EUGENE – Texas A&M and Florida waged another showdown for the men’s team title at the NCAA Championships in front of a crowd of 11,448 at Hayward Field and the two schools were separated only by two points at the conclusion of the meet.
Florida defended their outdoor national championship with 61.5 points while the Aggies were runner-up with 59.5 points. During the indoor season, it was Texas A&M winning the NCAA title by half a point over the Gators.
“Today was a really disappointing day,” stated Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “To do the things we do with the nucleus of people that we have there were a few events where we should have scored better than we did. We had two or three things go wrong today, but we turned around and did some really good things, too.
“We did about half the things real well today and about half the things we did very poor today.”
The second-place finish by the Aggies marks just the second time Texas A&M has been runner-up at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The last time was in 1989 when the Aggies were second by one point to LSU, then led by Coach Henry, in Provo, Utah.
Eight SEC schools finished among the top 10 in team scoring. After Florida and Texas A&M, Virginia placed third (36) with Arkansas in fourth (33). The rest of the top 10 included Auburn (24), Georgia (22.5), LSU (20), Tennessee (20), Oregon (19.5), and Alabama (19).
Aggie senior Fred Kerley completed his sweep of NCAA titles in the 400m as he powered to a 44.10 victory, and produced the fourth fastest time in collegiate history. Even more impressive was doing it with a temperature of 54 degrees.
“It was a great, great day for Fred Kerley,” said Henry. “He won the 400m and anchored two 4x400 relays to sub three minutes. Fred has grown so much in one year, it’s just fantastic to see what that young guy has done over this past year.
“He’s the best quarter-miler in the world right now, and it will be fun to see what he does now on the world scene for the United States of America.”
Kerley becomes just the third Aggie sprinter to win the NCAA Outdoor title, joining Curtis Mills (1969) and Deon Lendore (2014).
“It’s a blessing to be mentioned with those two guys,” said Kerley. “The time was never a factor. Since I’ve been winning, the target was on my back. I just really had to win the race to finish my collegiate track season.”
With a comfortable start, Kerley powered his way through the curve once he passed the 200m mark and moved into the lead at 300m. Continuing his strong stride to the finish, Kerley bettered the field by half a second. Runner-up in 44.69 was Auburn’s Nathon Allen with LSU’s Michael Cherry third at 44.77.
“This race was different, because the cold weather played a factor,” noted Kerley. “I was a little tight in the race and I didn’t get out like I normally do.”
Kerley anchored the Aggie 4x400 relay with a 43.99 as Texas A&M clocked 2:59.98 for the victory. The first three legs included Richard Rose (46.7), Mylik Kerley (44.1), and Robert Grant (45.11). It’s the first time a school has run under three minutes twice at a NCAA Championship meet.
During the semifinal, Texas A&M produced a world-leading 2:59.95. On the all-time collegiate list Texas A&M ranks No. 2, =5, and 6 among the top 10 performances.
“It’s been a blessing to wear the Aggie uniform,” said Kerley. “When I first got here I was coming off an injury and ran 45.10 that season. Coach told me that if I can get through this last season healthy there is no telling what I can do. This season was a blessing.”
Finishing behind Texas A&M in the 4x400 were Arkansas (3:01.84), Iowa (3:01.91), Florida (3:02.16), Texas Tech (3:02.29), Alabama (3:03.81), Ohio State (3:05.27), and Auburn (3:12.22).
The Aggies placed fourth in the first final on the track, the 4x100, as they ran 38.72 with the foursome of Will Williams, Jace Comick, Elijah Morrow and Fred Kerley to earn five points.
Houston claimed the victory in 38.34, breaking the Hayward Field record of 38.42 established by LSU last year. Auburn finished runner-up in 38.48 with North Carolina A&T in third at 38.57. Finishing behind Texas A&M were Texas (38.73), Oregon (38.81) and Arkansas (38.82) while LSU did not finish.
Devin Dixon, the SEC champion in the 800m, finished seventh in the NCAA final with a time of 1:49.32 while Florida’s Andres Arroyo placed fifth in 1:47.28. The victory went to UTEP’s Emmanuel Korir, who posted a 1:45.03, ahead of Penn State’s Isaiah Harris (1:45.40) and Georgetown’s Joseph White (1:45.73).
Robert Grant had a strong start to his 400m hurdle race, but fell at hurdle six. He finished the race in 1:20.79 to place eighth and pick up one point for the Aggies. Florida’s Eric Futch won in 48.32, edging out UCLA’s Rai Benjamin (48.33) at the line, while another Gator, TJ Holmes, finished sixth in 49.98.
As Florida picked up 10 key points from KeAndre Bates with a victory in the triple jump, Aggie Jeffrey Prothro placed 13th with a best of 51-6 ¾ (15.70). Texas A&M’s Garrett Cragin tied for 15th in the high jump, clearing 6-9 ¾ (2.08), as Florida’s Jhonny Victor tied for seventh, clearing 6-11 ¾ (2.13), for 1.5 points.
Saturday concludes the NCAA Championships for the women. Aaliyah Brown will race at 100m and 200m for the Aggies while Jaevin Reed contests the 400m and Serena Brown throws the discus. Texas A&M will also have a 4x400 relay in action.