LEXINGTON, Kentucky -- Texas A&M totaled 21 points over four events at the SEC Championships on Friday with 13 scored by the men’s team and eight by the women. In addition, qualifying for finals produced 11 Aggies advancing in five of six prelim events contested.
Freshman Austin Wells claimed third in the 10,000 meters while Jena Hemann finished fourth in the heptathlon. Casey Strong supplied fifth place points in the hammer while Ryan Miller added sixth place points in the 10k. The women’s 10,000 had a trio of Aggies placing 7-8-9 with Hillary Montgomery, Karis Jochen and Gabby Salazar.
“The 10k topped the night off,” stated Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “That group of athletes did a heck of a job for Texas A&M. For Austin Wells and Ryan Miller to finish third and sixth and also have Hillary Montgomery and Karis Jochen score for us in women’s race those are big points for us.
“I was pleased with the qualifying today. We did really well and advanced the people we felt good about. Overall we competed very well given how cold it was today. In the hammer they performed well in dealing with rain and windy conditions.”
Qualifiers to the final in Friday prelims included Hector Hernandez in the 800, four sprinters in the women’s 200 with Olivia Ekpone, Kamaria Brown, Ashton Purvis and Aaliyah Brown, a pair of sprinters in the men’s 200 with Shavez Hart and Prezel Hardy, Jr., as well as the tandem of Shamier Little and Janiel Bellille in the women’s 400 hurdles and the men’s duo of Gregory Coleman and Kenneth Minkah in the 400 hurdles.
Scoring after two days of action at the SEC meet, with three finals, has Georgia leading the men’s team race with 48 points followed by Arkansas (14), Texas A&M (13), Alabama (11), Florida (11), Kentucky (6), South Carolina (5), Auburn (3), Missouri (3), Mississippi (2) and Mississippi State (1).
Georgia also leads the women’s team race through three finals with 32 points followed by Arkansas (23), Kentucky (13), LSU (10), Missouri (8), Texas A&M (8), Florida (8), Alabama (6), Mississippi (3), Tennessee (3), South Carolina (2) and Auburn (1).
The 3,000-meter steeplechase is the only track final on Saturday while field event finals will be contested in the five women’s events – long jump, javelin, high jump, shot put, pole vault – along with a pair of men’s events – long jump and discus. Prelims will be contested in the 1,500, 100 & 110 hurdles, 400, and 100.
In the last race of the evening Wells and Miller each produced solid efforts as they ran 29:52.14 and 30:07.49, respectively, amid the cool conditions as temperatures dipped below 50 degrees. Brandon Lord of Georgia won the race in 29:36.24 with Gabe Gonzales of Arkansas second in 29:50.69. Finishing behind Wells and ahead of Miller were Eddie Garcia of Florida (29:57.48) and Luke Baker of Georgia (29:58.60).
Wells improved upon his debut race when he clocked 29:53.90 at Stanford last month while Miller was just five seconds off his career best as he improved upon his 12th place finish in the SEC from last season. Wells’ third-place time at the SEC keeps him at No. 5 on the Aggie all-time list and he now has the eighth and ninth best performances. He also ran the third best time by an A&M runner in a conference race, trailing only Arturo Barrios (29:27.93 – SWC in 1984) and Scott Lengefield (29:47.51 – Big 12 in 2000).
Hemann placed fourth in the heptathlon with 5,471 points as she came within five points of placing third. Georgia finished first and second in the heptathlon with Kendall Williams (5,877) and Quintunya Chapman (5,527) while Alex Gochenour of Arkansas placed third (5,476).
Finishing behind Hemann were Brittany Harrell of Florida (5,436), Mary Nall of Mississippi (5,390), South Carolina’s Sarah Graham (5,254) and Arkansas’ Leigha Brown (5,239) as they rounded out the team scoring positions. Georgia totaled 18 points in the event with Arkansas scoring seven. Hemann picked up five points for the Aggies.
“Coming in from yesterday I wasn’t in the best place I wanted to be as far as points and place,” noted Hemann, who was in eighth place after the first day of the heptathlon. “So I knew I had to come out here and do the best that I could and just get after it.”
With a long jump of 18-7.75 to start the second day of the multi-event, Hemann picked up 753 points and moved from eighth place to sixth. Then Hemann improved to second place going into the final event as her javelin throw of 142-7 earned 734 points and bettered the field by nearly 25 feet. Running 2:22.04 in the 800 meters earned Hemann 796 points.
“The track is a little different, it feels like the curves are a little longer and the straightaway is shorter,” said Hemann. “I actually really liked that, because you don’t think as much on the straights. I felt a lot more relaxed in the 800 today than I normally have, so I’m hoping that will continue from now on.”
The tally of 5,471 points is the best production from Hemann in a conference heptathlon as she placed fifth the two previous years in the SEC (2013 – 5,378) and Big 12 (2012 – 5,285). Her score is the No. 9 performance on the A&M all-time list, where she now has three performances among the top 10.
Her point production of 2,283 on the second day is Hemann’s best effort among the seven collegiate heptathlons she has contested, topping the 2,203 she scored at Texas Relays this season in reaching a 5,440 total.
Casey Strong placed fifth in the men’s hammer with a toss of 205-8 (60.57) as he scored in a conference meet for the fourth consecutive year. Aggie frosh Austin Cook opened with a 192-5 (58.65) to place ninth.
Strong has totaled 17 conference points in the hammer over the past four seasons. He finished fourth a year ago with a 206-7 and was sixth (192-9) and fourth (195-11) in the Big 12 during the 2012 and 2011 seasons.
In producing his fifth best performance on the A&M all-time list, Strong’s series included marks of 198-8 (60.57), 201-10 (61.53), 204-3 (62.26), 202-11 (61.86), 205-8 (62.69) and 200-3 (61.05). Cook had a set of five fouls following his opening throw.
Georgia freshman Alex Poursanidis won the hammer with a 218-4 (66.54) effort as Alabama’s Elias Hakansson (217-6) placed second with Florida’s Kyle Strawn (211-11) in third place.
In the women’s 10,000 meters Montgomery clocked 35:14.45 for seventh, Jochen ran 35:27.08 in eight to pick up team points and Salazar finished ninth in 35:34.95. Salazar moved into the No. 10 position on the Aggie all-time list while Montgomery, who was 15th in the SEC last season, and Jochen ran faster times at Stanford this season.
Daniel Martin placed 11th in the decathlon with a best of 6,740 points, which was just 24 points from the eighth place score. The second day for Martin included a 15.13 (834 points) in the 110 hurdles, a 96-9 (455) in the discus, 12-9.5 (590) in the pole vault, the second best javelin mark of 184-3 (680) and he won the 1,500 in 4:17.89 (826).