June 11, 2011
DES MOINES, Iowa - In a dramatic conclusion to the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the Texas A&M track and field program made history in becoming the only school to win dual national championship titles three consecutive years.
The Aggie men claimed its title by one point and the A&M women captured its championship by four points.
Aggie head coach Pat Henry is the only coach to achieve dual national titles, at LSU in 1989-90 and at A&M in 2009-10. In claiming NCAA titles number 32 and 33, Henry becomes the only coach to accomplish a triple-double of NCAA Championships.
"I'm kind of speechless," said Henry. "This is an unbelievable victory by both of our groups. Everybody thinks it comes down to Jessica Beard and on that leg it came down to Jessica. But there were a lot of people contributing today with both relays.
"Our men stayed calm and did what they needed to do. They picked up points through out the day and then won the final relay. It's a team effort, which doesn't start with just first place points, but includes everybody from each of the four days here.
"It's a tremendous group of young people who did some things I don't think they could do at times this weekend. But they are big believers. During our meeting this morning they all looked at each other and left the room knowing what needed to be done. They lined up today and did some things that put us in a position to win."
Both team battles came down to the final event, the 4 x 400 relay, with CBS showing the final day action live.
In the women's relay the Aggie women were tied with Oregon with 39 points apiece. Leading the team chase at that point was LSU with 43.5 points with Oklahoma second at 42. However, LSU and OU didn't have a team in the 4 x 400 final.
So, who ever finished ahead of the other between A&M and the Ducks was going to claim the team championship. Last year, when the Aggies won the team title by 15 points over Oregon, the Ducks claimed the 4 x 400 by a 0.03 margin over A&M.
This time Jessica Beard powered to a collegiate best 49.14 split on the anchor leg as the Aggies set a school record of 3:26.31 over Auburn's 3:26.46. Meanwhile, Oregon placed third in 3:28.18.
It was the first time an A&M has ever won the women's NCAA outdoor 4 x 400 title.
The final scoring tally had Texas A&M on top with 49 points with Oregon second at 45, while LSU and Oklahoma finished third and fourth. Arizona placed fifth with 35 points.
"I didn't know my split until I heard the announcer," said Beard, who split 49.6 twice at the same meet earlier this season. "I was just thinking do this for the team. Once I passed Oregon I knew we had the team title clinched. But I kept thinking about last year and how badly I wanted to win the 4x4.
"I didn't have any choice but to go for the relay title. I knew it was going to be very competitive. I loved being tied in the team score with just the relay left, it made everyone step up."
For the Aggie men, they needed a victory in the 4 x 400 relay as well as have Florida finish below fifth place to have a shot at the team title. Meanwhile, Florida State had 54 points, but they were not in the final race of the meet.
Tabarie Henry anchored in 44.86 to secure a 3:00.62 victory over LSU's 3:01.07 while Florida placed sixth in 3:05.20. It was A&M's 19th consecutive victory in the 4 x 400 and completed an indoor/outdoor sweep of the NCAA relay titles for the past two years.
"It means a lot to redeem myself for not making the 400 final," Henry said. "After Bryan Miller led us off I knew it was over. Demetrius Pinder did his thing to open it up a little more and Michael Preble did what he needed to do. Then they trusted me to secure the win."
After the race the point totals had Texas A&M on top with 55 points with Florida State still second at 54 and Florida in third with 53. LSU finished fourth at 46 points while Virginia Tech claimed fifth with 36.
"Earlier I was doing all the calculations to see where we were in regards to points," added Henry. "I was being a team guy, being a cheerleader for the other guys competing today."
The Aggies won the 2009 title by two points over a three-way tie for second and captured the 2010 title by a single point over the Gators.
The fourth and final day of the NCAA Championships started with A&M placing second in both 4 x 100 relays.
In the women's race the Aggie women ran 42.93 to place second to a 42.64 from LSU while USC finished third in 43.42. After winning four consecutive NCAA titles in the sprint relay, it was A&M's first loss in the postseason over the past five years. That streak by the Aggies included 22 races and 12 finals.
