GREENSBORO, (January 5, 2018) – The North Carolina A&T indoor track and field teams open the new year in Clemson, S.C. for the 2018 Orange & Purple Invitational at the Clemson University Indoor Complex, on Saturday, Jan. 6. The one-day meet starts at 10 a.m. with four field events. The track events begin at noon.
The Aggies are up against Bethune-Cookman, Campbell, Charleston, Clemson, Southern, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Johnson C. Smith, and Tennessee Tech. “I am in a good spot as a head coach since we have so much depth,” said N.C. A&T director of track and field programs, Duane Ross. “We have a lot of bright spots all over the place. We are deep and there are a lot of athletes competing at an exceptional level.”
A&T last competed four weeks ago opening the indoor season at the JDL College Kick-off Classic winning the women’s 60-meter hurdles and the men’s 60 meter and 200m events. N.C. A&T totaled 31 top-10 performances with 17 coming from the women and 14 from the men. Eight different Aggies set new personal records in their respective events. The men will travel with a bulk of their squad to Clemson for their first indoor season test.
NORTH CAROLINA A&T MEN’S INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD BREAKDOWN
The Aggie field events will get things started in the men’s triple jump featuring junior Lasheon Strozier and freshman Semaj Anderson. Senior Aaron Deane will join both Strozier and Anderson in the men’s long jump at 1p.m., while junior Derrick Wheeler competes in the weight throw. Wheeler returns for the shot put competition along with freshman Aaron Wilkerson and Deane. Wheeler is the top weight thrower in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) at 55-feet, 2 ¾ inches and is eighth in shot put at 42-feet, 2 ¾ inches. Wilkerson ranks third in the shot put (49-feet, 4 ¼ inches) MEAC rankings. Senior Nehemiah Lipford and Anderson are slated for the high jump.
The 60mh start at 1:15 p.m. Junior Michael Dickson, senior Todd Townsend, sophomore Robert Miller and Deane are entered.
The Aggies have the top two 60m times in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Sophomore Jaylen Mitchell clocked in the nation’s fastest time at the JDL College Kick-off Classic in December with a time of 6.65. Senior Joel Thomas is second in the conference at 6.78. Mitchell goes into the weekend with the top time in the country.
“This year Jaylen has bought in, and he is focused,” said Ross. “That time surprised me. I knew from what he had been doing in practice, but as a coach you love to see that. Some athletes are good in practice and some athletes show up when it’s time. Right now, he is showing that he is that athlete that shows up when it is time.”
Freshman Trevor Stewart ran a top-10 MEAC time of 21.85 in the 200m at the season opener. Joining Stewart in the 200m at the Orange and Purple Invite will be junior Michael Dickson, Mitchell, sophomore Robert Miller and senior Joel Thomas. Not listed is junior Justin Hamilton, who has the fifth-fastest time in the nation.
Senior distance runners Steve Stowe and Corey Aiken are in the mile run while sophomores Marquise McGee and Daquan Maddox are in the 3000m event. In the 5000m, junior Hakeem Mustafaa and sophomore Joel Freeman will compete.
The men’s 4x400m relay is seventh in the nation and first in the MEAC after clocking in a time of 3:11.91. Hamilton, Jones, Stewart and Hardiing will run on the “A” relay team and Townsend, Mitchell, Rowe and Thomas are on the Aggies “B” relay team this weekend.
NORTH CAROLINA A&T WOMEN’S INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD BREAKDOWN
Sophomore Madeleine Akobundu was named MEAC Track Athlete of the Week following the nation’s second-fastest time of 8.35 in the 60mh at the JDL College Kick-off Classic.
“Madeleine is a great athlete, and I saw a lot of potential in her while I was recruiting her,” commented Ross. “I have been talking to her about how unimportant the No. 2 ranking is. I think she can run so much faster, so I cannot let her be content with that. She has definitely gotten the attention of the rest of the country”.
Akobundu is entered in the 60mh at the Orange & Purple Invitational along with senior Morgan Knight and freshman TeJyrica Robinson. Robinson sits ninth in the conference with a time of 8.84 in her collegiate debut. Following the 60mh is the 60m at 2:30 p.m. Senior India Brown, junior Kayla White and sophomore Taliyah Townsend will test the field. Townsend ran the fifth-fastest conference time in the 60m at 7.71.
The first distance event scheduled is the mile run with sophomore G’Jasmyne Butler, senior Miranda Green and sophomore Camille Martin. Martin is ranked third in the conference at 5:23.31 while Green is fifth at 5:32.09. Both Martin (10:48.99) and Green (11:26.98) are also competing in the 3000m where they are ranked sixth and eighth, respectively. Sophomore Khadijah Reid is the lone Aggie in the 800m and is ranked seventh in the MEAC with a time of 2:20.67. Senior Imani Coleman is entered in the 1000m run.
A trio of Aggies all ranked in the MEAC long jump top-10 hope to improve their marks. Akobundu has the second-best mark of 18-feet, 9-inches, freshman Royce Johnson (17-feet, 10 ¼ inches) ranks sixth and junior Anisa Toppin (17-feet, 6-inches) is tied for eighth in the long jump. Both Toppin and Johnson are also entered in the triple jump.
Senior Morgan Knight will represent the Aggies in the pole vault and freshman Nazah Reddick is in the high jump where she is tied for second in the conference at 5-feet, 1-inch. The weight throw follows the high jump at noon where senior Imani Abraham will perform after ranking seventh in the MEAC with a throw of 48-feet, 8 ¾ inches in the opener. Freshman Loren Jackson will debut in the shot put at 5 p.m. rounding out the field events.
The afternoon session is highlighted by the Aggie 300m and 200m events. Brown, sophomore Tori Ray, freshman Payton Russell, Townsend and junior Kennedy Thorne are all in the 300m while White, Townsend, Toppin and Reddick are in the 200m. The women’s 4x400m relay is 11th in the nation and tops in the MEAC after clocking in a time of 3:46.66. Ray, Russell, Lundy and Townsend will run on the “A” relay team and Brown, Barnes, Coleman and White are on the Aggies “B” relay team this weekend.