COLLEGE STATION - A feisty battle for points among three tradition-rich track and field schools entertained a crowd of 1,487 at the Texas A&M Triangular on Saturday afternoon inside Gilliam Indoor Stadium.
After winning four dual meets over the past four seasons, the Texas A&M men remained undefeated in adding a triangular title to that collection. The Aggies, No. 2 in Track & Field News dual meet rankings, reached a total of 128.5 points and were safely ahead of No. 1 Arkansas (99) and No. 8 LSU (82.5).
Texas A&M women, also No. 2 in dual meet rankings, nearly tied for the team win, but came up short by four points as No. 1 LSU claimed the victory with 107.5 points. The Aggies were second with 103.5 points and Arkansas finished third with 103.
"From the first event of the day our team has to understand those two or three points that are scored early in the meet all add up," said Texas A&M coach Pat Henry. "Everybody has to have a great day on the same day to win a track meet like this.
"Our guys really lined up and got after it and our girls got after it as well. The women got beat by a really good team today by just a few points. At the SEC conference meet we'll get to see these two teams again. This gives our team a taste of what is in front of them, who they need to beat and how to prepare for us to be successful at the SEC Championship."
In addition to claiming maximum points in the 400 and 4 x 400 relay for the Aggies, sophomore Deon Lendore sped to a world-leading 45.91, the third fastest time ever indoors at A&M, to capture the 400 meter victory over a 46.98 from LSU's Caleb Williams.
"In my mind I really wanted to go 45 in my first meet," stated Lendore, who split 45.4 running second leg of the 4 x 400 last weekend. "Even before the race I told myself I needed to try my best to run 45 today. Before I walked out to the track coach told me to do what I said I was going to do. After I finished the race and saw it was 45 I was pretty happy.
"My fastest split last year was 46.0 at the NCAA. So, after I split 45 low last weekend I started thinking I could do the same in the open 400 if I try my best. I at least wanted to get the meet record, which I did."
Lendore broke the meet record of 46.03 set by A&M's Demetrius Pinder in 2010 and only trails Pinder (45.33) and Tabarie Henry (45.81) on the Aggie all-time list. Behind Lendore were teammates Aldrich Bailey, Jr. (47.28) and Carlyle Roudette (47.38) in third and fourth place.
To cap the A&M team victory, Lendore anchored the 4 x 400 relay to a 3:07.21 victory with a 45.9 split, to edge LSU's 3:07.74.
Henry Lelei also enjoyed a double win as he clocked 4:10.95 in the mile and then anchored the Aggie distance medley relay to a narrow victory over Arkansas, 10:00.21 to 10:00.75. Teammate C.J. Brown placed second in the mile with a 4:12.27 and ran the opening 1200m leg in the distance medley relay.
"Lelei is a great competitor and a team guy," said Henry. "He's an SEC champion already in cross country and knows what it takes to be really good. When Lelei lines up we know we're going to have a fine effort out of him."
For the third consecutive meet Casey Strong improved his school record in winning the weight throw. This time he bettered his previous best in five of the six rounds. His final toss of 65-0.75 (19.83) set the current school record, at least for this week, over his previous best of 63-10.5 (19.47). Strong also added a third place effort in the shot put.
"I feel really blessed and happy with the performances I've had this indoor season," said Strong. "I'm staying healthy and keep improving. I'm really blessed to be on the Texas A&M track team. We have some of the best people in the nation and they push me to excel."
Strong topped his school record of 63-10.5 (19.47) in the weight with improvements of 64-3 (19.58), twice in rounds two and three, had a 63-11 (19.48) in the fourth stanza and hit 64-4 (19.61) in round five. Teammate Ben Skrla also improved his career best to 56-3 (17.14) in placing fourth and moves to No. 7 on the A&M all-time list.
"I'm really perfecting my technique and getting it down the best I can," noted Strong. "I'm not there yet, and I know I have more in me. To keep improving every weekend is a good sign. My goal coming into this season was 65 feet, so I'm really proud of myself to reach that goal. I take pride in the fact that I can set a school record each time I compete."
The women's competition was decided in the final pair of events, the triple jump and 4 x 400. Following the distance medley relay, which was won by the Razorbacks, Arkansas held a half point lead over A&M, 93 to 92.5, with LSU third at 91.5 points.
Arkansas claimed the women's 4 x 400 in 3:36.03 with LSU second in 3:37.15 while the Aggies finished third in 3:38.26. That gave the Razorbacks a score of 100 with Texas A&M and LSU tied at 96.5.
The final round of the triple jump changed the fortunes of the Aggies. Jennifer Madu was leading the competition with a mark of 40-9.5 from the first round while LSU occupied second and third place with marks of 40-6 for both Keri Emanuel and Lynnika Pitts.
In the sixth round Emanuel matched the mark for Madu to tie for first place. Emanual had a better second mark, her 40-6, than Madu's 39-11.25. LSU claimed 11 points for a first and third place finish while A&M scored seven points with a second and fifth place. With only one jumper in the event Arkansas took three points with a fourth place effort.
If Madu had claimed the win then the Aggies and Tigers would have each scored nine points in the triple jump and the Triangular would have finished in a tie at 105.5 points each.
Texas A&M totaled 11 victories in the meet, eight for the men and three for the women.
Ashley Collier sped to a 7.38 victory in the women's 60 to lead a 1-2-3-4 finish by the Aggies. Ashton Purvis followed in second place at 7.44 with Madu third in 7.45 and Olivia Ekpone fourth at 7.52. LSU's Kimberlyn Duncan won the 200 in 23.15 with Kamaria Brown second in 23.21 and Purvis third at 23.34.
LaQue Moen-Davis won the long jump (19-7.5) and Chelsea Utley claimed the high jump with a career best equaling height of 5-9.25.
Other victories for the Aggie men included Prezel Hardy, Jr. (60), Devion Harris (high jump), and Jonathan Turner (long jump).
Hardy, Jr. won the men's 60 in 6.73 over LSU's Rynell Parson (6.76) with A&M teammate Michael Bryan in third at 6.77 as Tiger Aaron Ernest finished fourth in 6.82. In the 200, though, it was Ernest improving his PR to 20.79, breaking the meet record of 20.80, and defeating Hardy's 21.05. Bryan finished third again with a 21.18.
Harris cleared 6-10.25 (2.09) to win the high jump and is now equal No. 8 on the Aggie all-time list. Turner had a mark of 23-7.5 (7.19) in winning the long jump.