MEAC Track & Field Championships: Aggie men hit their strideCourtesy NC A&T Sports Information / May 15, 2018
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The North Carolina A&T men’s track and field team led Bethune-Cookman by only one point going into the final event of the 2018 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships at A&T’s Irwin Belk Track Saturday (May 5). That last event was the 4×400 meter relay.
Advantage N.C. A&T.
For the third straight outdoor championship, the Aggies won the 4×400. This time they won it in record-breaking fashion as junior Justin Hamilton, freshman Trevor Stewart, senior Dajuan Harding and junior Michael Dickson shattered the conference record by running a 3:04.75.The win gave the Aggies the 2018 MEAC outdoor title with 153 points. It was the second straight MEAC outdoor title for A&T, marking the first time the men have gone back-to-back since winning the MEAC two years in a row in 1994 and ’95. The Aggie men have won four straight MEAC track and field titles after winning indoor in 2017, outdoor in 2017, indoor in 2018 and outdoor in 2018. A&T Athletics now has won MEAC titles in football, women’s basketball, bowling, men’s indoor track and field, women’s indoor track and field and men’s outdoor track and field in 2017-18.
“We take a lot of pride in that 4×4,” said N.C. A&T director of track and field programs, Duane Ross. “It doesn’t matter how many events the guys have on them leading into that event, we always want to put the cherry on top of a championship by winning the 4×4.”
B-CU finished second in the 4×4 with a time of 3:06.51.
“We knew Bethune-Cookman was coming in here to win,” said Ross. “We knew it was not going to be a blowout like it was indoor. But we also knew we had the 4×4 in our back pocket. My guys are resilient. I’ve got some closers on this team that refuse to stop. This victory is just an example of how hard they work.”
Bethune-Cookman (B-CU) finished second with 150 points followed by Hampton (131), Florida A&M (65) and Morgan State (60). N.C. A&T trailed B-CU by 52 points on Saturday after the 11th event was scored. The Aggies then entered their sweet spot – the sprints. Freshman Michael Bell, senior Joel Thomas, Dickson and junior Rodney Rowe combined to run a 39.42. Dickson added 10 more points to the Aggies’ totals by winning the 110-meter hurdles in 13.59. Three other Aggies scored 13 more points in the event as sophomore Robert Miller finished third (14.01), senior Todd Townsend placed fourth (14.12) and senior TeQuille Jackson (14.37) finished seventh.
In the 100 meters, the Aggies had three men score led by Rowe who clocked a 10.30 to finish second behind Coppin State’s Joseph Amoah’s 10.23. Thomas finished fourth (10.41) for five points and Bell came in fifth (10.60) for four points. N.C. A&T also got help when Berthune’s Kareem Fair who is ranked second in the MEAC in the 100m, was disqualified for a false start.
It evened the playing field a bit for the Aggies who were without injured sophomore sprinter Jaylan Mitchell who has the No. 1 100m time in the nation (10.00).“We preach constantly that in championship-settings anything can go wrong, you just have to be prepared,” said Ross. “We were down by something like 50 points so we had our work cut out for us. You take the breaks when you can get them.”
Rowe got his revenge on Amoah when he sprinted by him over the final 50 meters of the 200m to win the title in 20.42 (2.6 wind-aided). Rowe finally broke through as the 200m champion after finishing second the past two seasons. Stewart (20.78), Hamilton (20.83) and Dickson (21.16) also scored by finishing fourth, fifth and seventh.
The Aggies led 143-140 over the Wildcats going into the 5000m. The Wildcats scored two points in the event, leading to the Aggies’ must-win situation.
“I don’t want to speak it too soon. I don’t want to mention that word dynasty. But that’s what we’re after,” said Ross. “We talk to our team all the time about leaving a legacy. In anything we do, we need to leave it better than how we find it. I’m extremely proud to do this back-to-back. It speaks volumes about the culture we have created as a program. My staff and I have built something these kids will remember 10-15 years from now.”
N.C. A&T will now turn its attention to the 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round at USF Track and Field Stadium in Tampa, Fla., May 24-26. The Aggies are expected to have Mitchell back over the next three weeks.
I did a lot of praying on it. I talked to my mentors and they agreed with me, so I decided to sit him out this weekend,” said Ross. “I had to think about the big picture and right now big picture is regionals and nationals. It ended up being a good decision because we won the title, but I was ready to live with the decision either way.”