Pair of NCAA Indoor Championship medals highlight Aggies first day

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Texas A&M’s first day at the NCAA Indoor Championships produced a pair of medalists with Deborah Acquah claiming second in the long jump with a national record while Jacob Wooten finished third in the pole vault with a school record performance.

“It was a huge jump for Deborah, she’s just a great competitor,” stated Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “If you give her a shot to make the final, then she is going to take advantage of it. She’s a good athlete and a great competitor.

“The officials made a mistake in the pole vault and it cost Jacob. They admitted they made a mistake. It’s not a good situation for Jacob. Also, you never know what two points is going to do with the team score at the end of this track meet. I’m proud of Jacob, he did a great job.”

Aquah was ninth after the first three rounds of the long jump with a mark of 20-0 ½ (6.11) among the field of 16. With the top nine advancing to the final three rounds, Acquah secured the final place by one inch.

After a foul in round four, Acquah unleashed a career best leap of 21-2 ½ (6.46) that equaled the leading mark in the competition, which had been set by Jasmyn Steels of Northwestern State in the opening round. A second best mark of 21-1 ¼ (6.43) by Steels claimed the victory over Acquah’s second best effort of 20-0 ½.

“It wasn’t easy at first, during the qualifying rounds,” noted Acquah, who becomes just the second Aggie female to medal in the long jump at NCAA Indoor. “It came down to hard work. Just making the final three rounds was the edge I needed.

“When I saw the mark I had in the fifth round my reaction was, ‘Wooooooo’, I did it! I was so happy. It’s the happiest time of my life.”

The performance by Acquah broke the national record of Ghana and came within a quarter inch of the Aggie school record. She bettered the Ghana record of 20-9 ¾ (6.34) set in 2006 by Ruky Abdulai at Johnson City, Tennessee.

Acquah just missed the A&M school record set in 1998 by Adrian Sawyer as she moves to the No. 2 performer with the No. 2 performance on the Aggie all-time list. Sawyer, who has the top mark of 21-2 ¾ (6.47), was a bronze medalist at the 1998 NCAA Indoor with a mark of 21-2 (6.45).

Wooten had a third attempt clearance of 18-9 ½ (5.73) to break his own school record by a quarter of an inch. However, Wooten and the remaining vaulters in the field thought they were attempting a height of 18-7 ½ (5.68). After a set of vaulters missed three tries at the mis-measured height 18-9 ½, the bar was lowered to 18-7 ½ for another round of attempts by that crew.

“It was definitely surprising to have that happen here in this meet,” said Wooten. “It was a happy accident, I would say, for me.”

When the bar went to 18-11 ½ (5.78), only three vaulters remained. They included Wooten along with LSU’s Mondo Duplantis and Chris Nilsen of South Dakota.

Duplantis cleared 18-11 ½ on a second attempt and then cleared 19-1 ½ (5.83) on his first attempt for the victory. Nilsen missed three attempts at 18-11 ½, but held an advantage over Wooten on previous misses at earlier heights. So, Wooten passed a final attempt after missing 18-11 ½ twice, and then missed his only shot at 19-1 ½.

“I felt comfortable attempting the higher heights,” added Wooten. “I think I may have let my emotions get to me a little bit. I should have stayed clean with my earlier bars. I’m happy with the school record, but I’m still hungry.”

Advancing to the finals on Saturday were Devin Dixon and Jazmine Fray in the 800m. Dixon claimed his heat in 1:49.15 as he led the field throughout the race. Fray also led the field through 600m, and then finished third with a 2:06.94 to secure an automatic advancement to the final.

The three Aggies in the women’s 400m prelims – Syaira Richardson (53.19), Julia Madubuike (53.96) and Tierra Robinson-Jones (54.13) – placed 10th, 15th, and 16th overall while Bryce Deadmon did not finish his 400m prelim.

Carlton Orange ran 1:49.65 to finish seventh in the first heat of the 800m prelim and did not reach the final. A time of 23.35 for Brenessa Thompson placed her second in the 200m prelim and 11th overall with the top eight times advancing to the final.

Nathan Hite scored 3,025 points during the first day of the heptathlon and is in 14th place. Opening with a time of 7.00 in the 60 meters earned Hite 882 points. A long jump of 21-10 (6.64) added 732 points while a shot put of 45-3 (13.79) picked up 715 points. Completing the first day of the multi-event with the high jump, a clearance of 6-2 (1.88) scored 696 points.