Midwest Regional Offers Berths To NCAA Championships For Aggies

By  | 

DES MOINES, IA -- Postseason continues for the Texas A&M track and field program as the fifth installment of the NCAA Midwest Regional is next on the docket for advancement to the NCAA Championships.

Drake Stadium, site of the always sold out Drake Relays in late April, will host the Midwest Regional on Friday and Saturday, May 25-26, with berths available to the NCAA Championships for those athletes placing among the top five in individual events and among the top three in relay events. Action begins at 1 p.m. each day with field event finals and continues to 8 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday.

The Aggies will have a strong contingent competing, with 26 women and 17 men contesting a total of 28 events. Included in that event total are all four relays where the A&M women have the top times in the region for both the 4 x 100 (43.67) and 4 x 400 (3:32.08) while the Aggie men lead the sprint relay list (39.49) and have the second-fastest time (3:05.62) in the 1,600-meter relay.

“This is a meet that you have to aim for since this is the structure in the way we do things now,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “You have to be in the top five individually or top three among the relays to advance and it’s about doing it on this day. We’ve had all year long to prepare for this day. This day is the last step before the NCAA Championships. Our expectations are high for ourselves.”

Heading into the Midwest Regional following a Big 12 conference title, the No. 7-ranked Texas A&M women will be led by Simone Facey, who became the first-ever Aggie double sprint champion on the conference level in Lincoln, Nebraska, on the way to becoming the women’s high-point scorer with 22 ½ points.

In addition to winning the 100 and 200 meters, Facey ran the third leg of the Aggies’ winning 4 x 100 relay that set a school record of 43.67 seconds. It was the first conference victory in the sprint relay for Texas A&M women as well.

“This is another step up from conference and you have to look at it that way,” Henry noted. “For Simone, who did a good job at the Big 12, this is another step up in the level of competition. She has to be prepared and that’s goes right down the line with everyone.”

Facey, who was a NJCAA sprint champion with Barton County the past two seasons, leads both the 100 and 200 lists in the Midwest Region with her winning times of 11.19 and 22.49 seconds from the Big 12 Championships. She is the top collegiate sprinter in the 200 and is ranked second in the 100 to an 11.10 posted twice this season by Auburn’s Kerron Stewart.

Twice during the outdoor season Facey has recorded the world leading time in the 200 meters. First she ran 22.77 to defeat U.S. Olympian Lauryn Williams at the Miami Elite Invitational in mid April and then her 22.49 at the Big 12 surpassed the 22.60 world leader recorded by Stewart, who improved to 22.52 during the SEC Championships.

Professional athlete Allison Felix lowered the 2007 world leading time in the 200 to 22.18 while winning the adidas Track Classic in Los Angeles this past Sunday (May 20). Facey currently has the third-fastest time in the world for the 200.

Last season at the Midwest Regional the A&M women were runner-up in team scoring to Texas, 93-72, while the Aggie men placed third with 64 points behind Texas (91.83) and UTEP (72). Both programs featured six medalists in last year’s meet, with winning efforts posted by Yasmine Regis in the triple jump and Fabrice Lapierre in the long jump.

Texas A&M medalists from 2006 making a return visit to the NCAA Midwest Regional include silver medalist Chad Brown (javelin) and Clora Williams (400) along with bronze medalist Justin Oliver (400), Kasey Onwuchekwa (shot put) and Jennifer Williams (100 hurdles).

Also key components of the men’s 4 x 1 (Oliver and Chris Dykes) and 4 x 4 (Morquise Cleveland, Nick Robinson and Oliver) relay squads return from silver-medal efforts a year ago along with the women’s third-place 4 x 4 (Tresha Henry, Jennifer Williams, Clora Williams, Katie Baker).

“We went into the Big 12 meet with the best time in the conference, but a false start kept us from getting the stick around,” Henry noted about the men’s 4 x 100. “It’s the same scenario here, you may go into the meet ranked well but if you can’t get it done on this day you don’t advance.

“We anticipate doing well and think we have the personnel to do well. We just have to hit it on this one day, that’s the challenge and it’s the fun part of what we do.”

In the sprint relay at last year’s Midwest Regional the Aggie men set a Midwest Region record of 39.18 seconds during the prelims. It’s one of three records A&M athletes have set in the short history of the regional meet. Chris Pinnock established the 110-meter hurdle record at 13.63 seconds in 2003 while Jarrad Matthews record a javelin mark of 243-6 (74.22) in 2004.

In addition to Facey topping both women’s sprint races and the leading relays the Aggies bring into the regional, there are 12 A&M athletes in 13 events who head into the meet ranked among the top five among the Midwest Region entrants.

The group includes Jennifer Williams, who placed third in both hurdle races at the Big 12 meet, ranked second in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the 400 hurdles. Also listed among the top five are Porscha Lucas, ranked fourth in the 200, while Clora Williams and Katie Baker are third and fifth, respectively, in the 400.

In women’s field events Michelle Inocencio ranks third in the javelin while Caroline Wolf is tied for fourth in the high jump and Kasey Onwuchekwa sits fourth in the shot put.

On the men’s side the Aggies feature second-ranked Nick Robinson in the 400 hurdles where his season best time of 50.63 gained runner-up honors in the Big 12 Championships. A&M also has Chad Brown ranked third in the javelin as well as Richard Adu-Bobie in the 100 while Justin Oliver is ranked fifth in the 400.

Newcomers among the A&M crew headed to the regional meet include 10 Aggie frosh, led by double individual event qualifiers Ashika Charan (long jump, triple jump) and Porscha Lucas (100, 200, 4x1).

The rest of the freshman class of regional qualifiers includes Elizabeth Adeoti (100, 200, 4x1), Khrystal Carter (200), Bryant McCombs (400, 4x4), Trey Peroyea (javelin), Hillary Pustka (javelin), Zuheir Sharif (triple jump), Nick Toohey (800) and Sandy Wooten (400, 4x4).

Lucas, who was the second highest scorer on the A&M squad during the Big 12 Outdoor Championships with 13 ½ points, became the current World Junior leader in the 200 when she set a career best of 22.79 in placing third in the Big 12 200 final. Her mark is No. 20 on the all-time World Junior list and No. 6 all-time among American juniors (ages 19-and-under).

In placing second in the triple jump at the Big 12 Championships, Charan’s wind-aided mark of 43-11 ¼ became the fifth best wind-assisted mark on the U.S. Junior all-time list and is No. 9 under all-conditions among juniors.

Sharif captured the Big 12 indoor triple jump title and added a bronze medal effort during the outdoor conference meet. His indoor best of 52-1 ¾ led the 2007 U.S. junior list until the end of April. Sharif is currently ranked No. 2 among U.S. juniors from his indoor mark while his outdoor best of 52-0 set at the Big 12 Championships ranks No. 7 on the 2007 World Junior list.

“Especially with a young group you have to keep a team element in there,” added Henry of competing for a team title this weekend. “It’s important for them to understand track and field is both an individual and team sport.

“It’s also important for us to be there as Texas A&M and try to win a region championship. I think that’s important for our program and for our team. It’s one of our goals, with the other goal as an individual to be among the top group that qualifies for the national championship.”