Moen-Davis. “I’m young and still have a lot to learn. Coming back after the long jump I had a really good time competing. It was time to let go what happened on the first day and get ready for today.”
Madu went through three rounds of the triple jump, placing 21st with a mark of 41-6.5 (12.66), before getting into the blocks of the 100 final. She sped down the track to register a career best of 11.31 (0.9) for fifth place, finishing as the top freshman among three in the final.
Moving to No. 7 on the Aggie all-time list, Madu is the first A&M sprinter to score in the 100 final as a freshman.
“It was a little hectic going from the triple jump to the 100 final,” stated Madu. “I’m glad I was able to score some points for the team. I know the next three years is going to be a ride, so I hope I always have these awesome ladies to keep running with.”
Oregon’s English Gardner defended her title with a 10.96 victory over UCF’s Octavious Freeman (11.000, LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan (11.08) and Aurieyall Scott of UCF (11.14). Finishing behind Madu were Cierra White of Texas Tech (11.32), Oregon’s Jenna Prandini (11.43) and Morolake Akinosun of Illinois (11.45).
Webb clocked a windy 10.14 (3.2 wind) in challenge for points in the 100. TCU’s Charles Silmon won the race in 9.89, matching the collegiate and meet record set two years ago, while Dentarius Locke of Florida State (9.91) and Isiah Young of Mississippi (9.96) both ran under 10 seconds for second and third place.
Rowan was in 11th place with one throw remaining in the first three rounds of the discus. He managed to unleash an impressive toss of 195-4 (59.53) to move into sixth place and earn three more attempts. Andrew Evans of Kentucky passed Rowan and moved into third place during the finals, which placed Rowan in the seventh position.
Last season Rowan finished eighth as a freshman with a mark of 193-1 and he becomes the first Aggie to score twice in the discus since Josh Ralston in 2003-04. Rowan is the sixth A&M thrower to place in the final of the discus two or more times in the history of the program.
Collegiate record holder Julian Wruck of UCLA, the 2011 NCAA champion, won the event with a mark of 213-1 (64.94) while 2012 NCAA champ, Chad Wright of Nebraska, placed second with a 209-1 (63.74).
The heptathlon wrapped up with Jena Hemann scoring 5,459 points for 16th place and Annie Kunz scoring 4,880 for 24th. Hemann’s mark is the No. 9 performance on the A&M all-time list and the second best score by an Aggie in the NCAA multi-event.