FAYETTEVILLE – A pair of top five finishes in field event finals by Brea Garrett and Chase Wolfle highlighted the first day of the NCAA Indoor Championships while Texas A&M also qualified to finals very well on Friday at the Randal Tyson Track Complex.
The Aggies advanced seven sprinters to Saturday finals, led by a Bralon Taplin and Deon Lendore 1-2 combo in the 400 meters. Also advancing for A&M were Shamier Little (400m), Aaliyah Brown (60m), Ashton Purvis (200m), Kamaria Brown (200m) and Shavez Hart (200m).
Brea Garrett’s title defense in the weight throw never got on track as her best of 70-8.5 (21.55) placed fourth to earn the Aggie women five team points.
In equaling the school record height of 18-0.5 (5.50) he cleared to place third in the SEC Championships, Chase Wolfle placed fifth in the NCAA Indoor meet to earn four team points for the Aggie men. Wolfle, who entered the meet equal to the ninth best seed, improved on his tie for 11th place a year ago.
“I think one of the better things to happen for us tonight was Chase placing fifth in the pole vault as he tied the school record again,” noted Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “That’s what we ask of our kids, to come here and repeat the best mark they’ve had for the season.”
Akron’s Shawn Barber won the pole vault with a NCAA Championship record height of 19-4.75 (5.91), which improved upon his collegiate record by a quarter of an inch. He bettered the meet record of 19-2.25 (5.85) set in 1999 by Jacob Davis of Texas.
Tennessee’s Jake Blankenship cleared 19-0.25 (5.80) as runner-up while Andrew Irwin of Arkansas placed third with an 18-0.5 effort. In fourth place, ahead of Wolfle based on misses, was Washington’s Jax Thoirs at 18-0.5.
On early heights Wolfle needed a third attempt clearance at 17-0.75 (5.20) and 17-8.5 (5.40) as he passed three heights between those two efforts. A miss at 17-10.5 (5.45) prompted another pass by Wolfle as he saved his remaining two attempts for the A&M school record height.
A clearance on his second try at 18-0.5 gave Wolfle another set of three attempts for 18-2.5 (5.55). After running through to the pole vault pit on his first try, Wolfle missed the next two attempts to finish in fifth place.
In the weight throw Garrett fouled her first attempt, and then hit 66-4.5 on her second throw. Sitting in 11th place, Garrett produced her top mark of the day to move into fourth place and earn three more throws in the final three rounds.
A fourth round toss went out to the 70-plus foot range, but was a sector foul. Then the weight slipped out of Garrett’s hand too early on her fifth attempt. Down to the last round, Garrett fouled when she stepped out of the ring trying to halt her spin to restart the attempt.
Missouri’s Kearsten Peoples added the NCAA title to her SEC victory with a winning toss of 74-6.25 (22.71) while UCLA’s Ida Storm repeated her runner-up finish, behind Garrett a year ago, with a 74-0.25 (22.56) that led the field after the first three rounds. DeAnna Price of Southern Illinois placed third at 72-3.75 (22.04).
Lendore ran the opening heat of the 400 prelims, posting a winning time of 45.92 over a field that included Notre Dame’s Christopher Giesting (46.46), Michael Cherry of Florida State (46.49) and Ohio State’s Lamar Bruton (46.82).
“Today I went out there and just tried to have a nice race,” explained Lendore. “A nice race in terms of staying within myself and not over-striding. As the race progressed I felt I could do more and took the opportunity. I was happy to come out with the win, but at first I wasn’t happy with my time. After seeing a couple of 46s win the next two heats then I was pleased with time my time.”
In the fourth and final heat of the 400 prelim Taplin blistered the field in his race with a 45.64 to better Nebraska’s Cody Rush (46.88), Marqueze Washington of Arkansas (47.02) and Eastern Michigan’s Tyler Brown (47.22).
“My thought going into the final section of the prelim was to get lane five in section two of the final,” noted Taplin. “That’s all I wanted. I was so happy I had the last heat. I saw the times that were run and knew I could have the top time. I’m looking for two wins, I want to win the 400 and the 4×400.
“I’m happy Deon is back running, and he looked good out there. It was a nice jog, and to jog 45.9 is the Deon Lendore that I know.”
Producing the top two times in the prelim mean Taplin and Lendore will race in the same section of the 400 final with Taplin in lane five and Lendore in lane six. Joining the Aggie pair in the second section will be Zack Bilderback of Texas (46.17) and D.J. Zahn of Illinois (46.20).
“I don’t mind running blind from lane six,” said Lendore. “I’m looking forward to the race in the final. I was hoping Bralon would post a top time. We train hard, so it’s good to see your teammate go out there and we can finish as the top two qualifiers. Now we can have a good night’s rest with our minds clear knowing we both have a good lane draw.”
The first section of the final includes Vernon Norwood (46.00) and Quincy Downing (46.30) of LSU along with Florida’s tandem of Najee Glass (46.11) and Arman Hall (46.18).
“That’s always a challenge when you have two great ones in the same heat,” said Henry. “We did what I thought we were capable of doing today. It was good to see Deon gets his wheels back underneath him. I think he has a level of confidence in himself now. Bralon just looked real good today.”
Little also posted a section win in the women’s 400, clocking 52.66 that ranked fifth best among the top eight times advancing to the final. NCAA Outdoor champion Courtney Okolo of Texas posted the top time of 51.89 while Taylor Ellis-Watson of Arkansas was second best at 51.97. They will join Little in the second section of the final along with Florida’s Robin Reynolds (52.76).
In the 200 meters Hart won his heat in 20.74 which was fifth best overall in qualifying the top eighth times to the final. Baylor’s Trayvon Bromell posted the third fastest collegiate time ever with a 20.23 to lead qualifying as a 20.55 by USC’s Andre De Grasse was second best. They will be in the same second section of the final with Hart along with Tevin Hester of Clemson (20.77).
Purvis (23.34) and K. Brown (23.37) advanced in the women’s 200 with the seventh and eighth best times from the prelims.
Purvis placed fourth in her heat behind SEC foes Kyra Jefferson of Florida (22.64), Kentucky’s Dezerea Bryant (22.74) and A’Keyla Mitchell of Kansas State (23.25). Brown finished runner-up in another heat behind Oregon’s Ariana Washington (23.21). Another Duck sprinter, Jenna Prandini, had the top time with a 22.52.
Aaliyah Brown ran 7.29 for fifth place in her prelim heat of the 60 meters and claimed the final spot in the final. In the 200 prelims she finished third in her heat with a 23.68 that was 13th overall.