A&T sprinter ties for top spot in nationCourtesy NC A&T Sports Information / April 21, 2017
Overshadowing the entire 2017 Aggie Invitational at North Carolina A&T’s Irwin Belk Track was senior Christopher Belcher’s wind-aided 9.99 sprint in the men’s 100m finals on Day 2 of the competition— a time that has him tied for the No. 1 spot in the nation in the men’s 100m with Kendal Williams from the University of Georgia.
But let’s not limit Belcher to only collegiate athletes. Belcher’s 9.99 is the second-fastest wind-aided time in the world behind Thando Roto’s 9.98 run in South Africa on Feb. 18. He has the fourth-fastest time overall. It is a school record and personal-best for Belcher.
Belcher and teammate senior Caleb Gabriel were the only two collegiate athletes to qualify in the men’s 100m as six of the eight seeds were taken by Olympic athletes and professional runners. Belcher (10.08) and Gabriel (10.18) respectively had the highest qualifying marks in the preliminaries, and Belcher made sure to maintain his lead in the finals. Belcher crossed the line just ahead of former North Carolina A&T sprinter Desmond Lawrence (10.12), the only athlete in school history to earn indoor and outdoor All-American honors, and Qatar representative Tosin Ogunode (10.17). Gabriel tied his prelim time of 10.18 for fourth ahead of Olympic athletes Darrell Wesh (10.19), Ramon Gittens (10.21) and Burkheart Ellis Jr. (10.26).
“I was really excited after I ran the race and I looked up and saw a nine on the board,” said Belcher. “Now it’s just time to be consistent with it.”
Belcher was not even set to run the 100m, rather he was supposed to perform in the 200m only. After seeing who Belcher was going to compete against, Duane Ross, the Aggies’ director of track and field programs, texted his standout sprinter last night at midnight with the message: “If anyone is going to run under 10 seconds on our track it’s going to be us.”
“We came this morning, had a good tune-up for that 4×100, and after that prelim round in the 100 meters where he ran 10.08, I knew he was going to run under 10 seconds,” said Ross. “We don’t chase times normally, but today it was all about him breaking through that barrier mentally. He was able to do it last year, so it was just about him mentally breaking through and knowing he could run under 10 seconds.”
Gabriel’s time of 10.18 is also eligible to count as a personal record as it skyrocketed him to ninth in the nation, tied with Tatenda Tsumba of Brigham Young University.
Earlier in the day Belcher assisted in the 4×100 relay and after his 100m performance he later competed in the 4×400 relay as well. In the 4×1 Belcher, Gabriel, sophomore Rodney Rowe, and junior Dajuan Harding placed second, timed at 39.88. But Belcher along with teammates senior Dorian Claggett, junior Corey Aiken, and Harding won the 4×4 event with a season-low group run of 3:11.07.
Finding similar success for the women’s team was junior India Brown. In the 100m, Brown completed a school-record run of 11.34, breaking the record sophomore teammate Kayla White set last week at 11.39. Brown placed third and lowered her PR from 11.43. She faltered only to Olympic athlete Barbara Pierre (11.07), who took first, and gold medalist World Champion Danielle Williams (11.25), who captured second. Brown also assisted the women’s 4×1 in titling the event, as she and freshmen Taliyah Townsend, Tori Ray and White tied the school record of 44.51.
Other impressive marks on Saturday came from the field. Junior Nehemiah Lipford won the men’s high jump with a bound of 6-feet, 7 ½-inches and junior Ronald Cubbage won the men’s pole vault in 12-feet, 1 ½-inches. In the triple jump, freshman Madeleine Akobundu set a PR of 38-feet, 3 ½-inches finishing fourth for the women, while sophomore Lasheon Strozier jumped 47-feet, 8-inches and placed third for the men. Junior Imani Abraham finished in third and fourth place respectively in the women’s discus (122-feet, 5-inches) and shot put (37-feet, 11 ½-inches).
“I’m extremely happy,” said Ross after the competition. “We had a lot of personal bests all the way around, a lot of season-bests, and this is where you want your team to be their best is when you’re at home. I challenged them all week and told them ‘No one is going to come in here and have their will on us, and I better not see it happen.’ They stepped up and I’m pleased with the overall results.”