The Numbers Game
LANDOVER, Md. - North Carolina A&T is outgunned in men's and women's indoor track and field. On Saturday, both teams competed on the final day of the 2013 MEAC Indoor Track and Field Championships at Prince George S&L Complex.
The men finished in fourth place with 60 points, while the women came in eighth with 35 points. It was a nice effort by both teams considering each team only took 14 participants apiece. Only seven athletes scored for the men, and just six scored for the women. Meanwhile, Norfolk State took the men's title for the eighth consecutive season with 152.50 points. The Hampton women won their third straight with 140.50.
The Aggies did not win any individual or relay titles, but first-year director of track and field programs, Duane Ross is confident the Aggies will find the ammunition they need.
"It's about numbers, plain and simple," he said. "The Hamptons, the Bethune-Cookmans, the Maryland Eastern Shores, the Norfolk States, they have numbers. They are established programs, so we have to continue recruiting. That is our top priority."
In order to add the athletes he wants to put into place over the next few years, Ross started with subtraction. He trimmed a third of both of his rosters in order to make room for future recruits. He wants a more competitive Division I roster, where each week you have to earn your spot on the track or in the field event.
"Sure, we had to take a couple of steps back in order to take three or four leaps ahead," Ross said. "I think it is working for us. We had some good performances this weekend. There are some good teams in this conference, but they are beatable."
One of A&T's best chances at individual gold this weekend was redshirt senior Darryl Williams. He came into the championships with the second-fastest time in the men's 60 meters in the conference. He got as low as 6.75, but a hamstring injury sustained after the Virginia Tech Invitational in mid-January. Williams has been relegated to doing strides and warm ups since to avoid further injury. He placed second on Saturday in the 60, after running 6.82. It left Ross wondering what could have been after the first-place finisher - Norfolk State's James Taylor - ran a 6.75. In the same event, senior Torrance Womack came in fourth in 6.87.
Womack also ran a 21.89 in the 200 meters for a third-place finish. Another first-place hopeful coming into the weekend was sophomore jumper and sprinter Keenan Smith. Smith finished fourth in the men's long jump on Friday and followed that performance with a third-place finish in the triple jump on Saturday after his best leap was marked at 48-feet, 4 ¾ inches.
One of the stronger performers on the female side was Jenea senior McCammon. McCammon finished 60 meter hurdles in 8.71 for a third-place finish. She was also one-fourth of the 4x400 meter relay team that finished third in 3:46.58.
Fellow senior Juanita Weaver made history as she broke the school record in the weight throw with a mark of 49-feet, 11 ¾ inches.
"She really stepped it up," said Ross about Weaver. "I also thought Janay Ferrell ran an extremely competitive leg in the distance medley relay (on Friday, where the Aggies finished second). She is a freshman and an example of the type of buy-in we're trying to build here."
The next step for the Aggies is a last chance meet at Virginia Tech on March 2. A week later, the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., will be held. Despite his lack of numbers, Ross believes he still has some athletes who can do very well there.
The outdoor season starts March 14 in Myrtle Beach at the Shamrock Invitational. The Aggies, who have traditionally had individuals excel during the outdoor season, look to have a little more fire power in the spring.
"We are an outdoor program right now," said Ross. "We're trying to build a balanced program here, and we don't disregard indoor, but I'm thinking we're going to perform a little better in outdoor."