The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M prepares to host NCAA Indoor Championships

Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

The best track athletes from the SEC gathered in Gilliam Indoor Track to compete for the SEC Indoor Track Title.

As students at Texas A&M University leave town for spring break, the very best from the collegiate track and field world will be pouring into College Station. For a second consecutive year, Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Stadium will play host to the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships, running from March 9-10.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than this, with us hosting the NCAA Championships indoors,” Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry said to “This is the biggest meet of the year during the indoor season and we get to host it in College Station. It’s great for our fans, our team and I think our facility makes it great for the sport.
“It’s nice not to have to travel and stay home, but more importantly you get to compete in front of the 12th Man and that’s great for our team. ”
The sixth ranked Aggie men will have the rare opportunity to defend their 2017 title at home. The team won last year’s 4×400 title in front of a raucous crowd to edge out Florida by half a point and win the championship.
The men’s squad are returning five athletes who scored 32 of the team’s 46 winning points last season and will have a total seven athletes competing in five events over the course of the weekend.
Senior Will Williams will be the first Aggie in competition, with the long jump getting underway on Friday evening. This year’s SEC champion finished runner-up at these championships last season and is looking to score NCAA points in three consecutive years.
“This weekend is going to be a time our jumps group breaks barriers,” Williams said to “Hopefully, we can set up the team to score big come Saturday. I always tend to keep my confidence level-headed, but the long jump can be a very unexpected event. Sometimes you don’t know what is going to happen. I tend to listen to a lot of old-school music to relax before a competition.”
The school record holder in the pole vault, junior Jacob Wooten, will be competing in his first NCAAs since finishing ninth in 2016. Wooten cleared 18-3 and 18-412 this season to better senior Audie Wyatt’s record of 18-212. The junior claimed six titles in seven meets this season, including a gold medal at the SEC Championships.
“I honestly can’t wait, there’s nothing like being at home and having the Aggies cheer for you,” Wooten said to “During the conference meet I got a little too hyped, and under-performed after clearing my opening height. It’s good to have the fans back you up. Everyone performed really well during the SEC meet and I think they’ll continue rolling off that momentum. We saw what we could do at conference, and now we’re going into nationals ready to perform better.”
Wyatt will also be in the field this weekend, and like Williams, is looking to improve upon his runner-up finish last year and walk away with NCAA points for a third season in a row.
On track, Devin Dixon will be looking to add to his medal count after claiming the SEC 800m title two weeks ago. The sophomore’s career best time of 1:47.37, set earlier this season at Clemson, ranks fifth fastest among this weekend’s entrants. Dixon will again run the third leg of the 4×400 relay, after helping Texas A&M to the title last season.
“It was exciting to win at the SEC Indoor while running at home with the crowd,” Dixon said to “It was very motivating to win. In the relay people wondered how we would do without Fred Kerley this season and we were able to break multiple records during the SEC meet. It goes to show that teamwork can make some things happen. I was excited to see how everybody ran on the relay, giving every inch they had.”
Seniors Mylik Kerley and Robert Grant will both represent the Aggies in the 400m. Kerley finished third in the event last year, while also anchoring the 4×400 squad to victory.
Two weeks ago at the SEC Championships, Grant ran a career best 45.84 in the 400m prelims before going on to finish fourth in the final. He also ran the fastest ever second leg in the 4×400 with a 44.61.
“The performance I had during the SEC Championships was a confidence booster,” Grant said to “To run 45.8 in the open and split 44.6 on the relay gives me a lot of confidence going into the national championship this week. I know I’m capable of scoring big points if I hit on the right day.”
Once again, this year’s competition could well come down to the highly-anticipated men’s 4×400 relay final. The Aggie squad claimed the SEC title two weeks ago on this same track and will be looking for the school’s fifth national title since 2010. On track for Texas A&M will be Ilolo Izu, Grant, Dixon and Kerley, with Bryce Deadmon as the alternate.
The Texas A&M women’s team comes into this year’s NCAAs ranked 10th nationally and has nine athletes competing over six events.
Tyra Gittens will get her first NCAAs underway just after noon on Friday when she will compete in the pentathlon. The freshman racked up a career best 4,121 points at the SEC Championships, bettering her Trinidad and Tobago national record of 4,009.
Another Aggie making her meet debut is fellow freshman Sammy Watson. She won the 800m SEC title over junior teammate Jazmine Fray and will look to do the same this weekend. Fray, who is the collegiate record holder in the event, finished fourth here last year and will be determined to get back on top of the collegiate world.
Danyel White is the only Texas A&M representative in the 200m. The sophomore will be looking to improve on her ninth place finish last year, and will once again be part of the Aggie’s 4×400 squad.
“It’s amazing to run in front of a home crowd in a national championship meet,” White said. “All your friends and family, plus the crowd, is amazing. You still have to be mentally prepared though to compete well.”
Senior Alison Ondrusek will be making her final indoor appearance in weight throw this weekend and is coming off a silver medal showing at the SEC conference meet. She comes in with a career best heave of 69-1134 and will try to become only the third Texas A&M woman to score NCAA points in the event.
Along with Gittens and Watson, Lajarvia Brown and Ciynamon Stevenson will be making their NCAA debuts this weekend. The sophomore triple jumpers each leapt over the 43-foot mark this season.
“Jumping 43 feet in the triple jump has enabled me to help the team this season as well as my confidence,” Brown said to “Moving forward to nationals, I think I’m ready. Training for the pentathlon this past fall helped me since I was not so focused on one event and worried about that one event. I’m getting stronger for different events, so now when I’m on the runway for the triple jump it’s different.”
The women’s 4×400 relay will be the final event of the championships on Saturday night. Texas A&M will run White, Glorilisha Carter, Julia Madubuike and Fray, as the squad will look to improve on the team’s third place finish last season. Jarra Owens is the team’s alternate.
Action gets underway at noon on Friday, with the men’s heptathlon and women’s pentathlon, and will run through Saturday night, concluding with the 4×400 relays.
“On the men’s side we have a returning group and have some people who have been in the battle,” Henry said to “I feel good about the men’s group, and I think we can be in the mix if we do everything correct. On the ladies side it would take a gargantuan effort, but if we can get in the top 10 it will be a great accomplishment for this group.”

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