AUSTIN, TEXAS – If Paula Salmon never took another step on a track for North Carolina A&T after the 2022 outdoor track and field season, it would not have affected her legacy as a star athlete at the HBCU on the east side of Greensboro.
However, after her showing during the 2023 track and field postseason, including her performance Saturday night at the 2023 NCAA Track and Field Championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas, her legacy grew among the A&T track and field greats before her.
Salmon finished eighth in the 100-meter hurdle NCAA women’s final on the fourth and final day of NCAA nationals, the second day for the ladies. She ran a 12.92 to earn first-team All-American honors. Salmon became the first female Aggie in program history to earn two first-team All-American honors in the 100H event.
In addition, she is the first three-time All-American 100 hurdler after earning second-team honors in 2021. After not running under 13 seconds all season, Salmon clocked in under 13 seconds in all four of her NCAA postseason races.
By deciding to don the A and T interlock one more time as a student-athlete in 2023, she stands alone among outstanding A&T hurdlers such as Loreal Smith, a 2009 first-team All-American, who competed at the 2009 and 2011 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and at the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Kayla White started her collegiate career as a hurdler but gained stardom as the Aggies’ first-ever – men or women – event national champion when she won the 200 meters at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
She would also become the first Aggie to win an NCAA national player or athlete of the year honor when she became NCAA Women’s Track Athlete of the Year in 2019. Madeleine Akobundu and TeJyrica Robinson earned first-team All-America accolades in the 100H in 2021.
“I honestly did not know I was the first to do it since Kayla White was before me and since Maddie and T were before me,” said Salmon. “But to actually realize it, that’s an accomplishment, and I’m happy to be a part of Aggie history.”
Also, by deciding to stay even though a new head coach arrived at North Carolina A&T in 2022-23, the Aggies kept a veteran presence within a program that had become accustomed to success. It gave the new director of track and field programs, Allen Johnson, an additional motivating voice.
“I have so much love for the school,” said Salmon. “I decided to stay because I wanted to add more to Aggie Nation and keep the Aggies on the map. I proved that I could still make it happen no matter the coach.”
Like the great hurdlers before her, Salmon will leave A&T as a multiple threat on the track and field surface. Smith was a conference champion in the 60m, 400H and 4×100. Akobundu was a conference champion in the long jump, and of course, White became a national championship sprinter. Salmon was a conference indoor champion in the high jump.
But even with all of Salmon’s success and first-time feats, she persevered to solidify her legacy.
“The journey starting in September was good, and then I came into December, and it was a little rough,” said Salmon. I doubted myself a lot. I was going through the motion in every meet and just accepted my results. I wanted more, so every day at practice, I decided to block out all the negativity and distractions. I just went out there, worked hard, and did what I had to, and it showed on the track.”