AUSTIN, TX -- Texas A&M, three-time defending dual national champions, begins its quest for a fourth NCAA Outdoor Championship this week as the NCAA West preliminary rounds take place at Myers Stadium, Thursday through Saturday.
The Aggies take another strong contingent into the postseason as they have a squad of 44 athletes qualified in 28 events for a total of 55 entries. The top 12 finishers this weekend will move on to the NCAA semifinals and final hosted by Drake University from June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.
“This is an extremely important couple of days coming up for us,” said A&M head coach Pat Henry. “This meet gets you to where you need to be in Des Moines in a couple of weeks. It’s a task that as a group, we need to do very well to be successful as a team at the next level. We have to do very well here this weekend.”
Texas A&M men’s total includes 26 athletes among 31 entries in 15 events. The Aggie women’s squad includes 18 athletes amid 24 entries in 13 events. Most events in Austin will have two rounds of competition to trim the field of 48 down to 12 while there will be one round in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters along with the two relay events, the 4x100 and 4x400.
“This is a time frame where you absolutely have to be at your best, there’s no sitting on your heels thinking you’ll get through this round,” stated Henry on the advancement from the preliminary round to the NCAA Championship meet.
Updated national rankings released this week based on entries for the NCAA Championships have the A&M men No. 1 and the Aggie women No. 6. A strong performance in winning the Big 12 Outdoor team title boosted A&M men in the national rankings as well as the Track & Field News form chart, where the Aggies improved by 17 points and currently are predicted to score 53 points as runner-up to Florida (60).
Following the A&M men in the USTFCCCA national computer rankings top 10 are 2. Florida, 3. Indiana, 4. LSU, 5. Texas, 6. Arizona, 7. Florida State, 8. Arkansas, 9. Texas Tech and 10. Nebraska. LSU is the No. 1 women’s team followed by 2. Kansas, 3. Clemson, 4. Texas, 5. Oregon, 6. Texas A&M, 7. Florida, 8. Arizona, 9. Tennessee, and 10. Stanford.
Eight victories during the Big 12 Championships supplied over half of the 150 points the Aggie men scored in winning a second consecutive conference outdoor team title. Texas A&M also became the first school to sweep the five sprint (100m, 200m, 400m) and relay (4x100, 4x400) events at the Big 12 meet. They added wins in the 110 hurdles, 3,000-meter steeplechase and javelin.
The Aggie women, who totaled five victories at the conference meet, placed third in the Big 12. They finished one point behind Kansas, 129.5 to 128.5, while Texas (139) won the league crown for the first time since 2006 after a run of five consecutive titles by Texas A&M from 2007 to 2011. Wins for A&M were claimed in the 100m, 5,000m, 10,000m, 100 hurdles, and 4x100.
Honors from the Big 12 meet included Prezel Hardy, Jr. and Natosha Rogers each being selected as the conference Performer of the Year. Hardy was also the men’s high point performer while Ashley Collier claimed the women’s high point honor, just 0.5 of a point over teammate Rogers. Aggie head coach Pat Henry claimed the men’s Coach of the Year honor.
“I was very pleased with the way we competed at conference,” noted Henry. “We showed some levels of competitiveness at the conference meet that I was very, very pleased with. It’s shows a degree of maturity and really understanding what it takes to be successful at a high level.”
Hardy, Jr. swept the 100 and 200 meters with 10.03w and 20.33 marks that are the best the sophomore sprinter has ever produced, and he also anchored the Aggies 4 x 100 to a 39.00 victory. Rogers garnered a distance double as the won the 10,000 with a 34:18.66 in her debut over that distance and then captured the 5,000 with a 15:57.17.
Hardy leads a trio of Aggie sprinters who qualified for both the 100 and 200 meters. He is joined by Ameer Webb, the NCAA 200 indoor champion, and Michael Bryan in both events along with Carlyle Roudette in the 200.
