BLACKSBURG, Va. (January 11, 2019) – North Carolina A&T’s established track and field standout athletes made their 2018-19 season debuts on Friday and showed why they are established standouts track and field athletes.
The North Carolina A&T track and field men’s and women’s track and field teams had tremendous success in the 60 meters and 60-meter hurdle events on the first day of the 2019 Virginia Tech Indoor Invitational at Rector Field House.
Senior All-Americans Michael Dickson, Rodney Rowe and Kayla White competed for the first time this season along with perennial Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) champion Madeleine Akobundu. They all won.
“We were very solid,” said N.C. A&T director of track and field programs, Duane Ross said. “It was our best opener ever. Everyone performed well across the board. Kayla White and Madeleine Akobundu are special athletes.”
Akobundu started the day by qualifying for the women’s 60mh final by running a top-qualifying time of 8.14. It beat her previous personal record, an 8.22 ran at the 2018 JDL Last Chance Invitational, by eight seconds. She won the event by running an 8.16 to finish ahead of teammate TeJyrica Robinson who finished second in 8.38. Akobundu ranks second nationally in the 60mh.
Robinson set a personal record in the final after setting a personal record in the preliminary by running an 8.46 to record the third-best qualifying time. Her original personal best was 8.64 completed at the 2018 MEAC indoor championships.
White, who has been a dynamic force for the Aggies program over the past three seasons, stepped on the track for the first time this season when she finished in the women’s 60m prelim by running a personal-best 7.33. She lowered that time in the final by running a 7.25 to win the 60m breaking her own school record and recording the best time in the nation.
It was White’s third career win in the 60. Her previous personal best came during the 2018 MEAC indoor championships when she won the 60 in 7.39.
The Aggies packed the women’s 60 on Friday. Freshmen Cambrea Sturgis (7.38) and Kamaya Dubose-Epps (7.408), junior Taliyah Townsend (7.499), Kayla Foy (7.52) had the third, fourth, fifth and seventh-best qualifying times respectively. Sturgis finished fourth in the final in 7.44 followed by Townsend in fifth (7.50), Dubose-Epps in sixth (7.53) and Foy in eighth (7.55). Townsend missed a personal best by a fraction of a second.
N.C. A&T’s men were also effective. The N.C. A&T men’s team is ranked 18thin the nation mainly behind their sprinters. Dickson led the way in the 60mh by having the best qualifying time and finishing first in the final. Dickson ran a 7.83 in the preliminary before winning the event in 7.76. Junior Robert Miller finished second in 8.02 after running the fifth-best qualifying time (8.20). Freshman Cedric McGriff finished fifth in 8.057 after running a qualifying time of 8.10 to finish second in the prelim.
In the 60, Rowe picked up where he left off last season. Rowe had the third-best qualifying time at 6.81. But in the final, he lowered his time to 6.733 to win the event. He beat teammate Akeem Sirleaf by just a fraction of a second as Sirleaf crossed the finish line in 6.740. Sirleaf ran a 6.766 in the prelim for the best qualifying time outlasting Virginia Tech’s Corey Beck’s 6.769. N.C. A&T freshman Malcolm Croom-McFadden finished sixth (6.94).
The Aggies were strong in other areas as well. Three men finished in the top-10 of the 300m led by sophomore Trevor Stewart who finished second in 33.35. Senior Justin Hamilton finished fourth (33.57) and junior Brandy Felix placed seventh (34.20). In the women’s 300m, Sun-Sara Williams (39.54) and freshman Nilaja Florence (40.20) finished sixth and seventh.
Both triple jump events saw an Aggie finish in second. On the women’s side, Royce Johnson jumped 38-feet, 8 ¼-inches to finish behind VCU’s Aliyah Newman (39-feet, 9 ¼-inches). The men’s triple jump had two top-5 finishes. Senior Lasheon Strozier jumped 49-feet, 7 ¼-inches to finish second while Justin Sims-McCray jumped 46-feet, 8 ¼-inches to place fourth. Strozier has qualified for an NCAA indoor and outdoor championship meet.
Senior Derrick Wheeler (56-feet, 6 ½ inches), sophomore Aaron Wilkerson (53-feet, 3-inches) and freshman Kevin Fofanah (51-feet, 5 ¾-inches) finished in fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively in the men’s weight throw. Wilkerson’s top throw was a personal best breaking his 50-foot, 2 ¾-inch throw at the MEAC indoor championships in 2018. On the women’s side, sophomore Loren James finished fifth in the weight throw with her best toss traveling 51-feet, 5 ¾-inches.
In another field event, junior Jayne Roberts finished fourth in the women’s pole vault with a jump of 10-feet, 10-inches.
Back on the track, junior G’Jasmyne Butler ran a personal-best 5:11.66 in the women’s mile besting her 5:12.22 time at the 2018 Clemson Orange & Purple Indoor Invitational. Freshman Regan Kimtai finished sixth in the men’s mile (4:19.21) while junior Mar’Quise McGee placed eighth (4:21.08). McGee’s time was a personal best. It topped his 4:21.56 at the Camel City Invitational last February.
Junior Kristoni Barnes finished seventh in the women’s 1000m while freshman Arianna Purvis placed 10thin the 500m (1:24.28).
Competition on the second day of the Virginia Tech Invitational begins 11 a.m., Saturday at Rector Field House.