FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas - The Aggies enter their first SEC Indoor Championships this weekend coming off a pair of team titles from their final Big 12 Indoor Championships a year ago. Texas A&M travels to the University of Arkansas, who hosts the conference meet this Friday through Sunday at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
Heading into the SEC Championships the Aggie men are ranked No. 3 nationally behind No. 1 Arkansas and No. 2 Florida with LSU at No. 16 and Mississippi at No. 19. The A&M women are currently No. 9 nationally with LSU leading the nation at No. 1. Other conference schools in the women's top 25 include Arkansas at No. 3, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 Georgia and No. 14 South Carolina.
"I'm really looking forward to the competition," said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry, who has won 33 national championships (six with Texas A&M, 27 while at LSU). "The SEC Championships have always been a great track meet. The talent within the SEC is fun to watch and it will be fun to see what happens this weekend. We always felt if you did well at this meet, then you had a tremendous opportunity to do very well at the national championships."
Coach Henry has won seven Big 12 Indoor conference titles (five women's titles, two men's titles) with Texas A&M and he claimed 10 SEC Indoor championships while head coach of LSU (eight women's titles, two men's titles).
When the Aggies captured both indoor team titles last season, it was the first time since 2006 that one school claimed both team titles at the Big 12 indoor meet. For the A&M men it was the second consecutive indoor championship while the Aggie women won their fifth league title in the past six years.
Coverage of the SEC Indoor Championships will appear online via ESPN3 on Saturday (from 2:25 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.) and Sunday (12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.). At others times of the meet a web stream will be available through www.ArkansasRazorbacks.com. A 90-minute recap show on ESPNU will broadcast on Wednesday, March 13 at 8:30 p.m. Live results of the meet, as events take place, will be available this weekend through www.flashresults.com.
The SEC meet begins on Friday at 1 p.m. with the men's heptathlon and 1:30 p.m. with the women's pentathlon. On Saturday and Sunday the first event is the weight throw at 10 a.m. from Walker Pavilion while events inside Randal Tyson Track Center begin at noon each day.
Returning for Texas A&M from the double indoor conference championships the Aggies won in 2012 are five individual winners in Prezel Hardy, Jr. (60m), Ameer Webb (200m), Deon Lendore (400m), Ashley Collier (60m) and Kamaria Brown (200m).
The SEC, meanwhile, returns champions in four of the five sprint events A&M has a conference title holder. They include Auburn's Harry Adams (60m), Arkansas' Marek Niit (200m), Kai Selvon of Auburn (60m) and Kimberlyn Duncan of LSU (200m).
Hardy and Webb shared the high point honors a year ago with 18 points each, with both placing first and second in the two short sprint events, while Kamaria Brown tallied 20 points for a share of the women's honor as she won the 200, placed second in the 400 and ran a leg on a runner-up 4x400 relay.
"If everybody goes in and does what they're capable of doing we're going to be a competitive team," noted Henry. "We're going to find out a lot about our character this weekend too. The national meet will be on this same track, so we will have familiarity with the venue and that becomes a little bit of an advantage for us."
Last year the men's SEC Indoor title was won by Arkansas (151) followed by Florida (137), Georgia (85.5), LSU (68.5) and Auburn (56) among the top five. Florida (132) claimed the women's title over LSU (109), Arkansas (99), Tennessee (68) and Georgia (52).
"The differences in the two conferences we have been in, is that the SEC is a lot more team-oriented," stated Henry. "There is more of a balance of teams in this conference. The schools that have elite athletes in SEC are also trying to have a whole team they're not just covering a couple of the event areas or just saying we are going to be good at the distance events."
The Aggies have engaged in various scored meets involving SEC schools this indoor season. The A&M men topped Arkansas and LSU in a triangular they hosted in January with a 128.5 - 99 - 82.5 scoring edge. The women's score was even closer with LSU winning the meet with 107.5 points over the 103.5 and 103 points for the Aggies and Arkansas.
During the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York City it was the A&M men defending their team title with 62 points over LSU (53.5) in second with Tennessee (46) and Arkansas (41) in fourth and fifth place. The Aggie women tied for fifth place with Arkansas as each scored 39 points while LSU totaled 73 for the team win with South Carolina (48) in fourth.
Those two meets usually showcase the top end quality a team possesses, while the conference meet will also rely on a team's depth and how many event areas they are able to produce points.
This indoor season depth for the Aggie men and women appears in the sprint events while the A&M women also have scoring potential in the triple jump. In the men's 200 and 400 as well as the women's 200 the Aggies sport four of the top 10 times in the SEC. The triple jump has five A&M women among the top 13 SEC marks.
A dozen entries for Texas A&M currently rank among the top three in their respective events heading into the SEC Championships. Aggie event leaders include Hardy (200m, equal 3rd in 60m), Lendore (400m), Henry Lelei (mile, 2nd in 3000m), and LaQue Moen-Davis (triple jump, 2nd in long jump).
A year ago Hardy won the conference 60 meters and finished second in the 200 to teammate Webb, who went on to claim the NCAA 200 title in a 2012 world-leading time of 20.39. Hardy has led the SEC with a 20.78 from his first meet in January. Since then Hardy has finished second twice to LSU's Aaron Ernest, who sports a best of 20.79.
Lendore remains the 2013 world leader in the 400 on banked 200m tracks with his 45.91 from mid-January and ranks second globally to a 45.83 run by George Mason's David Verburg on an oversized track. Lendore defeated Verburg during the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York City in early February.
Last season Lendore swept conference indoor and outdoor 400 titles and went on to anchor Trinidad & Tobago's 4 x 400 relay to a bronze medal performance in the London Olympics.
Lelei, who has broken his own school records in the mile and 3,000 this season, placed eighth in the Big 12 Indoor 3,000 a year ago. Outdoors he won the conference steeplechase and placed fourth in the NCAA steeplechase. This past fall Lelei finished fifth in the NCAA cross country race after claiming A&M's first ever SEC individual cross country title.
Moen-Davis is the top combination jumper in the SEC this indoor season with a 20-11 ¼ effort in the long jump and a 43-7 ¼ performance in the triple jump. Collegiately, she currently ranks fourth in the long jump and third in the triple jump.
In addition to sharing high point honors in her freshman campaign with the Aggies, Brown was a NCAA Indoor 200 bronze medalist a year ago. She tied the Big 12 meet record of 22.86 with her conference win, matching previous winning times of Porscha Lucas (A&M, 2008) and Sanya Richards (Texas, 2004).
In the weight throw Casey Strong is undefeated through six meets this season, which includes breaking his school record four times. Ranked third in the SEC list, Strong will contend with defending SEC champion Jeremy Postin of Florida. Strong has improved his best from last season by nearly five feet with a current career best of 66-9.75 (20.36).
With the top three men's teams in the SEC currently ranked 1-2-3 in the nation, it's likely the outcome of the meet could come down to the final event - the 4 x 400 relay. Heading into this weekend those same three schools are ranked 1-2-3 in that event with Florida's 3:05.93 holding a very slight edge over Texas A&M's 3:06.25 and a 3:06.26 for Arkansas.The Aggies head into the 2013 SEC meet having won the past three Big 12 Indoor titles in the 4 x 400 and A&M returns Ricky Babineaux and Lendore from last year's winning squad. LSU, who ranks eighth nationally this season with a 3:07.74, won the relay event at the SEC Indoor last season.