Texas A&M men defend team title at Armory Collegiate Invitational

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MEN’s TEAM SCORE: 1. Texas A&M 62; 2. LSU 53.5; 3. Clemson 48; 4. Tennessee 46; 5. Arkansas 41.
WOMEN’s TEAM SCORE: 1. LSU 73; 2. Clemson 69; 3. Kansas 57.5; 4. South Carolina 48; 5. tie, Arkansas & Texas A&M 39.

NEW YORK CITY – Four victories on day two of the Armory Collegiate Invitational propelled Texas A&M men to a successful team title defense. Scoring 62 points placed the Aggies ahead of LSU for the second consecutive year and earned A&M its third men’s team title in the Armory since 2010.

The Aggie women tied for fifth with Arkansas in team scoring as each produced 39 points. LSU women won the title with 73 points over Clemson’s 69.

Henry Lelei started of the string of event wins for the Aggies in the 3,000 meters. Then a late rush of points came near the end of the meet with Deon Lendore controlling the open 400 while Casey Strong established another school record with his win in the weight throw.

With 52 points heading into the 4 x 400, A&M held an edge over Clemson (48), Tennessee (46) and LSU (45.5). Among four sections of the relay, the Aggies and LSU were set to run in the final section along with Arkansas.

The leading time after the first three sections was a 3:11.75 from Illinois, followed by a 3:12.35 from Hampton. Clemson didn’t have a relay entered and the Tennessee crew ran 3:16.54 and didn’t score in the event.

Texas A&M led off their 4x4 with Aldrich Bailey, Jr. and his split of 47.4 had A&M in the lead when he handed the baton off to Bralon Taplin. Arkansas challenged for the lead, but Taplin maneuvered inside his Razorback counterpart as they completed the first lap of the second leg. Taplin split 47.8 as he gave the baton to Greg Coleman with the Aggies even with Arkansas.

Coleman split 48.5, maintaining the A&M edge on his first lap. On the homestretch to the next exchange, though, Arkansas and LSU managed to pass Coleman. However, the Aggies had the individual winner of the 400 waiting to handle the anchor leg.

Lendore took the baton in third place, watching Arkansas and LSU bump each other through the final circuits of the race. Bidding his time, Lendore pounced with 120m remaining. A split of 45.9 for Lendore held off a final charge from LSU for a 3:09.62 to 3:10.68 A&M victory that secured the team title while Arkansas finished third in 3:11.65.

Strong helped the Aggies be in position for the team as the weight throw finished just before the 4 x 400 relays were set to begin. An impressive mark of 66-9.75 (20.36) topped the collegians in the field by over three feet. Professional athlete Jacob Freeman turned in a throw of 76-5.5 (23.30), but Strong secured the 10 points for Texas A&M.

Taking the lead in the second round, Strong improved it in the fourth stanza. Then he bettered his school record of 65-0.75 (19.83) in the sixth and final round with his winning effort.

Current world leader Lendore sped to a 46.49 victory in the championship 400 meters. Stationed in lane 3 with teammate Bailey in lane 2 the Aggie tandem made up the staggers and were running first and second at the 200m mark.

Lendore pulled away for the field on the backstretch of the second lap while Bailey attempted to stay in front of the field. On the race home off the final curve Lendore was challenged by George Mason’s David Verburg (46.56). Pittsburgh’s Brycen Spratling slipped ahead of Bailey for third place in 47.05. Bailey ran 47.33 for fourth in the heat and seventh overall.

Lelei claimed the 3,000-meter title with a time of 8:03.71, just missing his school record of 8:01.01. Lelei led the race through the mile at 4:20 and bettered a field that included Princeton’s Michael Franklin (8:04.59), Duke’s Mike Moverman (8:07.91) and Mike Murphy of Columbia (8:08.73). Another Aggie in the race, C.J. Brown, lost his shoe early on and opted not to finish.

