Monday, January 31, 2022, will go down as a historic day in North Carolina A&T Athletics. The United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released its latest poll on Monday, and the NCAT men’s indoor track and field team, is the nation’s No. 1 team.
It marks the first time a Division I team from N.C. A&T Aggie Athletics is ranked No. 1 in a non-historically black college and or university (HBCU) national poll. The A&T men’s indoor track and field team opened the 2021 season as the No. 2 team in the USTFCCCA poll for the highest ranking in program history.
The Aggies can’t exceed this ranking, but they can make history this coming March.
“The great thing about track and field is that the best team is not decided by some committee,” said Duane Ross, A&T’s director of track and field programs. “It is a face-to-face proposition. Being No. 1 is certainly a great accomplishment for the guys. But we’re going to take this thing week-by-week until March 12th gets here. Then we’ll deal with who is the best at that time.”
A&T is No. 1, followed by Texas Tech, Texas, Georgia and Kentucky in the top-5. The Aggie women are up five spots this week to the No. 27 ranked team in the country. Olympian Randolph Ross Jr., a junior out of Garner, N.C., has played a significant role in the Aggie men standing as the top-ranked team in the nation.
Ross Jr. is the No. 1 400 meter runner in the NCAA with the 45.37 he ran at Clemson University on Jan. 14. Last week, ran a 20.57 in the 200m to earn the No.3 ranking in the country. He also teamed with seniors Daniel Stokes and Akeem Lindo and graduate Elijah Young to run a 3:03.39 in the 4×400-meter relay last week.
They finished second in the race behind the University of Florida, and therefore, have the second-best time in the nation.
Freshman sensation Leonard Mustari is also having an impact. He is the second-ranked 60-meter hurdler in the country after posting a 7.58 at the Bob Pollock Invitational at Clemson last Friday. The Aggies have three hurdlers in the top-25, including senior Rasheem Brown (7.70), who is fifth and senior Cedric McGriff (7.85), who is 23rd.
Sophomore Javonte’ Harding has two top-20 rankings after his impressive 20.33 sprint in the 200m on Saturday at Clemson. Harding broke the Clemson Indoor Track and Field Facility record and has the N. 2 ranking nationally. In addition, Harding and senior teammate Tavarius Wright are tied for 19th nationally in the 60m (6.66).
The one field event where an Aggie ranks in the top-10 is the long jump. Senior Brandon Hicklin is seventh in the country at 25-feet, 9 ¼-inches.
A&T’s ladies have two top-10 rankings. Graduate Paula Salmon is the third-ranked 60mh in the nation at 7.89. Her 7.89 time is the ninth-fastest in NCAA history. Senior teammate Kamaya Debose-Epps is the 10th-ranked 200m runner nationally after running a personal record 23.34 on Saturday at Clemson.
The Aggies return to action, Feb. 4-5, as the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C., will host the Camel City Invitational.