Sacramento, Calif. – As the final day of the NCAA Track and Field Championships was crammed into a two-hour window, the Aggies experienced an abundance of stellar performances at the Alex G. Spanos Complex.
When the final tally on the team scores was completed the Texas A&M women placed fourth with 34 points, it’s highest ever finish at the national meet. It improved upon the 10th place effort the Aggies produced last season.
“This is a big day for Texas A&M track and field, because we’ve made some great jumps and strides and have done some things we set out to do two years ago,” Aggie head coach Pat Henry said. “Things are starting to happen for us. We’re extremely pleased with the overall effort.”
Arizona State won the women’s team title with 60 points with LSU runner-up with 53. Michigan (36) finished two points ahead of A&M for third place while UCLA (30) was fifth and Texas (29) took sixth.
The A&M men placed 24th in team scoring with 12 points with the 4 x 400 relay claiming second while Zuheir Sharif finished fifth in the triple jump.
Florida State defended the title they captured a year ago by scoring 54 points to keep LSU at bay with 48. Auburn finished third with 34 points while Tennessee (31) and USC (27) rounded out the top five schools.
Simone Facey capped her busy week with a silver-medal performance in the 200 meters. She ran 22.64 (1.7 wind) behind the winning mark of 22.42 posted by Auburn’s Kerron Stewart. Behind Facey were Houston’s Ebonie Floyd (22.65), LSU’s Sherry Fletcher (22.67) and TCU’s Virgil Hodge (22.70).
It was the first All-American honor achieved by an Aggie female sprinter in the 100 and 200 meters since 1982 when Novaita Samuels earned similar status in the AIAW nationals.
“Simone had a great meet,” Henry said. “I was extremely pleased with her efforts and the way she kept herself together all they way through the meet.”
The A&M men put an exclamation point on their season with a silver-medal performance in the 4 x 400 relay. A 44.6 anchor by Justin Oliver delivered the Aggies a time of 3:01.07 as they challenged Baylor to a school record of 3:00.04 for the Bears.
Bryant McCombs led off the effort with a 45.9 split while A.C. Robinson took the lead on the break-in to lane one. As Baylor pulled even at the exchange Robinson completed his 45.0 split in passing the baton to Marcus Pitre.
Pitre ran a split of 45.6 to close some of the distance to the Bears. Oliver challenged for the lead as they approached the homestretch, but Baylor held on for the win as they bettered its school record of 3:00.60 set in 1995.
A&M’s time is the best ever in school history at low-altitude. The school record of 3:00.91 was set at altitude in Provo, Utah, during the 1989 NCAA Championships. The previous best mark by the Aggies at sea level was a 3:02.53 set in Austin during the 1993 season.
“Our men’s 4 x 400 at the end was a great effort for us,” Henry said. “We were fortunate to beat them in a preliminary round and the kids ran great. We came back today and run a second-plus faster. It’s just a great effort for that group.”
It was only the fifth relay squad to earn All-America honors in the 4 x 400 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The group became the 11th A&M men’s squad to earn All-America honors in the 4 x 400 relay, either indoors or outdoors. The last time it occurred was in 2001 at the NCAA Indoor meet.
Sharif produced another career best triple jump as he felt right at home in the familiar surroundings of Sacramento. While this weekend was his first time to compete in Hornet Stadium, plenty of friends and family were on hand to welcome him back.
The Franklin High product, from nearby Elk Grove, delivered a personal best jump of 52-8 ¼ (16.06) in the fourth round of competition and briefly led the field. It improved upon the previous PR of 52-4 (15.95) Sharif set the day before in the qualifying stage.
Eventually, Sharif found himself in a tie for fourth place with James Jenkins of Arkansas State. Since it was the last event completed, officials may not have made a complete review of the result series, as they awarded Sharif fourth place on the awards stand.
However, Jenkins had a better second-best jump of 52-8 (16.05) compared to the 52-5 (15.95) posted by Sharif.
In addition to Sharif, the Aggies had two other competitors in the field events on the final day. Kasey Onwuchekwa placed fourth in the shot put while Jessica Wingfield finished 10th in the javelin.
A third round put of 56-11 ½ (17.36) temporarily placed Onwuchekwa second in the competition. Through the final three rounds she was bumped back to fourth, matching her finish from two years ago. The effort, though, was an outdoor career best for Onwuchekwa, bettering her school record of 55-6 ¼ (16.92). Her indoor career best of 57-2 (17.42) was set this year as well.
Finishing behind Onwuchekwa was Michelle Carter of Texas with a put of 56-6 ½ (17.23). It marked the first time in her collegiate career that Onwuchekwa defeated Carter, a former NCAA indoor and outdoor champion.
Wingfield hit her best mark of 158-6 (48.32) in the third round, but needed a toss over 160-10 to make the final nine for three more throws. She earned her second All-America honor in the event, matching her 10th-place finish during her freshman season in 2005. It becomes the ninth All-America honor earned by an Aggie female in the javelin.
The women’s 1,600-meter relay capped off the meet by finishing sixth with a time of 3:31.09 with the foursome of Tresha Henry (52.9), Clora Williams (51.7), Sandy Wooten (54.9) and Katie Baker (51.6).
LSU won the race in 3:28.07 ahead of South Carolina’s 3:28.48 while Louisiana Tech placed third in 3:28.90.