Collier sped to a career best of 11.01 to win the 100 and was just 0.003 of a second from completing her own sprint double in the 200. Collier finished second to Angela Perkins of Kansas as both were credited with times of 22.89. In the 4 x 100 Collier anchored the A&M to a 42.99 victory that tied the collegiate-leading mark set by LSU at the Texas Relays.
Sprint depth for the women includes Dominique Duncan and LaKeidra Stewart in the 100 and 200 along with Chandrell Stephens also in the 200. Duncan placed third in the 200 (22.96) and fourth in the 100 (11.31) in the conference meet. Stewart ran a PR of 11.45 twice during the Big 12 meet, placing seventh in the final. Stephens recorded a career best of 23.65 in the prelims of the 200 during prelims.
Three other wins for the Aggie men included school record performances. Sam Humphreys collected his third Big 12 title in the javelin with a 259-1 (78.98) toss that bettered his A&M record of 256-6. Henry Lelei lowered his school standard in the 3,000 steeplechase as he cruised to a 8:38.90 victory. Then Wayne Davis II rolled to a winning time of 13.37 in the 110 hurdles that equaled the Aggie school record held by Larry Wade (1998) and established a Trinidad & Tobago national record.
The Aggies also enjoyed breakout performances in the 400 from a pair of newcomers – freshman Deon Lendore of Trinidad & Tobago and junior Kanika Beckles of Grenada.
Lendore claimed the Big 12 400 meter title in a career best of 45.13 as he defeated current collegiate leader Gil Roberts of Texas Tech. Lendore also anchored A&M to victory in the 4 x 400 with a 44.8 split as the Aggies clocked a season best time of 3:03.04 to deny Baylor (3:03.40), Texas Tech (3:04.13) and Kansas (3:04.89).
In the women’s 400 Beckles surprised the field with a career best of 51.72 in the prelims and then finished second in the final with a 51.93 behind Diamond Dixon of Kansas, the defending champion. Beckles also contributed a solid leg on the A&M 4 x 400 as they placed third with a season best time of 3:32.31.
With a personal best of 13.00 in the 100 hurdles and three wind-aided sub 13 times this season Donique’ Flemings offers scoring potential for the Aggies. She won the Big 12 title in a windy 12.87.
Other A&M athletes who head into the NCAA West preliminary seeded among the top 12 include Michael Preble and Joey Roberts in the 800 as well as Laura Asimakis in the javelin.
Preble, who has placed second (2012) and third (2011) at the NCAA Indoor, and Roberts both advanced to the NCAA Outdoor semifinal round a year ago but neither qualified for the final. Roberts set a school record of 1:46.89 during the NCAA semifinal in 2011 and Preble broke that mark with a 1:46.43 to open the 2012 outdoor season with a win at the USC Trojan Invitational.
Depth in the 800 for the Aggies includes Oscar Ramirez (1:48.21) and James Bonn (1:49.26), who each set PRs this season in the USC race back in March, placing fifth and seventh, respectively.
Asimakis has placed 12th twice in the javelin at the NCAA Championships. Her season best of 170-4 (51.93) opened the outdoor season and put her near a career best of 173-0 she set back in 2009. After winning the Texas Relays (164-3) and the Miami Invitational (164-7), Asimakis placed third at the Big 12 meet (162-7).
Also qualified for the NCAA preliminary rounds in the pole vault, Asimakis holds the school record with a mark of 13-10.5 (4.23). This season she has cleared a best of 13-7.25 (4.15) in Austin during the Texas Relays. Joining Asimakis in the pole vault is Aly Daily, who established a career best of 13-1 .5 (4.00) this season.
The first day of action begins at 11 a.m. on Thursday with the men’s javelin. In addition to Humphreys the Aggies will also have Devin Bogert and Jon Gomez in the event. Other field events contested on the opening day include women’s shot put and women’s javelin.
Track events involving Aggies on Thursday included the 400 hurdles, 100, 400, 800 and 10,000 meters.