North Carolina A&T Athletics is down to the final two top stories of 2017. As a recap, No. 10 was women’s golf’s two tournament wins in only their second season. The ninth-best story was men’s basketball’s upset of NCCU giving the Aggies their only conference win of 2016-17. Cutter Dyals being drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft was No. 8, while the indoor track and field programs (men and women) capturing their respective MEAC titles was No. 7. Coming in at No. 6 was football’s big wins over Charlotte, Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central.
Opening the top-5 was the Aggies playing on network national television again as a part of the Celebration Bowl. Outdoor track and field entered the list at No. 4, while Tarik Cohen being drafted and having a great first season was No. 3. Here is No. 2.
No. 2 Belcher becomes an instant start and goes from A&T to Nike in record time
Irwin Belk Track at Aggie Stadium was not packed with fans on April 15. But in the age of Twitter it didn’t need to be. On that day, N.C. A&T sprinter Chris Belcher ran a 9.99 in the 100 meters at the annual Aggie Invitational. Tweets started erupting out of Aggie Stadium like it was fireworks night. Once word got completely gout out, Belcher’s profile became enormous around the track world. Now, he was not only the top sprinter at N.C. A&T or the MEAC, he was a world-class sprinter. Over the next month, there were not many collegiate sprinters bigger than Mr. Belcher.
Belcher carried the Aggie the Aggie Invitational over to the MEAC outdoor championships in May where he won three conference gold medals (100m, 200m, 4x100) to help the N.C. A&T men's track and field team win their first conference title in 21 years. A month later, Belcher clocked a 9.93 in a semifinal heat at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore., to become a first-team All-American. At the time, his 9.93 was the third-fastest time in the world this year. Belcher also earned first-team All-America honors in the 200m and 4x1. The 20.01 he ran at the NCAA championships was the sixth-fastest time in the world in the 200m in 2017. The 38.48 ran by Belcher and his 4x1 teammates at the NCAA championships (semifinal heat) was the eighth-fastest time in the world this year.
Then came the big payoff.
Belcher signed a professional contract with Nike on June 23. Belcher also finished third in the U.S. 100m final to earn a prestigious spot on the United States Track and Field team along with Olympian Justin Gatlin and NCAA 100-meter champion Christian Coleman out of the University of Tennessee. Belcher continued his ascent through two qualifying races that made him a member of the U.S. national team. There were two semifinal 100m heats. To make the final, Belcher needed to finish in the top-4 of his heat. To make the U.S. team he needed to place in the top-3. In A&T apparel, Belcher placed fourth in his heat and eighth overall with a time of 10.22. It was close to his slowest time of the season, nearly matching the 10.24 he ran on April 8.
Belcher fixed his technique and then changed uniforms. In the two hours between races, Belcher signed with Nike to make the obvious official, he was not going to return to A&T for his final year of indoor track and field. In his new Nike outfit, Belcher ran a 10.06 to finish third behind Coleman's 9.98 and Gatlin's 9.95. The trio represented the US ii London at the IAAF World Championships, where Belcher ran against track and field legend Usain Bolt.