http://www.ncataggies.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=24500&ATCLID=211606000Aggies Send Record Number to Regionals
Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information
GREENSBORO (May 24, 2017) – Before earning a pass to the 2017 NCAA Championships, the North A&T men's and women's outdoor track and field athletes must first advance through the NCAA Division I Track and Field East Preliminary Round (east regionals) this weekend. From May 25-27, the athletes will sift through the first rounds and quarterfinals of their respective events while competing in Lexington, Ky.
This season the Aggies will send a school-record 20 athletes to the east regionals with 19 making the trip. The old A&T record was 18 set in 2009. Redshirt junior Todd Townsend decided to forgo competition due to injury.
“That's better than last year and definitely better than the year before that, so I'm pleased and the staff is pleased,” said the director of track and field programs Duane Ross. “And the team is happy to have the comradery there. It's not just one or two athletes going, like there has been in the past, where they feel it's them against the world. They have their teammates and that support system so they're happy.”
The Aggies will start competition with the first round of the women's 100 meters on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Junior India Brown, who ranks 14th (11.34) will be the sole representative for the women as she faces some tough athletes from LSU. LSU has three ladies ranked in the top-five including the top-qualifier Aleia Hobbs who boasts a 10.85 in the event.
The men's 100 will follow at 6:55 p.m. On the men's side, the Aggies have senior Christopher Belcher (9.99) who ranks sixth, senior Caleb Gabriel (10.18) who ranks 11th, and sophomore Rodney Rowe (10.28) who ranks 24th. Although last year's highest qualifying mark in the 100m was 9.99 (Tevin Hester), this year Belcher will have even stiffer competition from the likes of Tennessee's Christian Coleman (9.93), who leads the qualifiers, and Mississippi State's Lawrence Crawford (9.97).
Junior Dajuan Harding will be the last sprinter on Thursday as the 400m starts at 7:45 p.m. Harding's 46.18 in the 400 is 17th, but less than two seconds separates Harding from 44.52, the time ran by No. 1 ranked Nathon Allen of Auburn. Freshman Madeleine Akobundu will be the only field performer on the day as she tackles the first round of the long jump at 7:15 p.m. Akobundu's jump of 20-feet, 8 ½-inches has her listed 21st in the east region.
On Friday, the sprinters who advanced through the first rounds will return for the quarterfinals in the 100m and 400m events. The day begins, however, with the first round of the women's 100-meter hurdles at 4:30 p.m. followed by the men's 110mh at 5 p.m. Hurdling for the women will be sophomore Kayla White (13.16) and junior Morgan Knight (13.49). White is ninth in the region. To advance, White will need to keep her sprints close to 13 seconds flat because the Top-5 women are under it.
Devynne Charlton of Purdue owns the top 100mh time (12.67). Townsend's withdrawal means three Aggies – sophomore Michael Dickson (13.84), senior TeQuille Jackson (13.92) and freshman Robert Miller (14.09) – will compete to advance to championships. Dickson and Jackson are ranked 13th and 16th respectively. The event is led by Chad Zallow (13.37) from Youngstown State and Grant Holloway (13.42) from Florida.
Friday will also hold the first rounds of the 200m events, in which the Aggies will see their exact same sprinters from the 100m. For the women, Brown (22.98) ranks 12th, and for the men Belcher (20.59) is 13th, Rowe (20.61) is 14th, and Gabriel (20.69) sits at 17th. Brown's fiercest competitor in the 200m is likely to be Kyra Jefferson from the Florida who leads with a 22.43 sprint. The men will again see rivalry with Coleman (19.98) of Tennessee who is ranked first in the 200.
Saturday will be the final day of the east regionals and the Aggies will see the last of their first-round competitions as sophomores Lasheon Strozier and Anisa Toppin participate in the triple jump. Strozier claimed a season-best 51-feet, 10-inches that placed him 20th on the east qualifying list while Toppin secured a jump of 41-feet, 2 ½-inches that has her ranked 46th. The men's triple jump is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday and the women will jump at 6 p.m. Running events on Saturday will also start at 6 p.m. In addition to the quarterfinals for the 200m, 110m hurdles, and 100m hurdles the Aggies will also compete in quarterfinals of the men's and women's 4x100 and the men's 4x400.
“Our goal was to win conference and then get to the national championships and make some noise and be relevant at championships,” stated Ross. “This has been the goal since day one, and I think we're better prepared than we were last year.”