Tarmoh later ran a personal best of 22.34 for a silver medal in the 200, behind a 22.24 winning time by LSU's Kimberlynn Duncan. Tarmoh's time is third fastest on the A&M all-time list, trailing only a 22.25 by Simone Facey (2008) and a 22.29 by Porscha Lucas (2008).
"I feel like every bad thing that happened earlier turned into a good thing on the final day," said Tarmoh. "Starting out the day I felt terrible, I couldn't run or do anything, primarily because of my leg. At the end of the day everything is a blessing in disguise and it all happened for a reason."
For the 4 x 400 finale, Tarmoh ran the led off leg in 53.5 and was followed by Ibukun Mayungbe (51.4) and Andrea Sutherland (52.30). Auburn held an early lead while Oregon and A&M gave chase. The Tigers ran NCAA 400 runner-up Joanna Atkins on the second leg.
Once the baton reached Beard for the anchor leg, the Aggies were sitting third behind Auburn and Oregon. First Beard went by the Duck anchor leg and began her pursuit of Kai Selvon, anchoring for the Tigers.
Beard caught up to Sevlon by the 200m mark, pulled even through the curve and began to pass as they entered the homestretch.
Sevlon, though, challenged Beard for the lead. Beard managed to pull away in the late stages while producing her history-making split of 49.14 while Sevlon finished in 50.67 as Auburn clocked 3:26.46 with Oregon in third at 3:28.18.
Beard bettered the previous best relay split in a NCAA Championship of 49.6 held by two athletes - Alabama's Lillie Leatherwood (1986) and UCLA's Monique Henderson (UCLA).
The 3:26.31 for the Aggies lowered the previous school record of 3:27.33 set earlier this season by a full second. It also broke the Drake Stadium record of 3:27.69 established by Penn State in 2008.
With the NCAA title as well, the A&M women swept both 4 x 400 national championships this season, marking the fifth school to accomplish that feat since 2002. The Aggies become the third fastest school ever with the fifth fastest performance.
The Aggie men's 4 x 100 relay posted a time of 38.91 behind the 39.77 produced by Florida State for the win while Illinois finished third in 38.96. Florida, meanwhile, did not finish the race as they were unable to complete the final pass of the baton from Terrell Wilks and Jeff Demps.
While the sprinters were opening the day on the track with the relays, the A&M triple jumpers started the day off an hour earlier.
Julian Reid and Melvin Echard both advanced to the final of the triple jump and placed third and seventh, respectively, for eight points. Reid claimed bronze in the event with a best of 55-0.25 (16.77) while Echard reached 53-0.25 (16.16w). Tyron Stewart placed 11th with a mark of 52-7.5 (16.04).
Florida registered 18 points in the triple jump with a 1-2 finish from Christian Taylor (58-4.75w) and Will Claye (57-9.75w).
"Being able to secure some points in the triple jump for my team was very important," Reid noted. "I knew there was a possibility it would come down to the 4 x 400. I was also happy our 4 x 100 scored some points this year to give us a chance."
Wayne Davis II (13.60) finished sixth in the 110 hurdles for seven more Aggie points. Florida State claimed 15 points in the race, bringing their total to 54.
After the hurdles and triple jump, A&M had 45 points in third place behind the Seminoles and 50 points for the Gators and 38 for LSU.
Going into the 4x400 relay, where A&M, Florida and LSU had teams in the final, the only scenario having the Aggies winning the meet included an A&M victory with the Gators finishing no better than fifth.
Bryan Miller set the Aggie title hunt in motion with a 45.2 split while Demetrius Pinder continued the lead with a 44.9 carry. Preble enjoyed a 15m lead over LSU and split 45.60 when he handed the baton off to Henry.
While A&M enjoyed the view from the front, Florida was in seventh place on each relay carry until the anchor leg. Texas Tech didn't finish and the Gators moved up to sixth place.
LSU anchor Riker Hylton challenged Henry with a 44.88 split on the anchor leg, but Henry's 44.86 was enough to keep the Aggies in the lead and win with a 3:00.62 over the 3:01.07 for the Tigers. Florida ran 3:05.20.
The time by A&M is the second fastest in school history, trailing only the 3:00.45 the Aggies set earlier this season.