COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M’s first ever indoor national team title came about in dramatic fashion as Mylik Kerley anchored the Aggies 4×400 relay to a come-from-behind meet record victory in 3:02.80 at the NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday (11 March) in College Station, Texas.
The 10 points from the race pushed Texas A&M’s team total to 46 points, just half a point ahead of Florida, who placed second in the relay.
For Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry it was his ninth national title with the Aggies and the 36th in his hall of fame career on the Division I level. Among indoor national titles this is Coach Henry’s 13th title, men and women combined, and his third men’s title. The other pair of men’s indoor team titles came at LSU in 2001 and 2004.
“This was a fine championship because of the crowd, because of the volume in this building, it was a pretty amazing win,” said Henry. “I think we have the best indoor facility in the country, it’s great to win this one here. We’re going to have a track environment here that is second to none.
“I know we have a good 4×400, so you hope it comes down to that. You gotta give a lot of credit to Florida. Those guys lined up and ran very fast. We had to come from behind to beat them. My hat’s off to Florida.”
The final men’s team scores had the Aggies on top with 46 points, followed by Florida (45.5), Oregon (38), Georgia (35.5), Arkansas (33), LSU (30), Virginia Tech (23.5), Alabama (22), Texas (21), Syracuse (20) and Tennessee (20).
“You look at it and think it comes down to this relay, but yesterday, Audie Wyatt gets second in the pole vault, he wasn’t supposed to score,” noted Henry. “Will Williams gets second in the long jump, he wasn’t supposed to score. That 16 points yesterday got us going. That was a huge part of this victory.”
On the women’s side a meet record of 84 points propelled Oregon to its seventh title over the past eight years. The Ducks were followed by Georgia (51), Alabama (37), USC (35), Arkansas (32.5), Kentucky (26), Colorado (21), Missouri (18), Miami (18), Penn State (14) and Stanford (14).
The Aggie women tied with Mississippi for 12th place with 13 points. Jazmine Fray placed fourth in the 800m and then she anchored the 4×400 relay to third place with a school record time of 3:28.36.
With a split of 45.39, Mylik passed Florida’s Ryan Clark (46.70) with 40m left in the race as he made up a five meter deficit from the last exchange of the baton.
“I knew that Florida wasn’t going to give up easy,” stated Mylik. “I knew I had to come in and do my job. My job may be sometimes to save the relay, sometimes just to hold the lead. At that point, it was just to make sure I did my job and made the right move at the right time.
“The crowd was just roaring and I was feeding off their energy. I don’t really believe in the hometown advantage, I just believe the best come to win. When it came down to my leg I knew I had to just go win it for the team.”
A final time of 3:02.80 by the Aggies becomes the second fastest collegiate time ever on a banked 200m track, trailing only the collegiate record of 3:02.52 set by Texas A&M earlier this season, and the fifth fastest ever on the world list. On the all-time collegiate list the Aggie now has run the seven fastest times ever.
The Aggies broke the NCAA meet record of 3:02.86 that Texas A&M had set in winning the 2015 title. They also bettered the facility record of 3:03.20 an Aggie squad set in winning the 2014 SEC title.
Individual 400m champion Fred Kerley led off the victorious relay in 45.08, giving the Aggies a full second lead over the Gator’s opening leg, Kunle Fasasi (46.08). The middle legs were handled by Robert Grant (46.49) and Devin Dixon (45.84).
In the 400m the Kerley brothers combined for 16 points with a first and third place effort. Fred won the final in 44.85 with Mylik third in 45.75 as LSU’s Michael Cherry clocked 45.64 in second place.
“I don’t really put any pressure on myself,” said Fred. “At this point it’s all about mindset, because you know everyone is good. Whenever you’re on the track, you’re racing against yourself versus the time.”
The performance by Fred also lowered his world leading time for 2017 and bettered the A&M school record for the third time this indoor season. It also eclipsed the facility record of 45.03 set by Aggie alum Deon Lendore in 2014.
Earlier in the meet Fasasi had originally placed fifth in the 400m, but was disqualified for bumping. That cost the Gators three points as Florida teammate Eric Futch moved into the fifth-place position. Florida also had two athletes in the triple jump, scoring 10 points off a second and seventh-place finish.
Lindon Victor finished fifth in the heptathlon with a school record score of 5,976 points, improving on the score of 5,851 he totaled as runner-up at the SEC Championships two weeks ago.
Victor’s second day in the multi-event started with an 8.43 in the 60m hurdles for 877 points. In the pole vault a career best of 15-7 ¼ (4.76) earned 837 points. Closing with the 1,000m Victor ran 2:51.14 for 754 points.
Georgia’s Devon Williams won the heptathlon title with 6,177 points, producing the fourth best score in collegiate history. Tim Duckworth of Kentucky finished as runner-up at 6,165, equaling the seventh best score in collegiate history. In fourth place was Hunter Price of Colorado State at 5,996 points.
Fray ran 2:03.00 in the final of the 800m, placing fourth. She becomes the first Aggie female to place in an NCAA Indoor final in this event since Suzanne Sheffield’s third-place finish in 1983. Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers won the race in 2:01.09, setting a meet record in the process.
Joining Fray on the school record relay were Jaevin Reed (52.08), Briyahna Desrosiers (52.35), Danyel White (51.79) while Fray anchored in 52.15. The Aggies became the fifth fastest school on the collegiate all-time list.
USC (3:27.03) and Oregon (3:27.07) both broke the previous collegiate record of 3:27.40 in finished first and second as Alabama (3:28.62) placed fourth.
Diamond Spaulding finished seventh in the women’s 200m final with a time of 23.09, having placed fourth in the first section. Oregon went 1-2 with the tandem of Ariana Washington (22.42) and Hannah Cunliffe (22.53) with USC’s Deanna Hill (22.54) third.
In the women’s pole vault Emily Gunderson tied with two others for 13th place. She cleared the opening height of 13-3 ½ (4.05) on her second attempt, but had three misses at 13-9 ¼ (4.20). Alabama’s Lakan Taylor was a surprise winner at 17-4 ¼ (4.45) as the Weeks sisters from Arkansas placed fifth (Victoria 14-1 ¼) and tied for seventh (Alexis 13-9 ¼).