Nathan Hite claims gold in SEC decathlon, Tyra Gittens earns silver and bronze

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FAYETTEVILLE – Texas A&M collected three medals on Friday’s portion of the SEC Championships held at John McDonnell Field as Nathan Hite captured decathlon gold while Tyra Gittens earned silver in the heptathlon and bronze in the long jump.

Through eight finals scored on the first two days of the conference championships, the Aggie women have 31 points while the men have 24. The SEC Championships conclude on Saturday.

Hite moved into the lead in the decathlon following the ninth event, the javelin, and held a 169-point lead on the runner-up, Chris Stone of Auburn (6711), with only the 1,500m remaining. Day one leader Gabe Moore of Arkansas had a no height in the pole vault, the eighth discipline among the 10 events.

A time of 4:53.47 wrapped up Hite’s decathlon victory with 598 points to reach a total of 7,468 points as a Texas A&M athlete won the conference decathlon for the third time in the past four seasons, joining the pair of titles achieved by Lindon Victor.

“It was incredible to win the decathlon,” said Hite, who has a set of three bronze medals from SEC multi-event competitions the past couple of seasons. “A lot happened the competition. I know I had to put a lot of work into it. So, I went in without expectations, but knew I was going to give it everything I have. It was enough and I’m so thankful to everyone who has been there to support me.”

Georgia’s Karel Tilga, in third place going into the 1,500m, registered a winning time of 4:40.80 for 675 points. He placed second overall with 7,236 points while Stone settled into bronze position at 7,212.

Hite, who scored 7,723 points as the bronze medalist a year ago, started the second day off with a 14.90 in the 110m hurdles for 862 points. A 128-2 (39.07) discus throw followed for 646 points. Clearing 14-5 ¼ (4.40) in the pole vault added 731. Then a javelin throw of 176-4 (53.74) picked up 644 points and moved Hite into the overall lead.

“Seeing Gabe go out with a no height in the pole vault was kind of tough since we were all competing together and we’ve become good friends,” noted Hite. “I knew the title was within reach at that point. I knew what I had to do.

“There was a lot less pressure in the 1,500m being the leader going in. I was relaxed and didn’t run quite as fast as I needed to at the Texas Relays. I just executed what I needed to do and was happy with it.”

Gittens came up nine points short of defending her conference heptathlon title with a score of 5,793 points, which ranks as the No. 10 performance on the Aggie all-time list for the A&M school record holder.

“I was disappointed with the overall outcome,” stated Gittens. “Today the long jump was ok and I had a season’s best in the javelin. The 800m has never been my best event, and this is the first time for me to run the 800m since my surgery. I just need to work on it.”

Starting the second day of the heptathlon with the long jump, Gittens acquired 930 points from a 20-6 ½ (6.26w) effort. Then a javelin throw of 129-1 (39.34) picked up 655 points. A time of 2:36.92 in the 800m scored 609 points to conclude the heptathlon.

Florida’s Amanda Froeynes closed the gap to Gittens with a 141-6 (43.13) javelin throw for 727 points and then clocked 2:11.97 in the 800m for 936 points to register a career best score of 5,801 points for the overall victory by eight points over Gittens.

As soon as the 800m in the heptathlon was completed and Gittens went through the medal ceremony, she was off to the long jump for another round of competition. Following a foul and an awkward attempt that measured 13-11 ¾ (4.26), Gittens tied the Texas A&M school record with an impressive leap of 21-5 ¼ (6.53). It equaled the mark set in 1997 by Adrien Sawyer.

“I was exhausted going into the long jump,” explained Gittens. “I could not catch my breath for the first jump. On the second jump I had the rhythm, but something just didn’t click. I knew the third jump was going to be it, because I felt pretty confident in the previous attempt. Once I got my foot on the board it was over.”

Deborah Acquah placed fourth in the long jump as a sixth round jump of 21-0 ¾ (6.42) moved her to No. 5 performer and equal No. 11 performance on the A&M all-time list. Gittens and Acquah combined for 11 team points in the event, while Gittens totaled 14 on the day.

In the 3,000m steeplechase Zephyr Seagraves ran a career best of 9:01.81 to finish fifth. A career best of 9:17.32 for Brandt Preston placed him 11th while Raymond Gonzales was 13th in 9:23.08.

Rachel Bernard finished seventh in the women’s steeplechase as she posted a career best of 10:32.64, the No. 3 performer and No. 4 performance on the A&M all-time list. Bernardo also had the top Aggie female finish in the event since joining the SEC. Ashton Hutcherson, who placed eighth twice in 2017 and 2017, finished 11th in 10:50.95.

Ciynamon Stevenson finished 12th in the long jump at 19-9 ¾ (6.04) while LaJarvia Brown (19-8 ¼) placed 15th and Taryn Milton (19-8 ¼w) was 16th. Mason Farley tied for 12th in the high jump and Alstian Walker finished 14th as both cleared 6-9 ½ (2.07). Celine Markert (155-6) placed 13th in the hammer while Gabe Oladipo (54-4) finished 14th in the shot put.

Qualifying races for Saturday finals had five Aggies advancing. The crew advancing included Gabrielle McDonald in the 100m hurdles, Bryce Deadmon in the 400m, Syaira Richardson and Tierra Robinson-Jones in the women’s 400m, and Brenessa Thompson in the 100m.

McDonald advanced in the 100m hurdles after qualifying in the 400m hurdles on Thursday. McDonald posted a time of 13.27 (0.2 wind), placing eighth overall to advance on time. Other Aggies in the 100m hurdle prelims included Kennedy Smith (13th, 13.53), Chinyere Njoku (16th, 13.59) and Taryn Milton (19th, 13.96).

Deadmon clocked 46.45 as runner-up in his heat to reach the final. Kyree Johnson placed 11th overall with a 46.82 while Roger Ethridge posted an outdoor career best of 47.47 to place 19th.

Richardson earned an automatic qualification to the final of the women’s 400m with a 51.96 to win her heat. Tierra Robinson-Jones registered a 52.84 from lane two as runner-up in another heat and advanced on time. Jaevin Reed (53.61) and Jarra Owens (53.96) raced in the same heat, placing 14th and 17th overall.

Thompson won her heat of the 100m in 11.54 (0.6 wind) while teammate Amber Ivy placed fifth in 11.77 to finish 18th overall. Diamond Spaulding ran 11.68 for fifth in another heat and placed 14th overall.

Jace Comick ran 10.39 as runner-up in the final prelim heat of the 100m to place 10th overall. The last time qualifier for the final in ninth place was 10.37. Taylor Clayton placed sixth in his heat of the 1,500m with a time of 3:56.01 to place 20th overall.