DES MOINES, Iowa – Texas A&M’s adventure during the NCAA Track and Field Championships ended with the best combined finish in the program’s history Saturday at Drake Stadium in front of a crowd that numbered 11,410 and reached a four-day total of 41,087.
On the fourth day of competition a 1-2 finish from Simone Facey and Porscha Lucas in the women’s 200 secured third place for the Aggies as they finished the national meet with 48 points. It marked the best finish at the national meet, improving on the fourth-place finish they achieved last year.
Meanwhile, the A&M men had a third-place effort from Chris Dykes in the 200 as well as a second consecutive silver medal performance in the 4 x 400 to place fifth in team scoring with 32 points. It marked the first top five placing by the Aggie men’s program since 1989.
“We were third with the ladies and fifth with the men, but we came in here of course to do a little bit better,” Texas A&M coach Pat Henry said. “It’s never great unless you win it. That’s our goal. We’re going to try to win this thing. We get a little bit closer every time.”
Texas A&M’s previous best combination finish came back in 1989 when the Aggie men were second to LSU and the women tied for 15th.
“I’m extremely pleased, though,” Henry noted. “We had some seniors here who did a great job. I’m extremely proud of that group of people. That’s our first senior class with this coaching staff. We’re extremely pleased with their efforts and the traditions they are starting with our program. We have a young group coming back and we will be more competitive next year.”
Florida State’s men claimed a third consecutive championship with 52 points while LSU finished in a tie with Auburn for runner-up honors as each scored 44 points. Texas finished fourth with 35 points.
Placing behind Texas A&M to round out the top 10 were Arizona State (28), Baylor (27), USC (27), Kentucky (25) and Colorado (24).
On the women’s side LSU claimed its first team title since A&M coach Pat Henry left the program after the 2004 season. The Tigers totaled 67 points after entering the 4 x 400 relay tied with defending champion Arizona State with 59 points.
The Sun Devils were runner-up with 63 points. Finishing behind the Aggies third-place tally of 48 points were Penn State (39), Texas Tech (32), Stanford (31), Michigan (29), Oregon (27), Florida (26) and UTEP (25).
Texas A&M women surged into third place in the team standings with an unique 1-2 finish in the 200 meters as Facey won the race in 22.63 seconds while current world leader Lucas finished second in 22.67.
Facey became the Aggies first individual champion since Clora Williams won the 400 title during the 2006 NCAA meet and the fifth female to win a NCAA event at A&M. This was also the first time Texas A&M women have garnered two NCAA titles in one meet.
“Today I took it up a notch,” Facey said. “My execution was very good and I just maintained my form to the finish. It was a great race for me overall.
“I’m a senior and I wanted to leave a mark. I wanted to give a 100 percent effort to the team. My start was great and my execution was good.”
The last time a team claimed the top two positions in the 200 came way back in 1984 with Florida State’s women went 1-2-3 with the trio of Randy Givens (22.87), Brenda Cliette (23.03) and Marita Payne (23.20).
Chasing the Aggie duo in the half-lap race were Nickesha Anderson of Kansas (22.91) and LSU’s tandem of Kelly-Ann Baptiste (22.95) and Samantha Henry (23.22).
In producing the third fastest time in school history, a 3:01.78, the Aggie foursome of Bryan Miller (46.1), A.C. Robinson (45.4), Nick Robinson (45.4) and Justin Oliver (44.9) challenged Baylor once again.
The Bears defended their title in 3:00.22 while A&M held off a Kentucky squad that placed third with a 3:02.00.
“Of course we would like to win this race, but we went out there and ran our fastest time of the season by far, so I can’t complain,” Oliver said. “Getting a top five team finish, that’s a long way from where we’ve been the past two years.
“I’ve been here since we’ve been rebuilding with this coaching staff, so to see this team grow into a national top five team is a great feeling.”
Dykes faced a tough endeavor in the 200 meters as he lined up against defending champion Walter Dix of Florida State. Dix managed to defend his title with a time of 20.40 as Richard Thompson of LSU, the NCAA 100 winner, claimed second in 20.44.
With his time of 20.73 Dykes finished ahead of a blanket finish of four guys. The group included Evander Wells of Tennessee (20.80), Long Beach State’s Brent Gay (20.88), Rubin Williams of Tennessee (20.96) and Baylor’s Trey Harts (20.97).
“I just tried to focus on what I had to do,” Dykes said. “I remained composed and relaxed and tried to see what I could do on the straightaway. Any time you finish in the top three at this meet you can be happy. I’m excited about my finish.”
Freshman Jessica Beard placed fourth in the 400 behind a trio of seniors. A time of 51.75 left Beard trailing the winning mark of 50.97 by Shana Cox of Penn State along with a 51.29 for Alabama’s Trish Bartholomew and a 51.39 from USC’s Carol Rodriguez.
The lone freshman to reach the final, Beard was also the top frosh during the indoor season when she placed third in the NCAA final.
In the triple jump the Aggies picked up five points with the effort of Ashika Charan and Yasmine Regis placing fifth and eighth. Charan reached a wind-aided distance of 44-3.5 (13.50) while Regis hit a mark of 43-11.25 (13.39).
Later in the meet Beard anchored the women’s 4 x 400 relay to a seventh place finish in 3:33.79 with a split of 52.7. The rest of the relay consisted of Allison George (53.4), Sandy Wooten (53.4) and Jennifer Williams (54.3).