GREENSBORO (September 1, 2017) – If four is historic then six would be unprecedented.
Duane Ross, North Carolina A&T’s director of track and field programs saw his men’s and women’s track and field teams (indoor and outdoor) claim all four Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship titles during the 2017 spring semester.
N.C. A&T became the first MEAC track and field program to win men’s and women’s indoor and men’s and women’s outdoor titles in 14 years. No MEAC program has ever added both men’s and women’s cross country championships to the collection of winning all four track and field championships.
Even though it has never been done, it has crossed Ross’ mind.
“If winning four championships last year did nothing else, it definitely put me in the mindset of winning all six,” said Ross who is entering his sixth season as the head of all six programs. “It is definitely a goal. We’ve talked about it as a staff and we’ve talked about it as a team.
Now that hill is going to be a tough hill to climb. But we're willing to take the journey. We're passionate about it., so there is a sense of urgency. My student-athletes and my staff know how I am. I'm greedy, and I want it all. If there are six out there, I want all six. If there were 10, I would want 10.”
It may start with the men’s cross country program who has been among the top programs in the conference. The men have finished at least in the top-3 of the MEAV over the past four seasons including two second-place finishes in 2014 and ‘15. But they have yet to reach the top. Getting there this season will be difficult without four-time All-MEAC performer Darren White. Ross’ strategy to overcome the loss of White is to use depth. Sophomores Coy Brown and Mar’Quise McGee will unite with junior Dequan Maddox in attempt to put together a string of top-20 finishes to replace White’s many top-10 finishes.
“Our message to them is you’re not freshmen anymore,” said Ross. “The adjustment stage is out the window. They’re going to be called on to step up and lead this cross country team. I think they’re good to be a good threesome. It’s all about running and putting your runners in the right position. They have the experience of running like that from last year, so I think they are really going to show us something.”
N.C. A&T’s depth is enhanced by two-time All-MEAC standout Hakeem Mustafaa. Mustafaa had a second-place finish in the MEAC as freshman in 2015 with an 8k personal-best of 25:25. He qualified for the NCAA Division Southeast Region Cross Country Championships as a freshman as well. The Aggies also feature two seniors in Corey Aiken and Steve Stowe.
Freshman Alan Johnson may also contribute. Ross says the first thing you notice about Johnson is how much heart he has. According to Ross, Johnson is going to be a tremendous help.
“We're pretty young, but there is a lot of excitement in the direction of our cross country program,” said Ross. “Even though we lose someone as talented as Darren, I think we’re going to be somewhat better than the team we had last year because we do have a little more depth.”
Ross will now try to figure how to use that additional depth to add to the Aggies track and field trophy collection.