Aggies ready to challenge for national titles in familiar setting

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AUSTIN – Texas A&M’s journey to the NCAA Championships takes them to a familiar setting as Mike A. Myers Stadium serves as host this week from June 5-8. As the site for the annual Texas Relays in late March, the Aggies have enjoyed successful weekends at the venue, earning team of the meet honors on numerous occasions, including this year.

National championships are the goal for Texas A&M this week as the Aggies have a crew of 26 athletes, which includes relay alternates, keen to complete the collegiate season with a flourish.

“We’re ready to go, we enjoy running at this stadium and it’s a great facility,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry, in his 15th season with the Aggies. “Now it’s about being confident in who you are and confident in your ability to perform at the level that it dictates to be successful here. We’ve had a lot of rehearsals and done a lot of things to get to this point. Now they have to be prepared to do it when it really counts. That’s this weekend.”

Texas A&M women, ranked No. 4 in the most recent team index ratings by USTFCCCA, have 10 entries from nine athletes in eight events. The Aggie men, ranked No. 5, sport 12 entries from 12 athletes in eight events.

The women’s national rankings heading into the NCAA Championships include: 1. Arkansas, 2. USC, 3. Florida State, 4. Texas A&M, 5. Alabama, 6. LSU, 7. New Mexico, 8. Oregon, 9. Kentucky and 10. Florida. The men’s national rankings include: 1. Texas Tech, 2. Florida, 3. LSU, 4. BYU, 5. Texas A&M, 6. Oregon, 7. Houston, 8. Texas, 9. USC, and 10. North Carolina A&T.

“It’s the elites that win this track meet,” noted Henry. “If you have a great athlete and their best performance places third, then those are great points. This is one of the best track meets in the world, not just on the collegiate level. To be successful at this meet takes a huge performance and you have to be ready to do your best. So, the environment’s here, we’ll see what we’re able to do.”

The Aggies feature a pair of individual collegiate leaders in Devin Dixon (1:44.76) and Jazmine Fray (2:02.27) for the 800m. Dixon, who claimed a third consecutive SEC title when he broke a 12-year-old meet record with his collegiate leading performance, placed seventh as a freshman and fifth as a sophomore in previous NCAA meets. Fray finished eighth last season after leading the field through 600m.

Joining Dixon in the 800m is teammate Carlton Orange, who finished 13th in the 2017 NCAA semifinal when he was at Arkansas. They will race in the same first semifinal heat in Austin, where the top two finishers plus the next two fastest times advance to the final, along with NCAA Indoor champion Bryce Hoppel of Kansas.

Dixon is also part of A&M’s collegiate-leading 4x400 relay, which posted a time of 3:01.77 in claiming the SEC title for a third consecutive year. Dixon supplied the Aggies with a 43.92 anchor leg last season during a NCAA silver medal finish in 2:59.91.

Returning with Dixon from last year’s relay are Bryce Deadmon, Kyree Johnson and Ilolo Izu along with Robert Grant, who ran on Texas A&M’s winning effort of 2:59.98 in 2017.

Grant, who missed the 2018 outdoor season due to an injury, also returns in the 400m hurdles, an event he placed fourth in 2016 and eighth in 2017 after a fall halfway through the race. He will be joined by teammate Infinite Tucker, who finished eighth last season.

Recently Tucker and Grant finished first and second in the SEC 400m hurdles posting season best times of 49.38 and 49.47, respectively. Their main challenger at the national meet will likely be South Carolina’s Quincy Hall, the SEC 400m champion, who opted to compete in the 400m hurdles in the NCAA East Preliminary round and produced a collegiate-leading time of 48.54 seconds.

Fray was part of the women’s 4x400 crew that finished fourth in the 2017 NCAA final and ran on the relay for A&M during the NCAA West as the Aggies ran a season best time of 3:29.01 with a squad that included Jarra Owens, Tierra Robinson-Jones and Syaira Richardson.

Richardson and Robinson-Jones both advanced to the NCAA semifinal in the 400m. Richardson, who produced a career best of 51.17 as SEC runner-up, currently ranks third among collegians this season and is the fifth fastest American. Robinson-Jones, who ran a career best of 52.32 in placing seventh at SEC, is the only freshman to reach the NCAA 400m semifinal.

Jacob Wooten has qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championship field in the pole vault for the fourth consecutive year. He placed 12th as a freshman, improved to fifth place as a sophomore and finished fourth last season. Carl Johansson, who finished 18th in 2017, joins Wooten in the vault after securing one of the final three advancing places among a four person jump-off at the NCAA West.

Deborah Acquah was a surprise silver medalist in the long jump at NCAA Indoor with a career best leap of 21-2 ½ (6.46). She has improved her outdoor best twice to 21-0 ¾ (6.42) in placing fourth at SEC Championships and 21-1 ½ (6.44) in leading the NCAA West field.

Tyra Gittens totaled 22 points for A&M in three events at the SEC Championships and qualified for the NCAA field in the high jump and heptathlon, scoring 5,793 points. During the Texas Relays she produced a first day score of 3,709 points, which included a career best high jump of 6-1 ½ (1.87), but didn’t complete the second day.

Last season, Gittens produced a score of 6,074 points to win the SEC title and break the A&M school record. She then finished eighth in the NCAA heptathlon with 5,748 points.

