AUSTIN – Texas A&M placed fourth in the women’s NCAA Outdoor Championships on the final day at Mike A. Myers Stadium as the Aggies scored 38 points with a win by Jazmine Fray in the 800m, a school record and world-leading victory in the 4x400 relay along with a silver medal performance by Tyra Gittens in the heptathlon.
Arkansas claimed the team title with 64 points with USC runner-up at 57 and LSU third with 43. Finishing behind A&M’s 38 points were Oregon (34), Florida (32), Alabama (29), New Mexico (27), Colorado (24), and in a four-way tie for tenth at 20 points were Texas, South Carolina, Stanford, and Florida State.
Texas A&M’s team performance marks its highest finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since placing third at the 2015 national meet.
“I felt like we were capable of doing this,” stated Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “The kids ran really well, and that relay time is very fast. We included Jazmine on the relay and that’s a really tough decision since there is only about 35 to 45 minutes from her 800m race. She has trained so well and she can bounce back.”
Fray improved her 2019 collegiate leading time to 2:01.31 and broke the facility record in the process. After leading the field throughout the race, including a split of 60.89 at 400m, Fray withstood the challenge from Penn’s Nia Akins, who pulled even with Fray with 70m left in the race.
In answering the challenge, Fray was able to pull away slightly and beat Akins (2:01.67) to the finish line. UNLV’s Avi’ Tal Wilson-Perteete (2:02.20) placed third with Oregon’s Susa Ejore (2:02.26) fourth.
“I felt Nia coming up on me and I thought that was good, because she was going to push me to go,” said Fray. “I was trying to make it less stressful as possible, not to panic. I just wanted to make sure I was going with her to the finish line. It turned out well.”
Fray’s time is the No. 2 performance on the A&M all-time list, trailing only her school record of 2:01.18 from 2018. It’s the second consecutive year for an Aggie to win the women’s 800m following Sammy Watson’s victory in 2018.
Texas A&M remains No. 6 on the all-time collegiate list as the Aggie crew of Tierra Robinson-Jones (52.2), Jaevin Reed (51.1), Fray (51.38) and Syaira Richardson (50.83) broke the school record of 3:25.63 set in 2014 with their relay victory.
The last time Texas A&M swept the men’s and women’s NCAA Outdoor 4x400 relay titles was in 2011 when the Aggies claimed both team championships for the third consecutive year.
When Fray moved into the lead with 100m left on her third leg carry in the relay, a collision behind her caused havoc with the rest of the field.
Giving Richardson the lead on her anchor leg the field gave chase. Arkansas and USC were tied for the team lead heading into the final event and it was the Razorbacks claiming second in the race in 3:25.89 to secure the team victory.
“Coming after the 400m, it’s always tough to run the 4x400, but we train for it,” said Richardson. “It’s mentally tough and knowing this level of competition every anchor is an elite 400m runner. It could have been anyone’s race. This was the first time we ran this group together. Everyone executed their leg and ended up the way it was supposed to be.”
SEC schools claimed the top six places in the relay with South Carolina (3:26.90), Florida (3:27.02), Alabama (3:27.12), and Kentucky (3:29.13) finishing behind A&M and Arkansas. USC (3:35.55), who had a runner fall and had to retrieve the baton, placed eighth.
Gittens completed the heptathlon with 6,049 points, finishing 173 points behind Ashtin Zamzow of Texas (6,222). It marks the highest finish by an Aggie in the NCAA heptathlon, bettering the fourth place by Daphne Fitzpatrick in 2011. The score by Gittens is the No. 2 performance on the A&M all-time list.
“She’s turning into a competitor,” noted Henry. “I was a little worried for her going into that last run at 800m, but she held on for second and had a great score.”
The second day started with a 20-8 ½ (6.31) long jump by Gittens for 946 points. In the javelin, though, a mark of 109-0 (33.22) limited her to 538 points as Zamzow claimed the lead by 60 points. A 2:29.99 in the 800m added 693 points as she remained in the silver medal position.
Bronze medalist Michelle Atherley (6,014) clocked 2:10.50 in the 800m and came within 35 points of Gittens.
Richardson also placed seventh in the 400m with a time of 51.98 while Ciynamon Stevenson placed seventh in the triple jump with a leap of 43-10 (13.36) as each added a pair of points to the Aggie score. LaJarvia Brown finished 19th with a mark of 42-4 (12.90).
After throwing the javelin before the 800m, Gittens competed in the high jump and finished in a three-way tie for 16th place with a clearance of 5-8 ¾ (1.75).