LEXINGTON – Isaac Spencer supplied the Aggies with a runner-up performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as Texas A&M qualified 13 athletes in five events for finals in the SEC Championships during Saturday’s session at the Kentucky Track & Field Complex.
Spencer ran 8:53.77 in finishing second to Stanley Kebenei of Arkansas, who won the race in 8:40.98, as they contested the lone track final held on the day.
“I hope this gives the team some motivation and momentum for Sunday,” said Spencer. “It’s the last day and we have a lot qualified. I wanted to put a stamp on today that we won today as a team. Even though it was primarily prelims, I felt we won today by the way we qualified for the finals.
“I was able to get eight big points today and tomorrow the 5,000 meters is the last event going into the 4x400. We want to try to score more points there to give the 4x400 a cushion.”
In field events the Aggies scored seven points from five events with Dalton Rowan placing sixth in the discus (183-4), Brea Garrett taking eighth in the shot put (50-8.5), Olabanji Asekun finishing eighth in the men’s long jump (24-9.25), Kendall Munoz placing eighth in the javelin (152-0) and Jennifer Madu with an eighth-place effort in the women’s long jump (19-9.5).
Qualifying for finals again went very well for A&M, who led the SEC schools with 13 women in four events and 11 men in six events advancing to Sunday finals. On Saturday, the Aggie men advanced three in the 400, two in the 100 and one in the 110 hurdles while the women advanced four in the 100 and three in the 400.
Team scores heading into the final day of the meet have Georgia’s lead whittled down to one point, 52-51, over Arkansas with Alabama (29), Texas A&M (25), and Kentucky (21) rounding out the top five. The rest of the field includes Florida (11), Mississippi (11), Auburn (10), LSU (6), Missouri (5), South Carolina (5), Tennessee (5) and Mississippi State (3).
Arkansas has passed Georgia on the women’s side with 77 points to 54.5 as Missouri sits third with 51 points. The rest of the field includes Florida (39.5), LSU (29.5), Mississippi State (18), Auburn (14), South Carolina (13.5), Kentucky (13), Texas A&M (11), Vanderbilt (11), Alabama (10), Tennessee (6) and Mississippi (3).
Championship Sunday includes seven field event finals (five for the men and two for the women) along with 10 track finals per gender starting at 11 a.m. (ET) and wrapping up at 5:45 p.m. Coverage of the SEC Championships will be available on ESPN3.com.
Spencer moved up from his third-place SEC finish a year ago as he withstood the challenge by Auburn’s Niklas Buhner (8:54.60). Early on the in the race Kebenei and Spencer ran 1-2. When Kebenei pulled away past the halfway stage, Spencer was on his own with a gap behind the leader and another gap to the chase pack.
“I was going for the win,” said Spencer. “Last year I was third and this year I finished second. So I’m taking the right steps. I was more worried about place and time and tried to get points for the team.
“I kept my eyes on Kebenei the whole race. Even though he started to pull away I was trying to stay as close as I could to him. It wasn’t until I heard Coach Henry near the end of the race saying they were coming up on me that I knew the chase group was close. That’s when I picked my pace back up. You never know if you have anything left, you just go.”
A very competitive men’s discus final produced three marks over 200 feet. Andrew Evans of Kentucky claimed the victory with a 210-3 on his home venue over a 209-1 from Alabama’s Hayden Reed while Rodney Brown of LSU settled for third place with a 200-4 toss.
Rowan, who was third the past two years in the conference meet, finished sixth with a 183-4 (55.88). Ben Skrla led the first flight of throwers with a career best of 178-3 (54.35) and advanced to the final three rounds to place ninth. Jeff Bartlett threw 170-9 (52.06) for 11th place.
The women’s javelin had Munoz securing a point in eighth place with a toss of 152-0 (46.35) while Krystyn Bradley placed ninth and Jena Hemann finished 11th. Bradley threw a career best of 150-4 (45.83) to make the final three rounds while Hemann hit a mark of 139-2 (42.42).
Madu finished eighth in the long jump with a leap of 19-9.5 (6.03) while LaQue Moen-Davis placed 15th with a mark of 18-9.75 (5.73). Asekun went 24-9.25 (7.55) for eighth place in the men’s long jump as Arkansas swept the top three places for 24 team points. Jonathan Turner finished 19th (22-1.5).
Brittany Wooten cleared the opening height of 12-7.5 (3.85) in the pole vault, but the next height of 13-1 (4.00) eliminated her and five other vaulters as she tied for 11th place. Kara Erickson was one of five jumpers who missed the opening height of 5-5.75 (1.67) in the high jump.
Wayne Davis II highlighted the qualifying rounds with a school record of 13.35 in the 110 hurdles to break the tie he was in at 13.37 with Larry Wade. Davis led qualifying with his 13.35 (0.9 wind) with Florida’s Eddie Lovett second fastest with a 13.46 while Omar McLeod of Arkansas was third best at 13.50.
Kamaria Brown and Shamier Little finished 1-2 in their prelim heat of the 400 meters, running times of 53.02 and 53.35. Each qualified for her second final on Sunday. Brown is also in the 200 meters and Little leads the 400 hurdle field. Joining the A&M pair in the 400 final is Ibukun Mayungbe, who clocked 53.40 for third place in her heat.
Deon Lendore led a crew of three Aggies into the men’s 400 final. He won his heat in 45.34, the top qualifying time of the day ahead of a 45.99 by LSU’s Vernon Norwood. Bralon Taplin was a heat winner in 46.04 over Florida’s Hugh Graham (46.29). Carlyle Roudette was the third Aggie in the final as he placed second to Norwood with a 46.27.
Aldrich Bailey, Jr. just missed making the 400 final as this 47.12 for second place in the heat ranked 10th overall with nine making the final. Deon Hickey ran 48.67 to place fourth in his heat.
The Gators also advanced three to the final with Najee Glass (46.35) and Nick Uruburu (46.57) moving on with Graham while Arman Hall did not start his prelim race.
Olivia Ekponé led the qualifiers in the women’s 100 with a wind-aided time of 11.17 (3.3 wind) while Remona Burchell of Arkansas was second fastest with an 11.19 (1.4 wind). Joining Ekpone for the Aggies were Aaliyah Brown (11.35), Jennifer Madu (11.47) and Ashton Purvis (11.50w). Ekponé, A. Brown and Purvis also qualified for the 200 final on Friday.
Earning a second final on the men’s side were Prezel Hardy, Jr. and Shavez Hart, who both advanced to the 200 final on Friday. In the 100 prelims Hart clocked 10.23 (0.8 wind) to win his heat and post the second fastest qualifying time behind a windy 10.17 from Aaron Ernest of LSU. Hardy ran 10.27w (2.1 wind), placing third in the heat with Ernest.
In the women’s 100 hurdles Moen-Davis was on her way to running a solid time but clipped the final hurdle, fell to the ground and finished with a 14.76. Cameron Villarreal ran 3:57.85 in the men’s 1,500 to place 15th overall. Ashley Chamberlain ran 4:42.70 in the women’s 1,500 to finish 28th overall.