Nathan Hite claimed the SEC decathlon title with 7,468 points, upgrading from the bronze he claimed the previous year. Earlier this season Hite produced a career best score of 7,774 points in winning the decathlon at the Texas Relays.

Winning the Texas Relays decathlon has preceded NCAA titles for Aggie Lindon Victor (2017), Mike Morrison of Cal (2011), Oregon’s Ashton Eaton (2010), Trey Hardee of Texas (2005), Oregon’s Santiago Lorenzo (2001), and Drew Fucci of Southwest Texas State (1990).

The Aggie men compete first on Wednesday with Hite in the decathlon, starting at 2:30 p.m., while Carl Johansson and Jacob Wooten compete in the pole vault at 6:30 p.m. and the combo of Sam Hardin and William Petersson contest the javelin at 6:45 p.m.

Semifinal races begin at 7:46 p.m. and include Jace Comick (100m), Deadmon (400m), Dixon and Orange (800m), Grant and Tucker (400m hurdles) along with the 4x400 relay.

While Thursday is the women’s first day of competition, Hite will continue the decathlon, beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday evening events for the Aggies include Maddy Stulce in the javelin at 8:15 p.m. along with Acquah in the long jump at 8:30 p.m. Semifinal races, starting at 8:30 p.m., include Richardson and Robinson-Jones (400m), Fray (800m), and the 4x400 relay.

Gittens starts the heptathlon at 2:30 p.m. on Friday when finals are contested in men’s events. Gittens continues the heptathlon on Saturday and will compete in the high jump at 5 p.m. while LaJarvia Brown and Ciynamon Stevenson begin the triple jump at 5:40 p.m.

NCAA Track & Field Championships – June 5-8, 2019

Broadcast Times

Wednesday: 2:30 to 10 p.m. (ESPN3), 6:30 to 10 p.m. (ESPN2)

Thursday: 1 to 10:30 p.m. (ESPN3), 7 to 8 p.m. (ESPNU), 8 to 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Friday: 2:30 to 10 p.m. (ESPN3), 7:30 to 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday: 1:30 to 8 p.m. (ESPN3), 5:30 to 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Aggies schedule in Austin at Mike A. Myers Stadium

Wednesday, June 5

2:30 p.m. M Decathlon 100m Nathan Hite

3:10 p.m. M Decathlon Long Jump Nathan Hite

4:25 p.m. M Decathlon Shot Put Nathan Hite

5:40 p.m. M Decathlon High Jump Nathan Hite

6:30 p.m. M FINAL Pole Vault Carl Johansson, Jacob Wooten

6:45 p.m. M FINAL Javelin Sam Hardin, William Petersson

7:46 p.m. M Semifinal 100m Jace Comick

8:00 p.m. M Semifinal 400m Bryce Deadmon

8:14 p.m. M Semifinal 800m Devin Dixon, Carlton Orange

8:30 p.m. M Semifinal 400m Hurdles Robert Grant, Infinite Tucker

8:56 p.m. M Decathlon 400m Nathan Hite

9:48 p.m. M Semifinal 4x400 Relay Texas A&M

Thursday, June 6

1:00 p.m. M Decathlon 110m Hurdles Nathan Hite

1:50 p.m. M Decathlon Discus Nathan Hite

3:00 p.m. M Decathlon Pole Vault Nathan Hite

5:30 p.m. M Decathlon Javelin Nathan Hite

8:15 p.m. W FINAL Javelin Maddy Stulce

8:30 p.m. W FINAL Long Jump Deborah Acquah

8:30 p.m. W Semifinal 400m Syaira Richardson, Tierra Robinson-Jones

8:44 p.m. W Semifinal 800m Jazmine Fray

9:26 p.m. M Decathlon 1,500m Nathan Hite

10:18 p.m. M Semifinal 4x400 Relay Texas A&M

Friday, June 7

2:30 p.m. W Heptathlon 100m Hurdles Tyra Gittens

3:30 p.m. W Heptathlon High Jump Tyra Gittens

5:30 p.m. W Heptathlon Shot Put Tyra Gittens

8:22 p.m. M FINAL 100m (Jace Comick)

8:32 p.m. M FINAL 400m (Bryce Deadmon)

8:44 p.m. M FINAL 800m (Devin Dixon, Carlton Orange)

8:57 p.m. M FINAL 400m Hurdles (Robert Grant, Infinite Tucker)

9:13 p.m. W Heptathlon 200m Tyra Gittens

9:51 p.m. M FINAL 4x400 Relay (Texas A&M)

Saturday, June 8

1:30 p.m. W Heptathlon Long Jump Tyra Gittens

2:45 p.m. W Heptathlon Javelin Tyra Gittens

5:00 p.m. W FINAL High Jump Tyra Gittens

5:40 p.m. W FINAL Triple Jump LaJarvia Brown, Ciynamon Stevenson

6:32 p.m. W FINAL 400m (Syaira Richardson, Tierra Robinson-Jones)

6:44 p.m. W FINAL 800m (Jazmine Fray)

7:13 p.m. W Heptathlon 800m Tyra Gittens

7:51 p.m. W FINAL 4x400 Relay (Texas A&M)