A&M qualifies mixture of experience and youth for NCAA Indoor Championships

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FAYETTEVILLE, AR -- Three automatic qualifiers combined with a handful of provisional qualifiers will comprise the Texas A&M squad competing in the NCAA Indoor Championships this coming weekend. The Randal Tyson Track Center will host the national meet for the eighth consecutive year March 9-10 on a banked 200-meter track facility.

The Aggie women, having recently claimed the school’s first-ever conference title, will seek to improve on its best-ever performance at the NCAA Indoor Championships behind the trio of NCAA automatic qualifiers in junior Simone Facey, senior Kasey Onwuchekwa and senior Caroline Wolf along with a provisionally qualified 1,600-meter relay and two other athletes who reached the championship field with provisional marks.

Texas A&M women placed 17th at last year’s meet with 15 points, bettering the previous best finish of 21st in 1998. In 2002 the Aggie women were 22nd. The A&M men tied for 25th last season with eight points, which were attained by Fabrice Lapierre with a runner-up finish in the long jump.

Facey has set two A&M school records with sprint times of 7.31 seconds in the 60 meters and 23.26 seconds in the 200. Her marks equal 12th in the 60 and is eighth in the 200 on the national collegiate list.

An NJCAA champion while at Barton County, Facey set her automatic qualifying time in the 200 while winning the Big 12 title. Her provisional mark in the 60 set a school record when she ran it in the prelims of the Iowa State Classic.

Onwuchekwa, who ranks third in the nation, improved her school record in the shot put to an elite level when she reached 57 feet, 2 inches (17.42) in winning the event at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York City.

Wolf set her automatic qualifier of 6-0 1/2 (1.84) while winning the New Mexico Lobo Invitational in January and it equals the ninth-best mark among collegians. Recently she placed third in the Big 12 meet with a clearance of 6-0 (1.83).

Returning indoor national point scorers for the Aggie women include senior Clora Williams, who was fifth in the 400 last year with a time of 52.57 after clocking 52.53 in the prelims; Wolf, who placed fourth in the high jump with a clearance of 6-1 1/4; and Onwuchekwa, who finished eighth in the shot put with an effort of 53-1 3/4.

In addition the A&M 4 x 400 returns after placing fifth a year ago when they set a school indoor record of 3:31.67. The relay pool will consist of senior Tresha Henry, C. Williams, Simone Facey, sophomore Katie Baker and freshman Sandy Wooten. They enter the meet with a provisional mark of 3:34.87, which won the Big 12 title and ranks fifth in the nation.

Three Aggies on the men’s side will make a return trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships. Last season Chris Dykes, Justin Oliver and Nick Robinson ran on the 4 x 400 relay which placed ninth in 3:08.94.

Oliver and Robinson will be part of the 1,600-meter relay pool again this year along with Bryant McCombs, Justin McQueen and Alfred Robinson. The best effort by the Aggies this season is a provisional mark of 3:07.17, which ranks sixth heading into the national meet.

Dykes, meanwhile, is a provisional qualifier in the 200. Another provisional qualifier for the A&M men is Zuheir Sharif in the triple jump. Sharif won the Big 12 title as a freshman two weeks ago setting a personal best of 52-1 1/4 (15.88) while Dykes was third in the conference 200 with a season-best effort of 20.99.

Provisional qualifiers on the women’s side include Facey (60), freshman Porscha Lucas (60/200) and sophomore Yasmine Regis (triple jump).

Regis recently defended her Big 12 Indoor triple jump title with a near-school record effort of 43-6 1/2 (13.27). Her mark ranks ninth among collegians this season.

Lucas was runner-up to Facey in the 200 during the conference meet as she posted a time of 23.37. With a season best of 7.34 in the 60, set during the prelims of the Big 12 meet, Lucas joined Washington’s Ashley Lodree (7.34) as the final two marks selected into a 20-deep field.

Lucas is one of just two freshmen to make the 60 and 200 field, joining LSU frosh Samantha Henry (7.29 / 23.64). Tennessee freshman Lynne Layne (23.54) joins the pair in the 200-meter field, which also numbered 20 entrants.

Missing out on advancing to the NCAA Indoor Championships in individual events, by the thinnest of margins, are Oliver and Ashika Charan.

Oliver’s time of 46.73 was just beyond the 46.71 cutoff for a field of 16 runners in the men’s 400. Charan, meanwhile, missed the cut by a centimeter, or a quarter of a inch, in the women’s long jump. Her season best of 6.25 (20-6 1/4) was past the cutoff of 6.26 (20-6 1/2), which was achieved by the final five jumpers in a 16-person field.