GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T men’s sprinter Desmond Lawrence doesn’t concern himself about which sport he likes the best – football or track and field. He is just having fun doing both. In fact, based on his accomplishments over the past nine months, it appears Mr. Lawrence is having a blast. After leading the football team in receiving, he went on to win the 60 meters MEAC indoor championship in February and on Saturday at A&T’s Irwin Belk Track he took home the 100 meters MEAC outdoor title in 10.57.
Lawrence’s other two performances helped the A&T men’s track and field team finish second at the 2014 MEAC Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Championships. Lawrence was the anchor leg on the Aggies men’s 400 meter relay team (freshman Caleb Gabriel, senior Darryl Williams, junior Marquis Noble and Lawrence) that took gold with a time of 40.27. He also placed third in the men’s 200 meters to score six more points for an Aggies team that posted 101 points.
With a year like that, it’s easy to see why it’s hard to choose.
“I’ve always loved football since I was a little kid,” said Lawrence, who said he came to A&T to play football. “But I told (the football coaches) that if I was going to come here I wanted to run track too. I’ve never stopped to think about which sport I’m better in or which sport will take me the farthest. I guess I’ll start thinking about now.”
The most difficult portion of doing both sports is going from football to indoor. Lawrence misses a lot of the base training his teammates receive going into the indoor season. Therefore, he is always playing catchup. He said normally by the end of the indoor season he is in race-running shape. “The transition is slow,” he said. “I’m a little bit behind in the training process.”
Lawrence said Duane Ross, the Aggies director of track and field programs, always makes the transition easier. Ross and A&T head football coach Rod Broadway will have Lawrence a little while longer. Lawrence has one more season of eligibility in football and indoor track and field. This outdoor season will be his final one. Before it ends, he will get a chance to compete in the 2014 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., at the University of North Florida.
He is looking to improve on his 100 time from Saturday. The runners ran into a strong wind, which affected everyone’s time. Lawrence has gone as low as 10.35 this season.
“I was just happy to get my team some points,” Lawrence said.
The Aggies other individual gold medalist was men’s triple jumper Keenan Smith. Smith won his second straight MEAC triple jump outdoor championship despite scratching on his first two jumps. His third and best jump went 50-feet, 5 ¼ inches. In 2015, Smith will have a chance to become the first MEAC 3-peat individual champion since former Aggie Calesio Newman 3-peated in the 100 in 2008, 09 and 10.
“A&T has a great legacy in track and field,” said Smith. “To be mentioned with some of the great alumni who have come before me would be very dear to me.”
Freshman Joshua Peoples also gave the Aggies to be optimistic about 2015. He placed second in the men’s 200 with wind aided personal-best 20.82. He also scored in the 100 with a fifth-place finish. Darren White also got on the awards stand with a third-place finish in the 3000-meter steeplechase by running a personal-best 9:32.72.
Williams finished behind Lawrence in the 100 with a time of 10.69. Smith, Peoples and Lawrence and the Aggies 400 meter relay team have qualified for the NCAA preliminary round in two weeks.
“We’re right there,” said Ross, who pointed out an injury to freshman Todd Townsend hampered the Aggies in the 110-hurdles and decathlon. “Our guys have grown a lot this season. I’m very excited about our men’s program. We brought in a lot of young guys who continue to amaze me day-to-day. We have three seniors leaving, but the majority of our team is freshmen and underclassmen.”
A&T’s All-MEAC Performers
Keenan Smith, N.C. A&T (TJ); Desmond Lawrence, North Carolina A&T (4x100, 100m); Darryl Williams, North Carolina A&T (4x100); Caleb Gabriel, North Carolina A&T (4x100); Marquis Noble, North Carolina A&T (4x100).
Darryl Williams, North Carolina A&T (100m); Joshua Peoples, North Carolina A&T (200m).
Desmond Lawrence, North Carolina A&T (200m); Darren White, North Carolina A&T (3000 SC).