Top Ranked Texas A&M Sweeps NCAA Outdoor Titles

By Keith Nunez, USTFCCCA

June 15, 2009   

Link to Results

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Texas A&M Track & Field Saturday, June 13, 2009

A pair of determined runner-up performances pushed Texas A&M into the points lead for a pair of national titles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at John McDonnell Field on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies became the first school to win both team championships since 1990.

In the men’s final race senior Justin Oliver delivered the anchor leg of his career in placing second for eight points that moved A&M into the title position with 48 points over a three-way tie for second at 46 points between Oregon, Florida and Florida State. It’s the third straight year for A&M to place third in the NCAA 4 x 400.

"We’re the national champions," declared Oliver. "Texas A&M, no one else. That’s all I could say when I finished the race. We did it! We did it!"

In winning the men’s title the Aggies prevented Oregon from winning all three NCAA titles in a school year as the Ducks had already claimed cross country and indoor crowns this past season. Texas A&M also stopped the run of three consecutive NCAA outdoor titles by Florida State.

The key women’s points arrived in the triple jump from senior Yasmine Regis, the final event involving the Aggies on the compact, but very exciting and drama-filled day.

"I knew I was the last event to go on," said Regis, who was in sixth place going into the final three rounds. "I was trying to rack up the most points I could for my teammates. It started off pretty rocky, but I dug deep and I pulled out what I needed to do.

"I placed the highest I’ve ever placed in my senior year. I’m grateful and thankful. Our team won the national championship. We’re very happy. It’s an amazing feeling."

A flurry of points from Aggie sprinters and jumpers turned the fourth day of action into Championship Saturday for Texas A&M as they claimed the program’s first national titles. The last school to sweep the titles in the same NCAA Outdoor Championships was LSU in 1989 and 1990 with Henry serving as head coach.

"This is a special championship for us," noted Aggie head coach Pat Henry, who is in his fifth season at Texas A&M. "This is our first graduating class. We’re extremely pleased, my staff worked very hard and this is a very gratifying pair of championships for this team."

The Aggie women totaled 50 points with Porscha Lucas winning the 200 (22.81) as Jessica Beard placed second in the 400 (school record 50.56) and Regis claimed unexpected points in the triple jump (45-4.25 / 13.82) with a runner-up effort. In addition Gabby Mayo placed fourth in the 100 hurdles (13.21).

With 31 points on the day, the A&M women passed team leader Oregon for the NCAA team championship. The Ducks were second with 43 points while Arizona State placed third with 41. Florida State finished fourth with 40 points while Texas was fifth at 36.

Prior to the heroics in the 4 x 400 relay, the Aggie men received a vital scoring boost from the triple jump. Four A&M jumpers were among the final field of 12 and Julian Reid, Zuheir Sharif, Tyron Stewart and Melvin Echard each advanced to the final three rounds when the field is reduced to nine.

Reid led the Aggie crew with a windy 56-1.25 (17.10) as the runner-up to Oklahoma’s Will Clay, who won with a windy 56-6.25 (17.24). Florida’s Christian Taylor, the NCAA Indoor winner, placed third with a wind-aided 55-5.75 (16.91).

Sharif hit 55-0 (16.76) on the dot for fourth place as Tyron Stewart (53-4.5 / 16.27) finished sixth and Melvin Echard placed seventh (52-8.75 / 16.07).

"We had our team meeting this morning with Coach Henry and I’ve never heard such consistency and confidence in his voice when he told us both teams could win," Sharif said. "I think with that it just set the momentum in order for us to know that no matter the circumstances we had to be in that triple jump final.

"When we got into that final, from that point on it was just maintaining and building the momentum we had. It’s all about the endurance. But it was nerve-wracking watching the outcome of the 4 x 400. I’m at a loss for words, I can’t believe what we jumped today, I can’t believe we are national champions."

Placing second, fourth, sixth and seventh contributed 18 points to the Aggie cause. Last season none of these same four triple jumpers reached the final after the qualifying round.

Eight more points from the 200 final and one point in the 400 final gave A&M 40 points heading into the final relay. Gerald Phiri (20.83) and Chris Dykes (21.05) finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 200. Bryan Miller (45.91) placed eighth in the 400.

Oregon still led the field with 46 points while Florida was in second place with 41 and Florida State was fourth at 36 with only the 1,600-meter relay remaining.

The Seminoles were expected to win the 4×4 and they did with a 2:59.99 to reach a score of 46. The Aggies, meanwhile were predicted for third place.

Those six points would also have A&M at 46, but Oliver ran a split of 44.20 on the anchor leg as the Aggies placed second ahead of a Baylor squad (3:00.91 to 3:01.12) that had won 42 consecutive finals in this event and the last two national titles.

The eight points for second place moved Texas A&M to a final total of 48 while a fourth place finish by Florida earned the Gators five points for a 46 tally. The effort by Oliver and the Aggie 4 x 400 crew prevented a four-way tie for the team title.

"You don’t run for third place, you run for the victory," Oliver stated. "The position the rest of the relay put me in, I was second and I wanted to maintain that position.

"When it got to the 300 mark and I saw that I’m still in second place, I see the finish line and I can see the trophy waiting on me. Drive, that’s all I thought, just drive. Put them up and put them down, and pump my arms. When I finally crossed the line a million tons came off my back from all the hard work I’ve been putting in over the years."

In the process of securing the points needed to win the national championship, the A&M foursome of Tran Howell, Bryan Miller, Kyle Dykhuizen and Oliver equaled the school record of 3:00.91 set in 1989 at the NCAA meet in Provo by Stanley Kerr, Derrick Florence, Errington Lindo and Howard Davis.

CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES: The last school to win both men’s and women’s team titles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships was LSU in 1990. They also achieved the feat in 1989 with A&M head coach Pat Henry at the helm.

For Henry this marks the 13th women’s NCAA title during the outdoor national meet he has claimed, 12 of which came while he was at LSU. It’s the fourth men’s championship in the NCAA Outdoor, three previously with LSU.

In winning the first ever NCAA Championships for the Texas A&M track and field program, Henry achieves his 28th and 29th national titles on the Division I level. He also had two championship teams at Blinn Junior College in Brenham back in 1987.

Big 12: The only other Big 12 school to ever win an NCAA men’s outdoor title is Kansas (1959, 1960, and 1970). Texas A&M men’s title is the first by a current Big 12 member since Kansas in 1970.

Texas A&M: In addition to the recent golf national championship claimed by Texas A&M, the Aggies have now won three NCAA titles in one season. A fourth national title attained by the A&M equestrian team this year came in a sport not yet recognized by the NCAA.