COLLEGE STATION - In the open evening of the Texas
A&M Mondo Challenge, featuring a conference challenge between the SEC, Big
12 and Pac-12, the Aggie women came within four seconds of breaking the school
record in the distance medley relay.
Running with a foursome of Ashley Chamberlain, LaKeidra
Stewart, Aliese Hyde and Sophie Blake, the A&M crew posted a winning time
of 11:33.93 to finish ahead of SEC partner Tennessee, who placed second with a
time of 11:34.95. Texas Tech ran 12:097.69 for third.
The A&M men finished second in the distance medley
relay to Texas Tech, 9:41.55 to 9:58.15, as the Red Raiders had NCAA cross
country champion Kennedy Kithuka anchor in 4:01.25, with Tennessee in third
with a 10:07.09.
Another women's distance final had the Aggies enjoying a
1-2 finish with Gabby Salazar winning in 17:27.37 while Tara Upshaw placed
second in 17:42.07.
Aggie sophomore Annie Kunz wrapped up the first night of
the meet by adding three points to her career best in the pentathlon as she
totaled 3,826 points to place third. Arizona State's Keia Pinnick won the
five-event contest with 4,208 points while Harvard's Martina Salander scored
4,094 points for second place.
Action in the Texas A&M Mondo Challenge continues
Saturday with finals starting at 2 p.m. The meet is being scored between the
three conferences with the Aggies and Tennessee representing the SEC, TCU and
Texas Tech are the Big 12 combo while Arizona State and USC represent the
The time for the Aggie women is the second fastest in
school history, trailing the A&M record of 11:29.89 set in 2012. It's also
the fifth fastest time recorded this collegiate season heading into this
"I wasn't really expecting a time like that going into
the race, because it's still early in the season," said Blake. "When I got the
stick I felt that Aliese handed it to me in a really good position. I just
spent the entire leg trying to reel her in. That led me to a really fast time
and when I saw the clock I was surprised, but really happy."
Chamberlain opened the Aggie effort with a 3:38.09 split on
the first leg of 1200m and was followed by a 54.01 split from Stewart on the
400m leg. Tennessee held a 4:30.59 to 4:32.10 edge going into the third leg.
"I was confident going into the race and just tried to
listen to coach," said Chamberlain. "I could hear my teammates cheering for me and
the race went well."
Stewart noted: "It was very humbling, and I'm just
honored to get the opportunity and step on the track to represent Texas
A&M. Knowing I just had one race tonight, I went out there to give it my
Hyde, who was part of the school record effort a year ago,
ran the 800m leg in 2:11.44 while Tennessee countered with a 2:09.06 from
Kianna Ruff. Going into the final leg the Volunteers held the advantage,
6:39.65 to 6:43.54.
"LaKeidra made up a lot of ground in the 400 leg," said
Hyde. "It helped having Coach Francique each lap telling me what I needed to
do. It was a really nice, smooth race."
Trailing Tennessee by four seconds going into the final
leg, which covers 1600m, Blake made steady progress on the Volunteer's Hannah
Davidson. With a couple of laps remaining, Blake was in a couple of strides of Davidson
and passed her with a lap remaining.
"When I got the stick I was more confident than I've been
in past relay races," noted Blake. "I knew if I could run low 4:50s on my leg I
could probably chase her down, or compete with anyone. The last 600 definitely
hurt, and I was a little hesitant to pass her going into the last lap.
"As soon as I made that move, though, I could hear the
crowd get so loud. I hadn't heard that during the entire race, so it really
pumped me up and gave me an extra boost of energy."
Blake split 4:50.38 to secure the victory by a second over
Tennessee, with Davidson clocking 4:55.30 on the anchor leg.
Hyde added: "It was so exciting watching Sophie on the
anchor leg. She kept getting a little closer each lap. In the last 50 meters the
Tennessee runner started speeding up and we started yelling 'go, Sophie, go'.
The officials had to tell us not to get any closer. It was a lot of fun to get
the win and run that fast."
Running for the Aggie men's distance medley relay were
James Bonn (3:01.39), Bralon Taplin (46.48), Nick Rollo (1:54.85) and Colin
Slattery (4:15.42). This served as the debut race for Taplin, who joined the
Aggies this month.
Rollo managed to pull even with Texas Tech's Nick Rivera
during the third leg of the race, which covers 800m. With a lap remaining,
though, Rivera pulled away from Rollo and gave Kithuka a two and a half second
lead over the Aggies.
Kunz scored her previous best in the pentathlon during
last year's conference meet in late February. Opening her second season with
A&M at a PR level is very promising. Kunz opened with a best of 8.73 in the
60 hurdles to score 967 points, then cleared 5-4.25 in the high jump (771) and
added a 39-10.75 shot put (672).
In the long jump Kunz reached a distance of 18-1 for 703
points and capped the event with a 2:28.37 in the 800 for 713 points. Her score
of 3,826 keeps Kunz at No. 3 on the Aggie all-time list.