LEXINGTON – Entering the postseason portion of the outdoor track and field season, the Texas A&M women’s squad enters the SEC Championships as the defending team champion while the Aggie men seek to improve upon a third-place finish from last season.
“This is a different kind of track meet, it’s a tough one,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “The toughness of the league is what makes our sport very good. Across the board the Southeastern Conference has shown itself to be the dominant force in our sport. This is a league of champions which demands greatness in order to be successful.”
With a national ranking of No. 4, the A&M women are among six SEC programs currently ranked among the top 10 in the nation. Florida is No. 1 with Kentucky at No. 5 followed by No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 LSU and No. 8 Arkansas. Also ranked among the top 25 are No. 14 Missouri and No. 18 Mississippi State.
The Aggie men’s team ranks No. 2 nationally behind No. 1 Florida and ahead of No. 3 Arkansas. There are six SEC programs among the top 10, which also includes No. 5 Georgia, No. 9 LSU and No. 10 Alabama. Other conference schools amid the top 25 are No. 18 Kentucky, No. 19 Mississippi, and No. 21 Tennessee.
“On the men’s side you always have to look at Arkansas, because their depth is so good,” noted Henry. “They just have a different formula than we do and they have a team of 30 men that they will put on the track who will be very good. The Florida men are very good as well.
“On the women’s side Florida is a team that has shown itself to be very good and you can never count LSU out of anything. There are a number of teams in this conference that are prepared to do some things at this championship.”
Each school competing in the SEC Championships, held from Thursday, May 15 to Sunday, May 18, can field a team of 30 athletes per gender. Scoring in each event follows a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 formula among the 21 events contested per gender.
Action from the conference meet is available on ESPN3.com on Saturday, May 17 from 2:40 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. CT as well as on Sunday, May 18 from 12:50 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. CT. A two-hour broadcast of the SEC Championships will air on ESPNU starting at 7 p.m. CT on Thursday, May 22.
Three defending SEC champions for the A&M women include LaQue Moen-Davis in the long jump, Shelbi Vaughan in the discus as well as the 4x100 relay. There were also four runner-up performances last season with Jennifer Madu (100), Kamaria Brown (200, 400), and Moen-Davis (triple jump) and well as a pair of third-place finishers with Ashton Purvis (200) and Madu (long jump).
Defending champions for the Aggie men include Deon Lendore in the 400, Wayne Davis II in the 110m hurdles and the 4x400 relay. There are also a trio of third-place finishers returning in Isaac Spencer (steeplechase), Dalton Rowan (discus) and the 4x100 relay.
“I think our group knows they are surrounded by other good people,” stated Henry. “That kind of demeanor about themselves helps the whole team get ready to compete. We try to create an environment where they are dependent upon each other to succeed.
“You don’t win this meet, though, with just first-place people, you need as many scorers in second through eighth place as you can get. It’s about everybody making a contribution to the team.”
Lendore, undefeated in each of the 10 conference races he has contested in the 400 and 4x400 relay over the past three years, leads the collegiate list and is ranked sixth in the world with a 44.90 this season. He seeks a sixth consecutive conference title in the 400 and his third straight sweep of indoor and outdoor titles in both the 400 and 4x400 relay. After sweeping Big 12 indoor and outdoor titles in 2011 and 2012, Lendore achieved the same feat during the 2013 season in the SEC.
Having already claimed the 2014 SEC Indoor title with a world-leading time of 45.03 as well as anchoring the 4x400 which produced a collegiate record of 3:02.30, Lendore would join Florida’s Jimmy Hackley as the last sprinter in the SEC to achieve a sweep of indoor and outdoor conference 400m titles in consecutive years.
The Gators will feature the main challengers to Lendore in the 400 with Arman Hall (45.19), Hugh Graham, Jr. (45.45) and Najee Glass (45.55) along with LSU’s Vernon Norwood (45.64).
