Aggies contend for titles among elite NCAA Indoor Championships field

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Texas A&M completes their indoor campaign this weekend challenging for individual and team titles at the NCAA Indoor Championships at the CrossPlex facility. The Aggies have a total of 16 individuals qualified for the national meet in 12 events.

An elite event which features the top 16 individuals per event and top 12 relays from this indoor season, the NCAA Indoor Championships score the top eight finishers in each event to produce team points on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system.

ESPN3 will stream the championships live starting at 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday, March 8 and starting at 4 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 9. A re-air of the championship will take place starting at 9 p.m. CT on Sunday, March 10 on ESPN2 and again Monday, March 11 starting at 9 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

The Texas A&M men, with seven entries in six events, enter the meet ranked No. 4 while the Aggie women, with eight entries in six events, are ranked No. 9.

“Our upper-end people at the SEC Championships really did a good job and I’m pleased with us going forward into the NCAA Championships,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “The conference meet is completely different than this meet coming up. The NCAA Championships come down to your elite people and our group is ready to go.

“We’ve got some people in key places, it’s just a matter of going there and getting it done. That’s always the challenge, doing it on the day when you can score points in the national meet.”

Top ranked men’s teams include No. 1 Texas Tech, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 Houston, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Texas, No. 9 Oregon and No. 10 Florida State. On the women’s side the top teams include No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 USC, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 New Mexico, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 Georgia, No. 8 Oregon, No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 10 Kentucky.

“There are some teams with a lot of numbers in the meet that have different kinds of opportunities,” noted Henry. “On the ladies side Arkansas is the team that has the biggest opportunity when it comes to numbers of athletes entered. On the men’s side there really isn’t a team that is overwhelming with the numbers, so it comes down to great people getting great things done this weekend.”

With three collegiate leaders this season along with a total of seven qualified athletes who have previously scored in the NCAA Indoor Championships, the Aggie men and women seek to continue their collection of top five team finishes.

The A&M men, who won their first indoor national championship in 2017, placed fifth in 2018 to mark the 11th consecutive year the Aggies have finished among the top 10 and it was the sixth time for them to place among the top five teams over that 11-year span.

Tying for 10th place a year ago, the Texas A&M women produced their seventh top 10 finish in the past 11 years with a top five finish occurring six times in that span. The best indoor team finish by the Aggie women was second place in 2009.

Taking a collegiate-leading status into the NCAA Indoor Championships for Texas A&M are Devin Dixon (800m), Tahar Triki (triple jump) and the women’s 4x 400 relay.

Aggies who have previously scored in individual events at the indoor national championship meet include Jazmine Fray (800m), Carlton Orange (800m while at Arkansas) and Jacob Wooten (pole vault). Those returning who have scored on a relay include Dixon, Ilolo Izu, Jaevin Reed and Jarra Owens.

Dixon produced a school record of 1:45.27 this season, breaking the American collegiate record that was set in 1999. Dixon currently ranks third in the world for 2019 with that performance. His stellar indoor campaign also included a SEC leading 400m best of 45.68 as well as the world’s fastest ever indoor split of 44.24 on the 4x400 relay.

In defending his SEC Indoor title at 800m, Dixon chased down Mississippi State’s Marco Arop, who took over the lead with less than two laps remaining and built a 15m lead on the field. Dixon caught and passed Arop with 50m left in the race for the victory. Dixon also anchored the Aggie 4x400 with a 44.60 split as Texas A&M claimed a third consecutive conference title and its sixth over the past seven years.

Triki entered the season with an indoor best of 51-11 (15.82) in the triple jump from 2018 and improved that mark three times over the course of a month to an extraordinary leap of 56-2 (17.12) that claimed the SEC Indoor title by nearly three feet.

