GREENSBORO (May 5, 2018) – North Carolina A&T junior Kayla White wants to make a raucous every time she steps on the track. She was awful noisy Saturday afternoon at the 2018 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships at N.C. A&T’s Irwin Belk Track.
White led the N.C. A&T women’s track and field team by winning conference titles in the 4x100 relay, the 100 meters, the 100-meter hurdles and the 200m. White was named MEAC Outstanding Track Athlete to become the first Aggie to win outstanding track performer. In the process, White broke her own 100-meter hurdle conference record as she ran a 12.91 to topple her old record of 12.92.
But White’s exploits were not quite enough as the Aggies missed out on a chance to make history by finishing second at the outdoor conference championships behind champion Florida A&M. A win would have made N.C. A&T the first MEAC school ever to win back-to-back men’s and women’s indoor titles coupled with back-to-back men’s and women’s outdoor titles.
The men did win the 2018 MEAC outdoor title but the women lost the chance at history by a half point as Florida A&M posted 179.5 points to N.C. A&T’s 179. The Aggies were followed by Bethune-Cookman (120.5), Hampton (119) and Norfolk State (68) in the top-5.
“Losing this one burns me up because I'm all about creating history,” said N.C. A&T director of track and field programs, Duane Ross. “My women performed well but as a team, we expected to win but we didn't come to win. FAMU came to win. They came in here and hit us hard on Day 1. They knew if they put big numbers on us early, we would have to strain to catch up.”
Whenever a competition is lost by a half point there are several factors to pinpoint. But the Rattlers should be given a large amount of credit because they put the pressure on the defending champion Aggies heading into Saturday morning with a 75 ½ point lead.
But when the Aggie Sprint Show starring Kayla White started, the Aggies came roaring back. Throw in a triple jump first-place finish from Anisa Toppin who jumped 41-feet, 5 ¾ inches and another pole vault gold medal from senior Morgan Knight (12-feet, 9-inches), the fourth of her career, and history was in hand.
Sophomore Tori Ray, senior India Brown, junior Jadzia Beasley and White ripped through the 4x100 by running a season-best 44.38 before White displayed her record-breaking performance in the 100mh. In fact, the Aggies finished first, second and third in the 100mh as sophomore Madeleine Akobundu finished in 13.13 and sophomore TeJyrica Robinson posted a 13.40. Both ladies ran personal best.
White and Brown had strong presences in the 100m. White finished first in 11.24 while Brown came in third with a season-best 11.37. White and Brown were first and third in the 200m as well. White finished in a personal-record 22.98 while Brown crossed the line in 23.34.
“I make sure every time I step on the track I’m going to be a force to be reckoned with,” said White. “I wanted to let everyone know I was on the track as well as my teammates.”
But over the course of White’s dominance, strange things started occurring. Ray looked poise for certain victory in the 400m. B-CU’s Asia Joe was gaining on her with about 30 meters to go. But even if Joe completes the comeback, Ray is positioned to have at least eight points and second place wrapped up. Instead, however, Ray stumbled and fell with about 10 meters to go.
She landed just in front of the finish line. By the time she rose to her feet, the other competitors had crossed the line leaving Ray in eighth place. There was the 5000m where sophomore Camille Martin thought she had finished the race only to be informed by the official that she had one more lap. Martin finished 10th in 19:32.61. The Aggies also missed out on crucial points on Friday when Toppin, the seventh-ranked long jumper in the conference failed to score in the event.
We did not have a good weekend on the women's side,” said Ross. I can find a half point in a lot of places when you start looking at the little things we didn't do because we weren't prepared to win. It's those little things that set off the chain reaction where we end up falling at the 400. We foul in the long jump three times because we’re not prepared. Winning is contagious but so is losing. We got started on a bad streak it just continued.”
N.C. A&T went into the final race, the 4x400 relay, already knowing the Rattlers had wrapped up the title because the Aggies were down 10.5 points with only 10 points left to claim. Yet the Aggies finished strong as Ray, sophomore Sun-Sara Williams, freshmen Payton Russell and Nia Lundy finished in 3:36.96. They were five-tenths of a second off their season high (3:36.91) ran at the Florida Relays on March 29.
N.C. A&T will now turn its attention to the 2018 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round at USF Track and Field Stadium in Tampa, Fla., May 24-26.
“They're going to be hungry,” said Ross about his Lady Aggies at the regionals. “I saw their faces when FAMU was celebrating. They got beat at home when they were on the brink of history. Plus, they know they gave up the win. It wasn't like we got beat flat out, we gave it up. They're not feeling well.”
Redemption will not be the only thing on Ross’ mind heading into the East Prelims. He will have to figure out where White is to compete. A 100m and 100mh double is nearly impossible because the races are back-to-back. Ross said she will not compete in the 200m, therefore, the decision will come down to whether she will compete in the 100m or the 100mh. White won second-team All-American honors in the 100mh last season.
“I know I'm built to run those races because I've done it the last two years,” White said about her weekend at Irwin Belk Track. “Fatigue does set in but you know mentally the 4x1 is the warmup for the hurdles, the hurdles are the warmup for the 100 and the 100 is the warm-up for the 200. Everything is a warmup for the next thing. If I take the proper recovery, I know I'm going to be okay.”
North Carolina A&T Women’s Track and Field All-MEAC
First-Team: 4x100 (44.38), 4x400 (3:36.96); Loren James (shot put, 48-feet, 8 ¾-inches); Morgan Knight (pole vault, 12-feet, 9-inches); Tori Ray (4x100, 4x400); India Brown (4x100); Jadzia Beasley (4x100); Kayla White (4x100, 100mh, 12.91, 100m, 11.24, 200m, 22.98); Payton Russell (4x400), Sun-Sara Williams (4x400); Nia Lundy (4x400); Anisa Toppin (triple jump, 41-feet, 5 3/4-inches).
Second-Team: Nazah Reddick (high jump, 5-feet, 5 ¾-inches); Madeleine Akobundu (long jump, 20-feet, 1 1/2-inches, 100mh, 13.13); Imani Abraham (hammer throw, 165-feet, 8-inches); Camille Martin (3000m steeplechase, 11:41.84); Kristoni Barnes (800m, 2:08.01)
Third-Team: Royce Johnson (triple jump, 38-feet, 3 ½-inches); TeJyrica Robinson (100mh, 13.40); Nia Lundy (400m, 53.39); India Brown (100m, 11.37, 200m, 23.34); G’Jasmyne Butler (800m, 2:09.08);