Florida is the current collegiate leader in the men’s 4x400 this season with a 2:59.73 while the Aggies rank second at 3:02.64, as LSU is third at 3:02.81 and Arkansas fourth with a 3:03.89. Texas A&M has won four straight conference 4x400 titles outdoors, three in the Big 12 from 2010 to 2012 and the 2013 SEC title.
Davis seeks a third consecutive conference title in the 110m hurdles, having won the 2013 SEC title and the 2012 Big 12 race. A time of 13.46 into a 2.1 headwind claimed the SEC title a year ago while Davis equaled the A&M school record of 13.37 for his Big 12 victory in 2012.
This season Davis is the collegiate leader, under all-conditions, with a windy 13.24. He is undefeated through five finals, including a pair of wins over rival Eddie Lovett of Florida (13.45w) at the Texas Relays and LSU Invitational.
Another contender in the 110m hurdles could be Arkansas frosh Omar McLeod, the NCAA Indoor winner over 60 hurdles, who ran his first 110 hurdle race a couple of weeks ago during the Drake Relays and clocked a 13.90 in the prelims and a 13.91 in the final.
Vaughan enters the conference weekend as the collegiate leader in the discus with her school record mark of 199-3 that betters the rest of the nation’s throwers by 10 feet. Challengers within the SEC for Vaughan include shot put favorite Kearsten Peoples of Missouri (188-0) and Kentucky’s Beckie Famurewa (177-3).
Moen-Davis is currently sixth in the SEC with her long jump best of 20-7.25 while LSU’s Keri Emanuel leads the nation with a 21-6.25 with Georgia’s Chanice Porter second best among collegians this season at 21-5.25. A third SEC jumper over 21 feet is Mississippi State’s Rochelle Farquharson at 21-3.25.
The Aggie women’s sprint relay leads the collegiate ranks with a 43.11 winning time from the Penn Relays. Texas A&M has won seven consecutive conference titles in the 4x100 dating back to 2007, which includes six from the Big 12 and last year’s SEC title. Challengers include Florida (43.41), Kentucky (43.65), LSU (43.72) and Alabama (44.15).
As runner-up in two events last season, K. Brown finished second to a pair of defending champions in the 200 and 400 meters. During the indoor conference meet she won both events with career best marks of 22.50, the indoor world leader as well as Aggie school record, and 50.94 in the grueling double.
Moen-Davis also finished second in the SEC triple jump last season and recently won the Penn Relays title with a mark of 44-1.5 that ranks fourth in the nation and second in the conference to a 44-6.75 by Florida’s Ciarra Brewer.
Aggies entering the SEC meet as conference leaders include Gregory Coleman in the 400 hurdles with a 50.57 and freshman Shamier Little in the women’s 400 hurdles at 56.55, which is second best collegiately. Little also ranks second in the SEC 400 with a 52.26.
Last season in the SEC final a disqualification for Coleman eliminated a 50.49 that would have placed him second in the 400 hurdles. Little finished third in the 400 at the SEC Indoor and repeated that finish at the NCAA Indoor. In the 400 hurdles she is the current leader on the world junior list.
In addition to Little, other Aggie newcomers who could make an impact for the A&M women in the SEC Championships include Aaliyah Brown, who has posted an 11.20w and 11.31 in the 100; Katie Willard, who sports a 2:07.41 in the 800; Karis Jochen, who clocked 34:41.86 in the 10,000 meters; and Alison Ondrusek with an 182-9 in the hammer.
Aggie newcomers on the men’s side who may factor in scoring team points includes sprinter Shavez Hart, who sports season best times of 10.18 and 20.39 in the 100 and 200 meters; Cameron Villarreal, among the top 10 in the SEC at 1,500 meters with a 3:46.96; Austin Wells, who ran 29:53.90 in the 10,000 and is one of six to post a sub 30-minute time in the SEC this season; Jeffery Prothro with a 50-8.25 in the triple jump; and Austin Cook, who has thrown the hammer 199-2.