Topping the HBCU-record 19 points and the 15th place finish at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships appears well within reach for the 2021 North Carolina A&T Lady Aggies.
NC A&T Director of Track and Field programs Duane Ross is hoping for much more as he puts seven ladies in action beginning with semifinal competition Thursday evening.
“We understand that it’s not just about races,” Ross said on the A&T website. “We understand what we’re doing is making an impact in other areas. We want to be competitive and treated like any other team. We don’t want to come in and say we were the best HBCU to do it. That was never our plan. We want to be the best at it, period. I think our kids understand that.”
Sixty is the magic number at Track & Field Championship
Women’s champions over the last five years have averaged 62.4 points with a low of 53 points by Southern Cal in 2018 and a high of 72 by Arkansas in 2016. The only HBCU double-digit finishes before the Lady Aggies in 2019 were the 11 points Hampton scored in 2007 on the heels of Yvette Lewis’s win in the triple jump. The Lady Pirates also scored 10 points in 2010 on Francena McCorory’s 400 meters title.
Chief among Ross’s charges this year is sophomore Cambrea Sturgis who brings in the second-best time in both the 100 (10.92) and 200 meters (22.26). She is one of only four athletes in the field with a sub-11-second time in the 100. She finished third in the 200 in 2019. Kayla White finished second in the 100 in 2019 and seventh in the 200.
Sturgis also runs a leg of the 4×100 relay team that comes in with the third-best time (42.92). She goes off in the third heat of the 100 and the first 200 heat.
Three the hard way
Joining Sturgis in all three events is fellow sophomore Kamaya DeBose-Epps. Her 100 time (11.31) ranks 19th in the field while her 200 time (22.91) is 14th. DeBose-Epps races in the opening heat in the 100 meters and the second heat of the 200. White, Sturgis and DeBose-Epps were part of the 4×100 squad that finished seventh in the 2019 4×100.
Junior Jonah Ross joins Sturgis and DeBose-Epps in the 200-meter semis with a time of 22.87 (13th) and on the relay team. She will take the track in the third 200 heat. The fourth member of the 4×100 relay team is junior Symone Darius. The 4×100 relay, which kicks off competition at 3:32 p.m. (PST) Thursday, will have the Lady Aggies in the first heat.
Finding extra points
If the Lady Aggies hold their positions in those three events (100, 200, and 4×100 relay) they could muster a minimum of 22 points and even more if they perform better.
The other event where the Lady Aggies could generate a rack of points is the 100-meter hurdles where they have three of the top eight times. Senior Tejyrica Robinson’s 12.83 is third, fellow senior Madeline Akobundu’s 12.84 is fourth and junior Paula Salmon’s 12.89 is eighth. Robinson goes off in heat one at 4:32 p.m. PST followed by Akobundu in heat two and Salmon in heat three. Similarly, maintaining those finishes could give the ladies an additional 12 points and a bunch more if they exceed those seedings.
The start of the 100 meter hurdles semifinals is at 5:42 p.m. PST.
Ross, Darius, and Salmon and joined by Delecia McDuffie on the 4×400 relay team that qualified 24th with a time of 3:34.72. The Lady Aggies are in the first heat of the 4×400. Howard, whose quartet of Ozioma Scott, Jessica Wright, Ameenah Saalih, and Jessika Gbai had the 18th best time is in the second semifinal heat. The 4×400 wraps up Thursday’s competition at 7:21 p.m. PST.
High marks in the high jump
Just like the men, Ross has one Lady Aggie in a field event final. Sophomore Kanady Wilson (1.77m) has the 19th best height in the high jump. Prairie View A&M’s Ja’Sha Sloan leads the competition with a 1.82-meter height. The high jump gets underway at 4:30 p.m. PST.
After Thursday’s semifinals, the top two finishers in each heat and the three other best times will advance to Saturday’s Track & Field championship round. Points (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1) are awarded on a descending scale to the top eight finishers in Saturday’s finals.