As runner-up in the Texas Tech Classic, Triki’s distance of 54-2 ½ (16.52) broke the Algerian national record of 54-1 ¼ (16.49) established in 1992. At Clemson’s Tiger Paw Invite, Triki answered the challenge from Virginia’s Jordan Scott, who generated collegiate-leading marks of 55-4 ½ (16.87) and 55-5 ½ (16.90), to win with a fifth-round collegiate-leading leap of 55-9 ¼ (17.00), breaking the Aggie school record of 54-10 (16.71) set in 2011 by Julian Reid.

At the SEC Championships, Triki produced his career best mark of 56-2 in the opening round to secure the victory. He became only the fourth person to win the SEC Indoor triple jump with a mark that surpassed 56 feet, joining elite company with that feat – Christian Taylor, Florida (56-11 ½, 2011); Walter Davis, LSU (56-2 ½, 2002); and Erick Walder, Arkansas (56-2, 1994).

The Aggie women twice posted world-leading times this indoor season in winning the 4x400 relay at Clemson with a 3:29.95 and then in winning their first-ever SEC Indoor title at 3:29.15. Those times rank second and third on the Texas A&M all-time list behind the school record of 3:28.36 set in 2017 when the Aggies finished third in the NCAA Championships.

While Poland took over the world lead with a 3:28.77 to win the European Championships this past weekend, Texas A&M still holds American and collegiate leading status while ranked second on the 2019 world list. The Aggies have won the event twice at NCAA Indoors, in 2009 and 2011, while placing second twice, in 2007 and 2008, and third twice, 2014 and 2017.

The top four collegiate times this season were set in the SEC Indoor with South Carolina (3:29.56), Florida (3:29.57) and Arkansas (3:29.69) finishing behind Texas A&M.

Three members of the A&M relay qualified for the 400m at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Syaira Richardson, who anchors the Aggie 4x400, leads the trio with a best of 52.09 that ranks third among collegians this season. She is joined by Tierra Robinson-Jones (52.52) and Julia Madubuike (5275). Additional legs on the relay include Reed and Owens.

In the men’s 4x400 relay, the Aggies have claimed the NCAA Indoor title four times since 2010. Last year A&M finished second to USC, but set a world record with the 3:01.39 runner-up performance. Dixon and Izu return from last year’s relay squad and are joined by Bryce Deadmon and Kyree Johnson.

Deadmon has qualified for the 400m as well with his season best of 45.82 and was a bronze medalist in the SEC meet with a clocking of 46.55.

In the 4x400 relay, the Aggies ran a season best of 3:01.56 in placing second to Houston’s world-leading 3:01.51 at Clemson. Those pair of times rank second and third best on the American all-time list as well as fourth and fifth best on the all-time world list.

Fray, who won her second SEC Indoor 800m title this season, has placed fourth (2017) and fifth (2018) in the NCAA Indoor 800m. The collegiate record holder at 2:00.69, Fray has a season best of 2:05.42 that she ran in winning the conference meet.

Orange, who finished third in the conference 800m, placed sixth in the 2016 NCAA Indoor 800m when he was with the Razorbacks. His time of 1:47.05 ranks fifth among collegians this season.

Wooten, who finished seventh a year ago, has qualified for his third NCAA Indoor pole vault with a career best mark of 18-9 ¼ (5.72) that ranks fifth among collegians this season. Wooten is one of seven seniors in the field of 16, which includes five freshman.

Nathan Hite qualified in the heptathlon after scoring a career best of 5,680 points in securing the bronze medal at the SEC Indoor. His score ranks 10th among the field competing at NCAA Indoor, but only 100 points separates the sixth ranked entry from Hite.

Brenessa Thompson qualified for the 200m field as she improved her Guyana national record to 23.02 this season. Deborah Acquah used a final round long jump of 20-8 ½ (6.18) to earn a silver medal at the SEC Indoor and earn a qualifying mark for the national meet. Ciynamon Stevenson also produced her best effort in the triple jump during the conference meet in reaching a distance of 43-8 (13.31).