GREENSBORO - When Duane Ross looks at the overall landscape of MEAC indoor track and field, he is a realist. The Norfolk State men's track and field program is well established, and the Hampton women are not too bad either.
But the first-year North Carolina A&T director of track and field programs wants to send a message this weekend (Feb. 14-16) at the MEAC Indoor Track and Field Championships in Landover, Md.
"We're not going concede anything," he said. "If you want to win the MEAC, you're going to have to take it. We're not going to give you anything. I want to see us fight for everything this weekend."
The Aggies may not be as deep as some of the upper echelon teams, but there are some opportunities to bring home gold. Chief among them is Keenan Smith. Smith has the best triple jump by more than six inches in the MEAC this season. His leap of 49-feet, 9-inches at the HGI two weeks ago, puts the sophomore as the favorite in Landover.
In the long jump at the JDL College Kick-off Classic in Winston-Salem in December, Smith jumped 22-feet, 11-inches. It is the fourth-best long jump in the MEAC, but just the second-best long jump on the team. Marquis Noble leaped 23-feet, ¾ inches at the HGI.
"Keenan has worked extremely hard this season," Ross said. "I think he has an opportunity to do great things at A&T and beyond.
A&T's male sprinters - redshirt senior Darryl Williams and senior Torrance Womack - are also ready to do great things. The 6.75 Williams ran in the 60 meters of the Hilton Garden Invitational earlier this month, is the second-best time in the MEAC this season, three-tenths of a second behind Norfolk State's James Taylor.
Also at the HGI, Womack ran a 6.81 in the 60 for the fifth-best time this year. He also has the fifth-best time in the 200 meters with a 21.51 run at the Penn State National Invitational on Jan. 26.
Sophomore Christian Harrison has also had a solid indoor season. He ranks in the top 15 in three different events, including a No. 3 ranking in the 800 meters. His chief competition this weekend will be Hampton's Edose Ibadin and Maryland Eastern Shore's Zavior Brown.
"I'm expecting Christian to step up," said Ross. "He is getting better and better with each race. I'm really expecting him to go after a first-place finish. With Landover being his hometown, he is going to want to look good in front of the homefolks."
On the women's side, the Aggies two star hurdlers, Jenea McCammon and Dotrine Jacobs, are ranked No. 4 and 5 in the 60 meter hurdles. Roshel Bygraves is ranked fifth in the conference in the 400 meters thanks to a 55.50 she ran at the HGI. In the shot put, Sydni Cobb threw for 45-feet, 5-inches in the shot put for a No. 5 ranking in the conference.
Jessica Farr comes in ranked No. 6 in the 200 meters. "Jessica may be our best bet on the women's side," said Ross. "I think she is ready to really go low in the 200."
Both 4x400 meter relay teams could also find themselves on the award stand.
"We fully understand where we are as a program," said Ross. "But the expectations will never change. I expect them to compete, and we expect them to do all they can to win."