La Que Moen-Davis captured the championship triple jump with an impressive leap of 42-0.75 (12.82). Moen-Davis, who moves to No. 8 on the Aggie all-time list, won the event by three-quarters of an inch over Abilene Christian’s Amanda Ouerdraogo while LSU’s Keri Emanuel placed third with a 41-8.5 (12.71) effort.

A chance for the Aggie women to finish higher in the team scoring came up short when Kanika Beckles took a spill as she neared the completion of her third leg carry for a leading A&M 4 x 400 relay. The Aggies built a lead over LSU and Arkansas behind relay carries from Janeil Bellille and Ibukun Mayungbe.

With 100m left on her leg, Beckles was clipped by LSU. She fell hard, dropping the baton, and was unable to finish. Arkansas won the race in 3:35.20 while LSU was second in the section with a 3:38.65, but finished third overall behind a 3:38.06 by Clemson from another section.

The Aggies finished in second and sixth place in the women’s 200 championship final. Ashton Purvis turned in a 23.30 for runner-honors as Ashley Collier won her section from lane three in 23.77 and placed sixth overall. Clemson’s Brianna Collins won the event in 23.22 with Paris Daniels of Kansas third in 23.46.

Prezel Hardy, Jr. ran 21.23 for second place in the 200, finishing behind a 20.83 from LSU’s Aaron Ernest.
Hardy managed to finish ahead of the second section winner, Clemson’s Tevin Hester, who recorded a 21.25.

Dave Brown produced a career best in the triple jump, placing third with a mark of 50-3.5 (15.33). Jason Harper of Mississippi State won the event with a 51-11.25 (15.83).

The men’s 4 x 800 relay had an exciting twist when Cameron Thornton had the baton dislodged when it made contact with the elbow of Duke’s opening leg. Thornton had the Aggies in third place at that stage, but fell back to 11th in the 12 team field when he had to stop to retrieve the baton.

Following the 1:57.4 split for Thornton, Hector Hernandez took off on the second leg, making up ground. Hernandez moved the Aggies into sixth, then fourth and eventually third place over the course of his 1:52.3 split.

Josh Hernandez was in third place when he received the baton and was able to move into second place briefly while he turned in a 1:50.0 split. Handing the baton to anchor James Bonn, A&M was in solid position behind Columbia and Duke.

Bonn passed Duke to claim second place at the end of his first lap, and then tracked down Columbia for the lead by the end of his second lap. Bonn cruised along in the lead for the next lap and a half. Then Duke, followed by Columbia, made their move with a kick to the finish line.

Columbia had the edge with a lean at the line winning in 7:30.15 to Duke’s 7:30.24. Bonn split 1:52.1 in finishing third with a time of 7:31.79.

In the women’s 400 championship final the Aggie trio of Kamaria Brown, Beckles and Bellille finished 7-8-9. Brown posted a time of 54.89 for fourth in the first section while Bellille ran 55.12 for fifth place. Beckles ran 55.01 for fourth in the second section. The overall winner was South Carolina’s Erika Rucker, who claimed the first section in 52.93.

A&M’s tandem of Hillary Montgomery and Grace Fletcher opened the morning with a first and third place finish in the college division of the 5,000 meters as each set a career best and moved to No. 9 and No. 10 on the Aggie all-time list.

Fletcher led the first half of the race and then gave way to Montgomery and Albany’s Brittany Lane. On the bell lap, Lane had the edge. Montgomery challenged Lane in the final stages of the race and pulled ahead for a 16:56.15 victory as Lane finished in 16:57.02. Fletcher claimed third and also registered a time under 17 minutes with a 16:57.38.

Clearing a height of 17-0.75 (5.20) in the pole vault earned Chase Wolfle second place in the college division pole vault. On the Aggie all-time list Wolfle equals the No. 9 mark and is the first to crack the top 10 since 2004. Teammate Dustin Phillips placed fourth in the vault with a clearance of 16-4.75 (5.00).

After setting a school record in the weight throw a week ago, Brea Garrett produced the No. 8 performance on the Aggie all-time list with a toss of 60-7.75 (18.47) for eighth place in the championship division. Jennifer Edwards placed 21st with a mark of 55-0.75 (16.78).

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