AUSTIN – On the second day of the 87th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, Texas A&M finished second in the 4x800 relay while Gabby Salazar and Karis Jochen placed second and third in the 5,000 meters. Aggie senior Casey Strong broke his own school record in the hammer twice on the way to placing fourth.
A&M’s 4x800 relay placed second with a time of 7:25.15 behind a 7:24.12 by Arkansas. Gaines Kinsey led off with a 1:52.6 split and handed off in first place to Josh Hernandez. A split of 1:50.0 on the second leg had A&M sharing the lead with the Razorbacks. Cameron Cardwell handled the third leg, splitting 1:52.6 and hand the baton off in third place.
Hector Hernandez moved into second place behind Patrick Rono of Arkansas. With 200m left Hector challenged for the lead but Rono answered and maintained his lead to the finish. Hector split 1:49.9 on his carry to secure second place for the Aggies over Mississippi (7:28.58).
Starting their race at 9 p.m. amid comfortable conditions, Salazar and Jochen worked from the back of the field to the front with a steady pace. Jochen recorded splits of 3:22.0, 3:20.9 (6:42.9) and 3:25.6 (10:08.5) over the first 3,000 meters with Salazar a few strides back.
In ninth and 11th place, respectively, at the first 1,000m Jochen and Salazar moved into sixth and eighth at 2,000m and then were in fourth and fifth place by 3,000m. By 4,000m Jochen was occupying second place following a 3:29.1 split (13:37.6) with Salazar in fifth.
Salazar kicked past a couple of runners ahead of her and with a lap remaining in the race Jochen and Salazar were in second and third place. On the run in to the finish Salazar passed Jochen to claim second place in 16:59.58 with Jochen finishing third in 17:04.64. Olivia Mickle of Texas won the race in 16:35.43 while Longhorn Megan Siebert was fourth in 17:06.95.
For Salazar it marked the first time she has run under 17 minutes in the 5,000. Last year in the Texas Relays she placed 14th with a 17:30. She was very pleased with the 31 second improvement from last year’s race.
“That was the plan, coach told us to be patient,” said Salazar. “It’s kind of what I’m used to doing in a race. I was really excited. I didn’t expect any of this. Being able to pass one girl at a time and I set my eye on the next one. I kept catching them to the finish.
“I knew I was going to run better this year, and I was trying to see what I could run with a good race tonight. My goal was sub 17 and it was a big jump. Now I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
Strong broke his own school record twice in the hammer throw, placing fourth with a 210-11 (64.29) that added four feet to his previous A&M record of 206-7. Florida’s Kyle Strawn won the event with a 218-4 (66.55) with Abilene Christian’s Baptiste Kerjean (217-7) in second place and LSU’s Jeremy Tuttle (212-0) third.
Opening his series with a 202-4, Strong neared his school record on his second toss that measured 206-3. In the third round he produced a 207-7 that added a foot to his school record, which was set when Strong placed fourth at the SEC Championships last season.
In the fourth round Strong increased his record to 210-11. A foul followed in the fifth stanza and he closed out the day with a 206-4 in round six.
Strong’s fourth place finish is his best performance at the Texas Relays. As a freshman he finished 16th, then improved to sixth as a sophomore and finished seventh a year ago with a 196-3.
“This is my eighth Texas Relays since high school so it really feels good to have a performance like this,” Strong noted. “I’m really pleased with my mark, especially with it being my second competition outdoors. I was relaxed, focused and ready to enjoy my last Texas Relays.
“It was a big improvement for me and I have more confidence in my form. I finished behind two other SEC throwers, so it was good to see where I am in the conference with the level of competition we had here today. I think that is the best series I’ve ever had. Now I just want to keep improving throughout the year.”
Jena Hemann placed sixth in the heptathlon with a score of 5,391 points, the third best performance by the junior Aggie. Hemann’s second day efforts included 17-9.5 (677 points) in the long jump, a 135-9 (694 pts) javelin and then a 2:23.01 in the 800 meters.
Lindsay Vollmer of Kansas won the heptathlon with 5,640 points with Penn State’s Brittney Howell a close second with 5,625 points and Florida’s Brittany Harrell in third with 5,620. Vollmer finished second at the Texas Relays a year ago and then won the NCAA title.
The top nine finishers produced the top nine scores on the collegiate list this season. Just ahead of Hemann were Alex Gochenour of Arkansas (5,522) and Lucija Cvitanovic of SMU (5,455).
Dylan Williams placed ninth in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 9:16.73. Austin Wells finished ninth in the 5,000 meters with a 14:47.61. In the B division of the women’s javelin the Aggie tandem of Jean Deason (133-3) and Krystyn Bradley (133-0) placed 10th and 11th, respectively.
In qualifying prelims Gregory Coleman won his heat of the 400 hurdles in 51.72, the fourth fastest time among the nine qualifiers advancing to the final on Friday evening. Kenneth Minkah finished second in another heat with a 52.83 that placed 13th overall. Aikan Graham clocked 53.99 for fifth in his heat.
The top qualifier in the men’s 400 hurdles was Michael Stigler of Kansas with a 50.42 with UTSA’s Keyunta Hayes second best at 50.73 and SFA’s Josh Taylor third with a 51.48. Stigler was the NCAA runner-up a year ago.
In the women’s 400 hurdle prelims Jessica Laseak recorded her best time of 1:03.81 to place eighth in her heat.