Florida, Texas A&M Split Men’s NCAA DI Outdoor Team Title
EUGENE, Ore. – It couldn’t have ended better for Florida. It couldn’t have ended worse for Texas A&M.
Going into the final event Saturday at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the Texas A&M men held a nine-point lead ahead of second-place Florida in the team standings.
That meant the Aggies would have to finish last in the 4×400 relay and the Gators would have to finish first in order for Texas A&M to lose sole possession of first place.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Going into the first handoff, Texas A&M runners Ricky Babineaux and Aldrich Bailey Jr. let the baton fall to the track. Babineaux picked it up, and the final three runners ran valiantly to try to catch up, but in the most improbable hypothetical coming to life, Texas A&M indeed finished the race last while Florida’s team crossed the line first.
The two Southeastern Conference rivals each scored 53 points for the first shared NCAA title since 1978. Arkansas was third with 46.5.
“The goal was for us to win the relay,” Florida coach Mike Holloway said. “I just told the guys, let’s go win the relay. We don’t see it as Texas A&M dropping the baton; we see it as we didn’t drop it. Success is where preparation meets opportunity. We had an opportunity, and we were prepared.”
The result keeps the NCAA title in familiar territory: Texas A&M won three consecutive outdoor titles from 2009–11 before Florida won in 2012.
The team competition looked up for grabs coming into Saturday, the fourth and final day at historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon’s campus. USC and Texas shared the lead with 32 points apiece while Texas A&M was fifth with 21 and Florida was 11th with 15.
However, both schools had big final days to move into the lead. Florida opened Saturday with a win in the 4×100 relay before adding senior Omar Craddock’s triple jump title and the 4×400 relay. For Texas A&M, senior Sam Humphreys won the javelin, senior Ameer Webb won the 200 meters and junior Wayne Davis II won the 110 hurdles. Neither team had any first-place finishes before Saturday.
“We’re elated for our team,” Texas A&M coach Pat Henry said. “We win the javelin, hurdles and 200. Our team was on a roll and doing some things really well. It’s just tough that … something happens on the first exchange of the 4×400. That’s the way it is with track and field. You have to [have] everything right, and it certainly has to be right when it comes to that relay.”
The biggest individual battle this week came Friday in the high jump. Kansas State senior Erik Kynard and Indiana senior Derek Drouin have battled for supremacy over the years both on the NCAA and Olympic level. In 2012, Team USA’s Kynard won the Olympic silver medal while Canada’s Drouin won the bronze medal.
In Eugene, however, Drouin got the final collegiate bragging rights. He won with a final jump of 2.34m (7-08.00), adding to his 2010 outdoor title and 2013 indoor title. Kynard, the two-time defending outdoor champion, finished second at 2.31m (7-07.00).
Drouin, who is normally emotionless while competing, raised his hands to start a slow clap before his final jump at 2.39m, which would have broken a collegiate record set in 1989.
“I figured it was my last collegiate jump so I tried to get the fans into it,” Drouin said.
Also ending his season on a high note was Arizona junior Lawi Lalang. On Thursday he claimed his sixth overall NCAA title, including cross country, by winning the 10,000 meters. His time of 29:29.65, in only his third career 10K, was 11.62 seconds faster than second-place finisher Paul Katam of UNC-Greensboro.
“I tried to hold back a little bit [Saturday], but I am feeling good,” Lalang said afterward.
On Saturday, Lalang added one more national title when he took the 5,000 meters in 13:35.19 — more than five seconds in front of the second-place finisher, Paul Chelimo of UNC-Greensboro. With the win, Lalang became only the 12th person to claim the 10k-5k double in an NCAA championships.
Arizona State senior Jordan Clarke didn’t fare as well in his attempt to become the second athlete to win five consecutive NCAA shot put titles. Texas sophomore Ryan Crouser edged Clarke by 1.25 inches to claim the title. His final mark of 20.31m (66-7.75) came on his only legal throw in six attempts.
“Anytime you’re in the third round and need a mark, it’s not good, especially at a national championship,” said Crouser, who grew up less than two hours from Eugene. “On the third throw I just tried to turn and square up and I hit it.”
On Thursday, Crouser’s Texas teammate Johannes Hock topped a stacked decathlon field that saw six men score more than 8,000 points. Hock won with 8,267 points in the 10-event competition to become the second freshman to win the NCAA decathlon title.
“I knew I was ready and I gave it my all,” Hock said. “I was really confident with my running in workouts, but it’s always different at competitions.”
LSU senior and 2012 Jamaica Olympian Damar Forbes ended his collegiate long jumping career on a high note. After claiming eight runner-up finishes between the SEC and NCAA indoor and outdoor championships, Forbes won his first SEC title in May and claimed his first NCAA title on Thursday.
“I did what I wanted to do,” said Forbes, who also led off LSU’s fourth-place 4×100 relay team on Saturday. “It was a great feeling of getting the monkey off my back of second place.”
UCLA junior Julian Wruck, who came into the NCAA championships with the 25 farthest collegiate throws this season, including the collegiate record, overcame a slow start to win the discus title at 64.94m (213-01). It was his second NCAA title after claiming his first in 2011 while at Texas Tech.
Oregon, which finished fourth in front of its vocal home fans, had two first-place finishes from senior Elijah Greer in the 800 meters and junior Mac Fleet in the 1,500.
Photos courtesy of NCAA.com.