Trinbagonian athletes Deon Lendore (400), Wayne Davis II (110m hurdles) and Janeil Bellille (400m) are ready to help Texas A&M win this weekend NCAA Indoor Championships to be hosted by the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Texas A&M enters the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend ranked third in the nation for both the men and women as the Aggies attempt to claim a first-ever indoor national team title at the national meet hosted by the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Coverage of the NCAA Indoors will be available on ESPN3.com this Friday and Saturday. Then a broadcast of the meet will be shown on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 22.
Entering the meet with four national leaders, the Aggies are eager to improve upon their team finish from a year ago at the NCAA Indoor. The A&M men placed fourth with 30 points and the Aggie women were 12th with 18 points.
“We’re excited about the competition coming up and it should be a tremendous meet,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “It’s going to come down to the team that has the least amount of mistakes or the team that has the most amount of outstanding performances. Our team will be ready, and we are looking forward the match-ups we will have and the competition overall.”
The collegiate leaders among the A&M squad include Kamaria Brown (200), Deon Lendore (400), Brea Garrett (weight) and the men’s 4×400 relay. Also, Prezel Hardy, Jr. is now the top seed in the 60 meters with his A&M school record of 6.56.
Lendore is the world leader at 400 meters with a school record of 45.03, which he ran to defend his SEC Indoor title. He remained the world leader even after the World Indoor Championships held this past weekend in Poland. Lendore also runs the anchor leg of the Aggie 4×400 that set a collegiate record of 3:03.20 in defending their SEC title.
“It’s always good to see how long you can remain the world leader, but going into nationals a lot of people will be trying to take me down,” said Lendore. “I know the target is on my back. I have an open mind of other people and what they are capable of doing as well. I’m not going out there thinking I’m the best, but I know if I’m able to do what needs to be done I can also be victorious on that day.”
A calf injury during the 2013 NCAA Indoor hampered Lendore’s effort in the final of the 400 meters and kept him from running on the 4×400 relay, which placed fourth. He led the 400 final until the final stages of the race and ended up sixth overall with a time of 46.10 as he placed third in his section. At the NCAA Outdoor meet, Lendore rebounded with a runner-up finish with a career best time of 44.94.
“Right now I’m working on staying healthy through this week and listening to what coach has to say,” noted Lendore. “Last year I didn’t take care of my body like I should have. I’m focused in doing everything that is necessary to go out there and have a good day this weekend. It’s the simple preparation for the big day.
“After breaking the relay collegiate record in conference we know more than likely it’s going to be broken again at nationals. We’re just going out there trying to have a good race. I’m not focused on breaking the record again, I just hope we have a good race and get the win. If the win comes with another collegiate record I’ll be happy to have that too.”
Brown tops the world list in the 200 meters with the 22.50 school record she set in winning the SEC title. Brown also added a SEC title in the 400 meters, where she ran a collegiate leading time of 50.94, but will not contest that event this weekend. Instead she will be part of the Aggie 4×400 relay in addition to the 200.
Last season Brown placed fourth in the 200 with a 22.90 and is the top returning finalist. The winning time in the event last season was 22.58 by LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan.
“At this level of competition it’s very difficult to do the 200-400 double,” stated Henry. “It’s difficult enough at the SEC Championships, but at the NCAA meet the 200 prelims and final are contested on the first day along with the 400 prelims. Having Brown on the 4×400 will make our team better. She’s one of the best quarter-milers, if not the best, in this country.”
Brea Garrett improved her school record by six feet in establishing the collegiate leading mark of 74-4.25 (22.66) this season. Garrett recently repeated her second place finish in the SEC Championships to defending champion Denise Hinton of LSU. Last year’s NCAA final in the weight throw included 10 seniors with eight claiming all the scoring positions.
The Aggies have nine entries for the men and eight for the women in sprint/hurdles events. That tally includes four entries in the men’s 200, three entries in the women’s 60 and 200 as well as a couple of entries in the women’s 400 and men’s 60 meters.
Wayne Davis II is the top returning finisher from last season for A&M. He placed second in the 60 hurdles with a school record effort of 7.59 seconds. Davis will have another encounter with Florida’s Eddie Lovett, who is the defending NCAA champion and recently claimed his fourth consecutive SEC title. Last season Lovett broke the NCAA Indoor meet record with a 7.50 winning time.
The Aggie foursome in the men’s 200 includes Shavez Hart (20.66), Aldrich Bailey, Jr. (20.69), Hardy (20.70) and Michael Bryan (20.89). Lendore could have been a fifth entry in the event for A&M with his lone race of 20.68 this season. Hart (6.65) also joins Hardy in the 60 meters.
The trio of Aggies in the women’s 60 includes Olivia Ekponé (7.25), Jennifer Madu (7.25) and Aaliyah Brown (7.30). Ekponé (23.10) also joins Brown in the 200 along with Ashton Purvis (23.23). In the 400 A&M is represented by Shamier Little (51.86), the top freshman in the nation, and Janeil Bellille (52.58).
In the field events LaQue Moen-Davis qualified for nationals in both the long jump and triple jump for the second consecutive year with marks of 20-6.25 (6.25) and 44-3.25 (13.49). Jena Hemann made her first indoor nationals in the pentathlon, where she set a school record of 4,079 in placing seventh at the SEC Championships. The lone field event entry for the men is Chase Wolfle in the pole vault, where his career best of 17-11 (5.46) placed him third in the SEC Indoor.
Florida is ranked No. 1 in both genders as they battle four-time defending NCAA Indoor Champions Oregon in the women’s field and defending champion Arkansas in the men’s field.
The top 10 rankings, based on entries in the national meet, for the men include 1. Florida, 2. Arkansas, 3. Texas A&M, 4. Wisconsin, 5. Arizona, 6. Oregon, 7. Florida State, 8. Penn State, 9. Villanova and No. 10 Southern California. The women’s top 10 includes 1. Florida, 2. Oregon, 3. Texas A&M, 4. Georgia, 5. Texas, 6. Kentucky, 7. Arkansas, 8. LSU, 9. Florida State, and 10. Dartmouth.
In the men’s field Arkansas and Florida each have 13 entries with Oregon and Texas A&M at 11 each. The Aggies have the most sprint/hurdles entries with nine, followed by seven for the Gators. The women’s entries are led by Florida with 14 while A&M and Oregon have 13 entries each and Arkansas has 12. The Aggie women also have eight sprint/hurdles entries, which is the most over six for the Gators and Kentucky.