GREENSBORO – There was too much blue and gold in the stands this weekend.
North Carolina A&T State University hosted the 2013 NCAA Division I East Track and Field Preliminary Round at Irwin Belk Track, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. While the A&T track and field student-athletes were gracious host and did an excellent job of volunteering where needed, that’s not what director of track and field programs Duane Ross wants them doing.
“I’m tired of everyone else coming in here and burning up our track, and we’re sitting in the stands in street clothes,” said Ross.
While Ross was not happy with seeing his team in the stands, he wanted them there. He hopes to use it as motivation going forward. The Aggies held a team meeting after the final race of the preliminary round, where they expressed how 2013 is the last year the majority of the men’s and women’s track and field teams will be spectators instead of participators.
“Everybody’s on board and that’s a good start,” said Ross. “We can compete on a national level, and we can compete for national championships. The thing about the Florida’s and LSU’s, they’re constantly putting the work in to be the best, and they’re about going out and doing it.”
Ross wasn’t completely without athletes at the regional. A&T’s last chance to have an athlete advance to the NCAA Nationals held in Eugene, Ore., June 5-8, came in the form of Keenan Smith in the men’s triple jump. Smith uncharacteristically did not perform well in the triple jump at Irwin Belk. His best jump on Saturday was 48-feet, 3 ¼ inches, well below the 51-foot, 2 ¾ inch jump that won him the MEAC triple jump championship.
“His nerves got to him,” said Ross. “We have to get our young people to believe in themselves and believe they can compete on this level. The pressure just got to him, it was a big stage. If he did what he was supposed to do, he would be on that plane to Oregon right now.”
The other three Aggie regional qualifiers also failed to reach Oregon. Freshman Nakita Gray finished tied for 14th on Friday in the women’s high jump.
“Nakita did well for a freshman on this stage,” said Ross. “She has ice in her veins, and I am so proud of her.”
Sophomore Christian Harrison ran a respectable 1:50.84 on Thursday, but failed to qualify for the quarterfinals. Junior sprinter Desmond Lawrence did advance to the quarterfinals with a personal-best 10.35 in the men’s 100 meters on Thursday. But his 10.44 on Friday was not enough to get him to Oregon.
But the one main thing all four athletes have in common is that they all return next season to complement an impressive recruiting class.
“It was exciting for the area, the community and the university,” said Ross about hosting the NCAA over the weekend. “Having the NCAA here was big for us. We had to watch a lot of the action on the track instead being a part of it, but we’re going to use that for fuel. We’re looking forward to our future.”