CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA -- Utilizing a kick that gave him the lead in the final half of the last lap, Texas A&M senior Alex Riba won the mile at Clemson’s Tiger Paw Invitational with a school record performance of 3 minutes, 59.12 seconds.
“That’s a huge run for Alex today and he beat a good field,” stated Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “He’s been real close a couple of times, but now he’s not letting any race get away from him. That’s the difference right now. Assistant coach Wendel McRaven has done a great job with him.”
In becoming the first Aggie to break the four-minute-mile, Riba bettered the school record of 4:00.41 shared by Henry Lelei (2013) and Isaac Spencer (2015). Both of those races were run at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Stadium.
“I was on my official visit to Texas A&M when Henry Lelei originally set the record and in my sophomore year I was the rabbit for Isaac Spencer when he equaled the school record,” noted Riba. “I was able to be part of both of those previous school records, so to beat it is something I’m really honored to do.”
Improving his previous career best of 4:03.29, which was set in the 2016 SEC Indoor Championships, Riba also became American No. 506 to better the standard of four minutes.
“I was watching the list as it got closer to 500 this indoor season,” said Riba. “Just like everybody else I wanted to be No. 500 as well. It’s just great to be added to that list.”
Riba passed Kentucky’s Benjamin Young coming off the final curve of the race. Young also finished under four minutes with a 3:59.59 as runner-up. Auburn’s Wesley Curles (4:03.37) placed third while Georgia’s Henry Dwyer (4:05.98) finished fourth.
“It was a great race and perfectly set up,” added McRaven. “It was very evenly paced, and a good competition. To have two guys break four in the same race where it wasn’t at one of the ‘distance meets’ is really good to see.
“For Alex, and I’m sure he’ll say the same, it’s long overdue. We’ve been waiting and talking about it since he first got to Texas A&M. The cool thing about it he’s battled so many ups and downs with injuries, and just kept persevering to get to this point. To break a milestone like that is really cool.”
The finishing kick by Riba had him covering the last two laps in 57.57 with a 28.47 over the final 200m. Riba and Young both bettered the facility record of 4:02.15 set by Brandon Hazouri in 2017.
“It was a great race and we had a rabbit who paced it perfectly,” said Riba. “We had competition to race with. It’s very hard to do by yourself, so since we had multiple guys going for it, it just helped that much more. I could focus on beating people instead of just racing the clock.”
On the current NCAA list for 2018, Riba ranks 17th, with the top 16 qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships hosted by Texas A&M. However, some of the distance runners ranked ahead of Riba who qualify for the 3,000m or 5,000m will likely not declare in the mile.
Aggie Taylor Clayton won the second section of the mile in 4:09.78 with teammate Ian Cazares fourth in 4:12.70 as they placed ninth and 12th overall. The women’s mile had Hannah Campbell placing seventh with a 4:56.40 while Valerie Bradley posted a 5:05.78 to place 14th overall.
Will Williams finished second to Florida’s KeAndre Bates by half an inch in the long jump. Bates won with a 24-10 ½ (7.58) leap while Williams followed at 24-10 (7.57). In the 60m, Williams ran 6.71 to place 10th in the semifinal after a 6.79 prelim.
The second race of the indoor season for Karis Jochen produced a time of 17:16.24 as she finished fifth in the 5,000m.
In the 400m, Mylik Kerley ran 46.45 to place fourth in his section and sixth overall. Robert Grant won his section in 46.58 to finish eighth overall. Winning the event was USC’s Michael Norman in 45.00 with Auburn’s Akeem Bloomfield runner-up with a 45.02 from another section.
Julie Madubuike led the Aggie crew in the women’s 400m as she clocked 55.05 to place 14th. Also racing were Glorilisha Carter (55.13, 17th) and Lauren Lawless (56.50, 33rd). Three other Aggie sprinters in the men’s 400m included Kyree Johnson (47.69, 18th), Richard Rose (47.81, 20th) and Bryce Deadmon (47.85, 21st).
Tyra Gittens (19-6 ¾) and Lajarvia Brown (19-4 ¼) placed 12th and 14th in the women’s long jump. A mark of 57-6 ¼ (17.53) placed Gabe Oladipo 14th in the shot put. Sara Kathryn Stevens and Augusta Thomason both cleared 12-5 ½ in the pole vault, tying for 10th and 13th, respectively. Brenessa Thompson ran 7.53 in the 60m semifinals, placing 18th, after a 7.50 in the prelims.