GREENSBORO - Duane Ross announced the signing of his first five male recruits, in his new role as North Carolina A&T's director of track and field programs on Tuesday.
Josiah Elliott (Winston-Salem, N.C., Parkland High School, Middle Distance), Caleb Gabriel (Raleigh, N.C., Broughton HS, Sprints), Barry Harris (Greensboro, N.C., Southeast Guilford HS, Sprints), Dominique Irons (Haddon Heights, N.J., Haddon Heights HS, Sprints/Jumps) and Thomas Jones II (Burlington, N.C., Cummings HS, Sprints/Hurdles) will be Aggies when the 2013-14 school year begins in August.
There are several components to how Ross wants to transform track and field at A&T. The Aggie men will lose key sprinters Darryl Williams, Earl House III and Torrance Womack after the outdoor season, leaving Ross with huge voids to fill. As a result, the early signing of five athletes allows him to have a foundation already in place as he tries to take advantage of the numerous high school meets the Aggies will host at Irwin Belk Track this spring.
His vision is also to build the men's program around sprinters, middle distance runners, jumpers and hurdlers.
"That is going to be the foundation of our program," said Ross. "We obviously want to build a balanced program that is not only the best (historically black college or university) in the country, but the best school in the country. But when I look at where we are going to be our strongest, it is in sprints, long sprints, hurdles and jumps."
Ross also wants to sign as many in-state recruits as he can. Four of his five initial signees are from North Carolina, including a familiar name to Aggie track and field fans.
Elliott's brother Jarrell, was a track and field star for the Aggies. In 2012, Jarrell became the first American-born Aggie to qualify for the Olympic trials. Josiah hopes to exceed his brother's accomplishments over the next four years. Josiah ranks first in the state in the indoor 800 meters and second in the 500m. He ran a 64.53 at the Liberty Elite Indoor meet on Dec. 15, for the seventh-best time in the nation.
Gabriel has a personal record of 10.64 in the 100m and a 22.04 in the 200m. Over the past three years, he has qualified for the Junior Olympic Nationals in the 200m. Gabriel placed fourth in the 55m and sixth in the 300m at the 2013 Class 4A Indoor State Championships.
Harris is ranked third in the state in the 500m and eighth nationally. He had a fourth-place finish in the 500 at the 2013 Class 4A Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Irons is the only out-of-state recruit on Ross' initial signee list. Irons will be able to perform in several events for the Aggies throughout his career. He is the 2013 New Jersey state champion in the 55m. He was also the runner up in the triple jump at the 2012 New Jersey State Group Championships. His jump of 48-feet, 9-inches is second in the state and eighth in the country, while his time of 6.42 in the 55m is tops in the state and ranks 14th nationally.
Jones II is ranked second in the state in the 55 meter hurdles and 11th nationally. Jones placed second in the 55mh at the state championships in 2013. He won the Class 2A outdoor track and field state championship in the 300mh and finished second in the 110mh.
"They all have a lot of potential," said Ross. "I think they can come in here and make an immediate impact. They have so much upside. This is a new day in A&T track, we are a new regime here looking to build a new foundation. These five gentlemen are going to be a big part of that. This is an exciting time for us."