INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Even on a limited day of action for Texas A&M athletes during the USA Track and Field Championships, a future Aggie claimed gold in the junior women’s 400 meters.
Jessica Beard, who has completed her senior high school season in Euclid, Ohio, and will join the Texas A&M program in August, defended her title in the one-lap race at the Finish Line USA Junior Championships held at the Michael A. Carroll Track Stadium on the IUPUI campus.
With a time of 52.12 seconds Beard defeated South Carolina’s Brandi Cross (53.33) for the second consecutive year. Last season Beard won in 51.89 while Cross, who was a senior at Fort Bend Marshall, was runner-up in 51.96.
“It meant a lot to me,” Beard said of winning a second Junior title. “Some pre-meet predictions didn’t include me winning the 400, so that hurt my ego a little bit. I thought I’d come out here and prove myself.
“I tried to stay focused since I knew there would be some experienced runners out there. It really meant a lot for me to defend my title, especially since I’m joining a great team.”
The win also secured Beard a spot on the U.S. Junior team that will compete at the Pan-American Junior Championships, held July 6-8 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Another Aggie on the squad is triple jump winner Zuheir Sharif, who won his event on Friday.
“Being on the U.S. Junior team for a second time will really help me a lot,” Beard noted. “I get another chance at gaining some international experience. I always thrive on things like that, being around people who have been doing this longer than me.”
Beard’s dominating win continued a trend of decisive victories for her this season, which includes a career best of 51.63 that ranks her the No. 8 performer on the all-time high school list.
After setting the 2007 high school and US junior leading mark in winning her fourth Ohio state title, Beard claimed titles at elite high school meets such as Golden West and the Nike Outdoor Nationals.
In Sacramento during the Golden West meet bettered Erica Alexander, the top Texas prep, by over two seconds, 52.07 to 54.42. Then in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the Nike meet Beard defeated Breehana Jacobs with a 52.43 to 54.39 margin. Jacobs was third in the USA Junior final, running 53.41.
“This is one of those meets, where if you’re an NCAA athlete you are a little bit concerned about the length of the season and what’s going on,” Texas A&M coach Pat Henry noted of the Aggies competing at either the junior or senior level meets.
“But the young people we brought here have lined up again and have gotten after it pretty good.
“Some of the young one’s we have signed that are coming in soon, Jessica Beard being one, looked very good as well.”
In the AT&T USA Championships, A&M’s Jennifer Williams ran 13.61 in the semifinals of the 100 hurdles into a headwind (-1.6). She placed seventh in her section and did not advance to the finals.
“Jennifer got through the first round and reached the semifinals against some of the best hurdlers in the world,” noted Henry. “You can’t buy that kind of experience.
“That’s what it takes to get to that next level and it helps a young lady like Jennifer to be in this type of competition.”
The final day of the USA Championships will include Texas A&M’s Kasey Onwuchekwa, who placed fourth at the recent NCAA Championships, competing in the shot put.