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Saturday dominance wins MEAC title for Aggie women


Aggie freshman Madeleine Akobundu captured the long jump gold medal with a leap of 19-feet-10.5 inches. Photo by Kevin L. Dorsey Aggie freshman Madeleine Akobundu captured the long jump gold medal with a leap of 19-feet-10.5 inches. Photo by Kevin L. Dorsey

The North Carolina A&T women’s track and field team had to get out of a 38-point hole in order to win the 2017 MEAC Outdoor Track and Field Championship. Yet, N.C. A&T’s director of track and field programs Duane Ross, slept well.

“My staff and I, we do our research,” said Ross. “We put a lot of time into coaching our athletes and getting them prepared, so we knew that after the second day we were going to be down by quite a few, but I had confidence in my team. I didn’t lose any sleep last night because I knew once we got on the track our ladies were going to perform.”

Ross’ ladies performed so well, they made Saturday look easy. The Aggies posted an incredible 126 points on Saturday to win their first MEAC outdoor title in 22 years. How dominant were the Aggies? Their 126-point Saturday was better than everyone else’s entire weekend. The Aggies scored 155 points total, followed by Hampton (124), Florida A&M (95.5), Howard (84) and Maryland Eastern Shore (75). Maximizing their home track advantage, the women set two MEAC championship records at Irwin Belk Track.

The Aggies started their come-from-behind day the moment they took to the track, taking first place in the first event of the day with junior Morgan Knight in the pole vault. Knight’s completion of 12-feet, 1 ¼-inches also heightened the MEAC meet record from 11-feet, 9-inches set by Sasha Smallwood of Bethune-Cookman in 2012. The new record upped the N.C. A&T record from 11-feet, 5 ¼-inches, also held by Knight.

The second MEAC meet record fell after sophomore Yakira Love, junior India Brown, freshman Taliyah Townsend and sophomore Kayla White completed the 4x100 meter relay in 44.81 seconds. The ladies’ mark garnered 10 points for the team in addition to stripping Morgan State of the 4x1 MEAC championship record which they’ve held since 2012 with a time of 44.93 seconds.

“We have to win everything” were the words used by Brown to describe the women’s mindset for the day. “We knew some of the events (Hampton Pirates) were stronger in, like the distance, so I knew we had to step up and do our job on the sprint side and that’s what we did today.”

On top of being a critical runner in the 4x100, Brown also titled both the 100m and 200m events with respective marks of 11.24(w) and 23.41, giving Brown a total of three first-team All-MEAC titles. Brown’s mark of 11.24(w) in the 100m was also close to setting the all-time MEAC record, which currently stands at 11.26 from Tristie Johnson of Bethune-Cookman, but because of strong wind-assistance the time cannot be counted toward a record.

“She’s still in the regionals and sometimes it’s not about the record, it’s about the confidence,” said Ross of Brown. “As a sprinter, if you can run 11.2 in the wind, you can run it without the wind. It’s your body moving at that velocity. I’m proud of her. She did good today.”

Running with Brown in the 100m and 200m, and gathering more needed points were sophomore Kayla White and freshman Yakira Love. White took third in the 100m (11.41) and second in the 200m (23.87) while Love crossed fourth in the 100m (11.57) and fifth in the 200m (24.07). Together the ladies maxed out 43 points just in the 100m and 200m events. “The triple threat – me, Kayla and Yakira – and then the freshman girls too. Everybody ran well today,” said Brown.

White garnered another 10 points on her own by winning the women’s 100-meter hurdles in 13.40. She was followed by Knight (13.49) in third and freshman Madeleine Akobundu (14.00) in sixth. Gold was also awarded to sophomore Anisa Toppin for a personal record triple jump of 41-feet, 2 ½-inches. Four freshmen closed the meet with a 4x400 title as freshmen Asya Macon, Tori Ray, Kristoni Barnes and Taliyah Townsend concluded with a win in 3:42.60.

“Championships speak for themselves,” said Ross. “To win four championships in one season is a big feat for any program, so I’m extremely happy. Every year we’re trying to take as many trophies home as we can. Our team has bought into that and our staff has bought into that so that’s the standard. We come out and we try to win everything start to finish. To be able to do this in front of our administration, our staff, our peers … the student-athletes have their parents here and their peers … it’s a big deal. I’m proud of the entire team.”

First-Team All-MEAC

Long Jump – Madeleine Akobundu (19-feet, 10 ½ inches); 100m – India Brown (11.24); 200m –India Brown (23.41); 4x100 – Yakira Love, Taliyah Townsend, Kayla White, India Brown (44.81)*; 4x400 – Taliyah Townsend, Tori Ray, Kristoni Barnes, Asya Macon (3:42.60); 100mh – Kayla White (13.40); Pole Vault – Morgan Knight (12-feet, 1 ¼-inches)*; Triple Jump – Anisa Toppin (41-feet, 2 ½- inches).

Second-Team All-MEAC

800m – G›Jasmyne Butler (2:10.52); 200m – Kayla White (23.87)

Third-Team All-MEAC

3000m steeplechase – Camille Martin (11:27.49); 100mh – Morgan Knight (13.49); 100m – Kayla White (11.41); 400mh – Kennedy Thorne (1:01.72)