FAYETTEVILLE - Texas A&M senior Henry Lelei became the first Aggie to win a SEC Indoor title when he claimed the 3,000-meter final in 7:57.57, just a couple of seconds off the meet record, at the Randal Tyson Track Center on Saturday evening. In the fall Lelei earned the first SEC championship for A&M with a cross country victory.
Lelei just missed the meet record of 7:55.56 set by Dorian Ulrey of Arkansas in 2009 as well as his own A&M record of 7:55.80 he set earlier this month.
Texas A&M sophomore Deon Lendore became the fifth fastest collegian ever in the 400 meters and ninth fastest ever in the world with a prelim time of 45.15 seconds. In the process Lendore broke the Aggie school record of 45.33 set by Demetrius Pinder when Pinder won the 2011 NCAA title.
Teams scores through five men's finals has Arkansas leading with 52 points with Florida second at 34 and Georgia third with 27. Texas A&M currently has 13 points amid a three-team tie for fifth place.
For the women, also through five finals, Arkansas leads with 37 points while Georgia has 28 and Florida is third with 27.5 points. Texas A&M is in 10th place with the 10 points they scored Friday in the pentathlon.
The Aggie men qualified the most positions for the finals of the six events that were contested on Saturday. Texas A&M advanced 11 while Arkansas moved along 10. Following were Florida with six, LSU and Kentucky with five each and Auburn with four.
In women's events the Aggie women lead the field with 10 qualifiers for Sunday finals and are followed by Arkansas with eight and Florida with seven. The rest of the qualifiers include LSU with six, Georgia with four, three each for Auburn and Kentucky.
Leading the 3,000 meter race early on, Lelei dropped back to third in the latter half of the race as he mixed places with the Arkansas trio of Kemoy Campbell, Stanley Kebenei and Solomon Haile. With a lap left he made his move, regained the lead and pulled away for the victory over Kebenei (7:58.58) and Campbell (8:01.45).
"I was thinking about winning the race for my team when I reclaimed the lead on the final lap," explained Lelei. "This is a huge win for me. I wanted another SEC title after winning cross country. The win for the team is important.
"I would like to have a faster time to qualify for nationals, the pace was good but we didn't push it hard. I hit the splits I wanted at 800 (2:02), but then the pace slowed down as we went through the mile at 4:14. Even with a couple of laps left I knew I could win the race, I was confident."
The first section of the 3,000 was also won by an Aggie as Stephen Curry clocked 8:16.88 and placed 12th overall. Isaac Spencer finished third in the race with an 8:22.51 and placed 17th overall.
Another record Lendore set in his blistering 400 prelim was the national record for his native Trinidad & Tobago, topping his mark of 45.91 set by earlier this indoor season.
"I expected to go fast, but not this fast," said Lendore. "I was thinking more like 45.7. It's a great feeling to have the school record because I know our school has had some great athletes before me and to be part of this great tradition is amazing.
"I'm very thankful, but I'm also looking forward to the finals for something special. I'm just taking everything one step at a time and being very patient."
Ricky Babineaux joins Lendore in the 400 final as he clocked an indoor best of 46.37 for second in his heat. Babineaux moves to No. 6 on the Aggie all-time list.
Just missing finishing in the top eight was Carlyle Roudette, who ran a career best of 47.09 for third behind Babineaux and 10th overall. Roudette is now equal No. 8 on the A&M all-time list. Bralon Taplin and Greg Coleman posted times of 48.07 and 48.08, respectively.
The Razorback and Aggie men each had an event were they advanced three to the final. For Arkansas it was in the 800 while A&M accomplished the feat in the 200.
Ameer Webb chased LSU's Aaron Ernest in the same section of the 200. Ernest posted the top time of 20.59 while Webb's 20.78 was second fastest. Michael Bryan produced a career best of 20.87 to reach the final with the fifth best mark and Prezel Hardy, Jr. advanced with a 20.95. Bryan moved to No. 8 on the Aggie all-time list.
The A&M women advanced three athletes each in the 60, 200 and 400. Ashley Collier led the 60 field with a 7.27 and will be joined in the final by Ashton Purvis (7.36) and Jennifer Madu (7.37). Purvis recorded the second fastest time in the 200 heats with a 22.99, No. 6 all-time at A&M, while Kamaria Brown (23.05) and Collier (23.14) also advanced. Madu ran 23.69 to place 10th overall.
