The departure of former head track coach Duane Ross and several of his star pupils from NC A&T after last season has taken HBCUs out of the NCAA Div. I track headlines, for now.
That reality was quite apparent at the NCAA Div. I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Austin, Texas over the weekend.
In 2022 with Ross at the helm, the A&T men finished tied ninth (with Texas Tech) and the Aggie women finished tied 23rd (with South Carolina) outdoors. A year earlier in 2021, the A&T men and women had top five finishes.
The Lady Aggies tied for fourth (with Alabama) while the men finished solo third. Over that span, A&T runners won national titles in the men’s 400 meters and 4×400 meter relay and women’s titles in the 100 and 200 meters.
There were no such high finishes this time around.
HBCU finishes at 2023 NCAA Div. I Track Outdoors
The SWAC champion Alabama State men finished with four points, the highest point total for any HBCU in Austin. The Hornets’ men’s 4×100 team placed fifth in the finals in a time of 38.79 seconds to earn the points. LSU, with former NC A&T sprinter/long jumper Brandon Hicklin running the first leg, won the event in 38.05. The top six teams finished the event in under 39.0 seconds.
The Alabama State team included Victor Smith, Matthew Clarke, Justus Trainer, Jamarion Stubbs and alternate Kendrick Winfield. The Hornets are led by decorated head coach Ritchie Beene. The four points tied Alabama State with seven other teams for 47th in the men’s field.
Texas won the women’s title with 83 points, easily outdistancing second-place Florida (51 points). Florida repeated as men’s champ with 57 points. Arkansas was second with 53 points.
Other HBCU finishes
NC A&T grad senior Paula Salmon finished eighth behind champion Ackera Nugent (12.25) of Arkansas in the 100 meter hurdles. Salmon finished in 12.92 seconds. Salmon’s was the only point scored by the Aggie women who finished tied for 63rd with eight other teams.
NC A&T also had grad senior Jada Griffin in the 400 meters. Griffin did not make the finals.
For the NC A&T men, junior quartermiler Reheem Hayles, after running a personal best 44.81 in the semifinals, ran 45.22 to grab sixth place and garner three points in the men’s 400 meters. Florida’s Emmanuel Bamidele won the event in 44.24.
The three points tied the Aggies for 55th with three others – Navy, SE Louisiana and Northern Arizona.
Howard’s Jessica Wright (400 meter hurdles) and Darci Khan (100 meter hurdles) did not reach the finals. Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Caleb Snowden finished 11th in the high jump. Sherman Hawkins of Jackson State did not clear a height in the event.
Former NC A&T athletes at Div. I Track Outdoors
Hicklin helped LSU claim first place (and 10 points) in the 4×100 meter relay and also finished eighth in the long jump to garner another point for LSU.
The LSU men finished fourth behind repeat national champion Florida with 43 points.
Rasheem Brown ran the 110 hurdles last season for A&T and did the same for Tennessee this season. He finished eighth in the final in 13.50 seconds to score a single point for the Vols. Tennessee finished tied for 22nd with Oklahoma and Texas A&M with 11 points.
Former standout NC A&T sprinter Javonte Harding, who followed former coach Ross to Tennessee, did not score any points. He did not make the 100 finals and finished ninth in the 200 meter finals. He also ran for the Vols 4×100 relay team that did not qualify for the finals.