NAMPA, Idaho – After sweeping team titles at the Big 12 Indoor Championship they hosted two weekends ago, Texas A&M sets its sights on the NCAA Indoor Championships hosted by Boise State this coming weekend.
With a combined crew of 18 athletes, the No. 3 Aggie men and No. 5 A&M women will each contend for the program’s first ever NCAA Indoor team title on March 9-10. The Aggie men have finished second to Florida the past two years while the A&M women have placed fifth the past two years after a runner-up effort in 2009.
“Our kids, being from Texas A&M, are three-time defending national outdoor champions, so they still have a target on their back and that’s a good target,” noted Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “We look forward to that challenge.
“There is always a sense of pride in representing your school. It’s also a motivator for our group. This group has stepped up, maybe even a little better than some of the other teams we’ve had here at this point of the season. I’m very pleased how this team has performed up to this point.”
ESPN3.com will stream the NCAA Indoor meet live on March 9 from 6:30 p.m.-10:45 p.m. CT and March 10 from 7:00 p.m.-10:15 p.m. CT. A tape delay of the championship will air Sunday, March 18 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU. NCAA.com and broncosports.com will stream what ESPN3.com is not covering on Friday (11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. CT) and Saturday (11:30-7 pm CT).
Nine All-Americans are included in the A&M squad that have qualified for the NCAA Indoor meet while the rest of the qualifiers include some new talent for the Aggies.
The A&M men, including relay alternates, have 10 athletes in seven events. The group includes Wayne Davis II (60m hurdles), Prezel Hardy, Jr. (60, 200), Deon Lendore (400), Michael Preble (800), Joey Roberts (800) and Ameer Webb (60, 200). Members of the 4 x 400 relay and distance medley relay include Ricky Babineaux, Will Barry, James Bonn, Henry Lelei, Lendore, Preble, Oscar Ramirez, and Roberts.
For the Aggie women there is a squad of eight athletes in six events, which includes Laura Asimakis (pole vault), Kamaria Brown (200, relay), Ashley Collier (60, 200), Dominique Duncan (200), Olivia Ekpone’ (200, relay), Donique’ Flemings (60 hurdles, relay), Ibukun Mayungbe (relay) and Natosha Rogers (5,000).
“The NCAA Championship is like any other meet, but it’s a little bit different from any other meet as well.” said Henry. “This competition is no different than any other competition we’ve had. Some athletes, though, treat the meet like it’s something different than they’ve been doing all season long.
“Our goal as coaches is to help make them understand they can do what they normally do no matter the environment or what meet it is at, and let’s see what happens as a result. Sometimes the environment dictates that we do some things better.”
The sprints and relays are key areas of scoring for Texas A&M. Webb and Brown enter the meet as collegiate leaders in the 200 as their respective career best times of 20.62 and 22.86 each captured a Big 12 Indoor title. While Hardy joins Webb in the 60 and 200, Brown will have the company of three other Aggie female sprinters in the 200 field with her.
“We qualified well in the 200 meters this year with four ladies and two men,” said Henry. “We have some experience coming back and it’s a good mix of talent.”
Another event the Aggies have big scoring potential in is the men’s 800 where a pair A&M athletes are in the field with Roberts and Preble, who each rank among the top five times recorded this season. Preble finished third in the NCAA Indoor final a year ago. Just missing the 800 field was Oscar Ramirez, who ran a career best of 1:48.57 this indoor season. The last time to make the 800 field was 1:48.56 for a 15-person field.
“We had a good number of athletes qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships, but I’m a little bit disappointed that Oscar Ramirez didn’t make the 800 meters,” said Henry. “He missed the field by one one-hundreth of a second (0.01). We already have two half-milers in that event, but I was hoping Oscar would get in there as well.”
The Aggie relays are also ranked among the best in the nation this season as they achieved NCAA automatic times in the men’s and women’s 4 x 400 as well as the men’s distance medley relay. Texas A&M swept the men’s and women’s NCAA 4 x 400 indoor and outdoor titles a year ago.