In the 400, Brown became the second fastest performer at A&M with a 52.42 heat winner. Ibukun Mayungbe advanced to the final with a 53.82 while Kanika Beckles was added the final since she was impeded during her race. Janeil Bellille ran 54.68 to place 15th in qualifying.
In field event finals on Saturday Casey Strong finished sixth in the weight throw with a mark of 64-2.5 (19.57). Florida finished 1-2 with David Triassi upsetting the defending champion, Jeremy Postin, with a 70-10 (21.59) effort. Postin hit 70-5.75 (21.48) as runner-up.
A&M's trio in the women's shot put placed 10th-12th-13th with Brea Garrett leading the way at 48-11 (14.91). Shelbi Vaughan hit a mark of 48-6 (14.78) while Jennifer Edwards reached 46-1.25 (14.05).
In the women's long jump LaQue Moen-Davis had a pair of fouls to start, then hit 19-3.25 (5.87) in the third round. That left her eighth in the third flight, but 13th overall. So she didn't get another set of three jumps.
Wayne Davis II posted a season best time in the 60 hurdles to qualify for the final while Kenneth Minkah ran 8.07 to advance on time. Davis won his section in 7.78, second fastest overall, while Minkah neared his season best of 8.06 to claim the final time qualifier as he finished fifth in the first heat.
Florida's Eddie Lovett, the two-time defending SEC champion, led the qualifiers with a collegiate leading 7.57. He was just off the SEC meet record of 7.55 set in 2001.
In the women's 60 hurdles Donique' Flemings finished second to LSU's Jasmin Stowers, 8.21 to 8.31, in reaching the final.
Hardy, Jr. was a heat winner at 6.73 in the men's 60 and he was the lone Aggie to advance. Both Webb (6.70) and Bryan (6.71) ran faster as runner-up finishers in separate heats, but neither advanced on time. The cutoff was 6.70 with LSU's Aaron Ernest taking the final spot, just 0.002 (6.691 to 6.693) over Webb. Auburn's Marcus Rowland posted the fastest qualifying time in 6.61.
A&M had a qualifier for the final of the mile as C.J. Brown placed third in his section with a 4:09.75 to make the 10-person final. Colin Slattery ran 4:16.17 to place eighth in another section. The Razorbacks sent three runners to the final as Patrick Rono led the field with a 4:05.74.
In the men's 800 a pair of Aggies advanced with runner-up efforts that secured an automatic qualification to the final. Hector Hernandez ran 1:51.30 behind a 1:50.85 from Florida's Sean Obinwa. James Bonn clocked 1:50.39 for second to a 1:50.36 by Arkansas' Tomas Squella. A&M's Josh Hernandez placed fourth in the third heat with a 1:51.46.
Aliese Hyde ran 2:10.45 in the 800 heats, placing 11th, while Ashley Chamberlain ran 2:16.48.
QUALIFYING TO FINALS
MEN - Aggies (11 positions)
60H: Wayne Davis II, 7.78; Kenneth Minkah 8.07.
60: Prezel Hardy, Jr., 6.73.
Mile: C.J. Brown, 4:09.75.
400: Deon Lendore, 45.15; Ricky Babineaux 46.37.
800: James Bonn, 1:50.39; Hector Hernandez, 1:51.30.
200: Ameer Webb, 20.78; Michael Bryan, 20.87; Prezel Hardy, Jr., 20.95.
WOMEN - Aggies (10 positions)
60H: Donique' Flemings, 8.31.
60: Ashley Collier, 7.27; Ashton Purvis, 7.36; Jennifer Madu, 7.37.
400: Kamaria Brown, 52.42; Ibukun Mayungbe, 53.82; Kanika Beckles, advanced.
200: Ashton Purvis, 22.99; Kamaria Brown, 23.05; Ashley Collier, 23.14.
400 meters all-time collegiate list: 1. 44.57 Kerron Clement (Florida), 2. 44.80 Kirani James (Alabama), 3. 44.93 LaShawn Merritt (East Carolina), 4. 45.03 Torrin Lawrence (Georgia), 5. 45.15 Deon Lendore (Texas A&M), 6. 45.21 Tony McQuay (Florida), 7. 45.28 Xavier Carter (LSU), 8. 45.29 Terry Gatson (Arkansas), 9. 45.33 Demetrius Pinder (Texas A&M), 10. 45.35 Alleyne Francique (LSU).