GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The North Carolina A&T track and field teams learned some valuable lessons in what was probably their most competitive meet of the season. The men's and women's teams spent two days at the University of Florida's James G. Pressley Stadium at Percy Board Track as they competed in the 2012 Pepsi Florida Relays. The Aggies had three top 10 finishes on the men's side and one on the women. They also picked up some knowledge.
"In terms of execution, I believe our people did not show up to compete on Friday," said James Daniels, A&T's interim director of track and field programs. "Their mental focus and preparation was not at the level that it needed to be to go against the caliber of teams that we ran against. With track and field you cannot pick who you run against; whoever shows up is who you have to run against. We are going to work more on our mental focus so we can be prepared to run against whoever lines up against us."
The athletes the Aggies lined up against were among the best in the country. It may have played a part in the Aggies breaking a few school marks. The men's 4x200 meter relay team (Earl House, Torrance Womack, Jarrell Elliott, Darryl Williams) set a new school record with a time of 1:23.66, as they finished in sixth place.
The same foursome also ranked high in the men's 4x100 meter relay with a time of 40.13, earning them seventh place overall. The men's 4x800 meter relay squad (Danzeto Cephas, Paris Simmons, Darius Bogertey and Steve Liggins) had the other top 10 finish for the Aggie men. They finished seventh with school-record time of 7:36.78.
"We haven't been this strong this early in the season in almost three years," Daniels said about his relay teams.
The ladies also showed up in their relay events. The 4x200 meter relay team of seniors Ruth Hunt and Krystin Lawson and juniors Jessica Farr and Jenea McCammon placed 10th with a time of 1:37.60.
"We set school records in our relays over the weekend and we are well ahead of last year's performances. A lot of the people that we ran in our relays last year are returning from the NCAA regionals as finalists."
Other notable performances included House setting a personal record in the men's 100 meter dash with a time of 10.43, earning him 15th place out of 72 competitors. Elliott won his heat in the 400 meter dash and placed 13th overall with a time of 46.95. Gainesville native Marquis Noble, a freshman jumper, had a successful homecoming as he earned 11th place in the men's long jump with a distance of 22-feet, 9-inches.
"Earl has not run the 100 meter dash in almost 14 months," explained Daniels. "He has had some problems with his hamstring, so for him to come out and run a 10.43 without running the 100 at all last year, and to do as well as he has is extremely impressive. It's good to see him back to the level he was as a freshman. He has worked hard and is always willing to step up to the challenges I present to him at practice.
The Aggies will not compete this week. They will, however, have two weeks to prepare for their own meet. On April 20-21, the Aggies will host the annual Friendship & Freedom Games at Irwin Belk Track. The meet is known to attract the nation's top athletes and Olympians. Daniels hopes the tough competition at the Pepsi Florida Relays and being home will help the Aggies progress.
"For early on in the season we are doing very well," he said. 'To hold our own with the best athletes in the East region from schools like Kentucky, Florida, Boston University and Clemson is something to be proud of. However, with any success you have some areas where you need improvement."