GREENSBORO – Each day in practice North Carolina A&T track and field seniors Darryl Williams and Desmond Lawrence, juniors Marquis Noble and Jeffrey Lewis and freshman Joshua Peoples compete against one another at Irwin Belk Track.
Therefore, Saturday should seem pretty familiar to the quintet. They will be an Irwin Belk Track. They will be competing. There is one slight difference. All five men will compete for a conference championship in the 100 meters. On Friday afternoon at the 2014 MEAC Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Championships, Williams, Lawrence, Noble, Lewis and Peoples were five of the eight 100 meter qualifiers.
Five men in the 100 meter final means the Aggies could come away with a maximum total of 36 points if all five finish in the top five. A&T will need that boost. The men will enter the final day of the conference meet in eighth place with 13 points.
The Aggies wanted to put seven men in the 100 final, but freshmen Caleb Gabriel and Maurice Eaddy didn’t qualify.
“We really felt like we had a strong chance of getting six in,” said Duane Ross, A&T’s director of track and field programs. “It would have been nice to get them all in, but the great thing about this is most of them are young. Other than Desmond and Darryl, they’re all coming back, so we have a lot to look forward to.”
Lawrence led the way and won his heat with a time of 10.46. He was three-tenths of a second off the fastest time on Friday, which belonged to Savannah State’s Kenshard Hamilton at 10.43. Williams and Noble had the fourth and fifth fastest times at 10.55 and 10.56 (personal-best) respectively. Peoples and Lewis both ran 10.64 to qualify. It was Peoples' personal best.
“In practice it is pretty intense with us,” said Lewis. “We all felt coming into this year if we pushed each other then we can all succeed when it comes to MEAC. We felt like we are the team to beat. We’re not worried about anybody else. We feel like the competition is among us.”
The three other men in the final will be tough to beat. Hamilton’s 10.43 on Friday was a personal best. Bethune-Cookman’s Angelo Cabrera won Friday’s third heat in 10.56, and his teammate Tremayne Banks had the third fastest qualifying time at 10.52.
“We’re not going to see anybody that’s going to be better than what we practice,” said Williams. “With Desmond coming in leading the MEAC, we all practice with the very best every day. We’re used to all different types of runners, so we don’t worry about anybody else.”
With the 100 as the catalyst, the Aggies should make a significant move toward the top. A&T has a tremendous amount of competitors in the men’s 200 as well. Gabriel, Lawrence and Peoples will all try to take down Banks who is the favorite. There are also three Aggies – Perry Cabean, Saeed Jones and Darren White – in the 3000 meter steeplechase. Jones will also compete in the 1,500, while Keenan Smith and Omozokpia Olumese will be in the triple jump and pole vault finals respectively.
There will also be scoring opportunities in the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays for the Aggies. Freshman Todd Townsend will have a busy Saturday as he competes in the javelin and 110-meter hurdles. Banks is the favorite in the 110-meter hurdles as well.
“We knew it was going to be a battle with Bethune-Cookman. They have a lot of kids,” said Ross about the meet-leading Wildcats. “They especially have a lot of young men in the decathlon. To offset that, we needed to have as many guys as possible in the 100 and 200. We did that. Now we have to execute. We talk about discipline every day in practice. If they can go out and do what they do in practice every day without being rattled by the fact it is a final, they have a good chance of going 1,2,3 (in the 100).”