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Saturday, June 22, 2024

North Carolina A&T, Howard relay teams raise bar at NCAA track and field championships


This weekend, the East and West Preliminary Rounds of the Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships concluded, with athletes competing for a spot in the National Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

HBCUs came away with a strong performance, with nine individual athletes and two relay teams securing a spot on the national stage.

Set to begin June 5 through June 8, these athletes will showcase their talents in front of a nationally televised audience, with the championships airing on ESPN’s main networks (ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU).

The HBCU athletes will compete for national titles in the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Women

4×100 Relay: Howard- Ai’yanna Gray-Williams, Mackenzie Robinson, Kailei Collins, Tiffani Rae Pittman, Sherri-Ann Norton, Aniya Woodruff

All women who will be moving on to compete for Outdoor championships in Eugene will come from Howard University.

The Bison’s 4×100 relay team punched its ticket on an automatic bid, running 43.55 times in the quarterfinals and finishing third in their heat.

They are the first HBCU women’s 4×100 team to advance past the First Round Preliminaries since North Carolina A&T in 2021.

400m Hurdles: Simone Watkins | Howard

Simone Watkins is the only HBCU women’s athlete to make it past the first round to the Division I Championship semifinals.

Competing in the second heat, Watkins led the pack, running a new personal best time of 55.92.

This is the third year a Howard women’s 400-meter hurdler will compete for an NCAA championship (Jessica Wright each of the past two years).

After transferring from Texas Tech, Watkins, in her first season with Howard, entered the East First Round Preliminaries, having won the MEAC 400m hurdle title with a then-personal-best 57.76 time.

Men

Long Jump: Jet Brown | Grambling State

One of three men’s field event qualifiers, SWAC Long Jump champion James Brown will have a chance to compete for the national title.

Coming off his best performance of the season in the SWAC championships, jumping 7.65m to claim the title, Brown nearly matched that mark in the East Regionals with a 7.61 jump.

He finished sixth in the field becoming the first Grambling State athlete, man or woman, to clinch a berth in outdoor nationals since 2013.

4×100 Relay: North Carolina A&T- Aveon Reid, Jason Holmes, Caleb Jackson, Isaiah Taylor, Xzaviah Taylor, Jaeden Gumbs

After having their eight-year streak of advancing past the East Preliminaries snapped last year, the North Carolina A&T 4×100 relay team is heading back to Eugene to compete for the title.

The Aggies automatically qualified for the DI championships after placing third in their quarterfinal heat, running a season-best 39.24 time.

NCAT made it to the finals each time in their previous six 4×100 semifinal appearances before missing out on the 2023 championships.

They are looking for their first top-three finish in this event since 2017.

Triple Jump: Malachi Aiken | University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

Maryland-Eastern Shore junior Malachi Aiken, making his first national championship appearance, is one of two HBCU athletes to qualify in a field event.

He is the first UMES athlete, man or woman, to advance past the East Preliminary Round since Gayon Evans qualified for the women’s 100 and 200 in 2014.

Aiken narrowly qualified for nationals, claiming the 11th of 12 spots, recording a 15.77m (51’9″) jump, setting a new personal best.

100m/200m: Jamarion Stubbs | Alabama State

Alabama State sophomore Jamarion Stubbs is one of only two SWAC athletes to make it past the Regional Finals. He is also the only HBCU athlete to qualify in two individual track events (100 and 200).

This is the second year Stubbs will compete in the National Championships and the first time he has competed individually.

Though he finished fourth in the third and final heat, Stubbs qualified based on his 10.07 time the best of a non-top three finisher.

He fared much better in the 200m tying for the second-best time in the quarterfinals of 19.95 seconds.

110m Hurdles: Jason Holmes | North Carolina A&T

The first of three HBCU athletes to qualify in the 100m hurdles, sophomore Jason Holmes is also making his first Outdoor championship appearance.

Holmes tied for the second-best time of all 12 qualifiers, recording a 13.40 time in the quarterfinals to cement his spot in Eugene, Oregon.

Since he is also part of North Carolina A&T’s 4×100 relay team, Holmes is the only HBCU athlete to qualify for an individual and relay event.

110m Hurdles: Samuel Bennett | Howard

Next up in the 110m hurdle field is Howard’s Samuel Bennett, who is making his first Outdoor National Championship appearance.

Having transferred to Howard from Harvard this fall, Bennett entered the East Preliminaries after winning his first-ever conference championship race, the MEAC 110m hurdle title.

He clinched a spot in nationals after finishing second in the second heat with a personal best time of 13.52.

One of four Howard Bison in the 110m hurdle field, Bennett was the only one to make it past the first round into the quarterfinals.

110m Hurdles: Thomas Smith | North Carolina A&T

Completing the hat trick of HBCU athletes who qualified for the men’s 110m hurdles field in nationals is North Carolina A&T sophomore Thomas Smith.

Smith joining teammate Holmes in this field marks the second year in a row North Carolina A&T has had two different athletes qualify for nationals in the same individual event.

The Aggies’ sophomore also automatically qualified, finishing third behind Bennett in the second heat with a 13.65 time.

400m Hurdles: Noah Langford | Howard

Noah Langford is the last of three Howard qualifiers on this list and is the only HBCU athlete to punch his ticket to Eugene in the 400m hurdles.

Langford claimed the last qualifying spot in the field, making it based on his 50.55-second time, which narrowly beat out the next-best time of 50.61 seconds.

High Jump: Caleb Snowden | Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Caleb Snowden, who will compete in the high jump, rounds out the HBCU Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championship qualifiers.

Snowden is the only HBCU athlete in the West Preliminary Round of the Outdoor Championships to advance to Eugene.

Snowden led his flight, jumping 2.20m (7’2.5″) without failed attempts.

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