GREENSBORO, North Carolina – The United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), the governing body of track and field in the USA, released its latest top-25 NCAA Division I team rankings on Monday with the North Carolina A&T men’s track and field team listed among the top-25 for the first time in program history. They jumped an amazing 71 spots from 92nd to 21st in a week.
N.C. A&T’s top-25 slot puts them higher than some schools from big-named conferences such as South Carolina of the SEC and Kansas and Texas Christian of the Big 12. The Aggies’ previous highest ranking was 48th in 2008. The Aggies are ranked eighth in the USTFCCCA southeast region behind Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Louisville and Clemson.
“Our team and staff are excited about our current national and regional rankings,” said director of track and field programs Duane Ross. “We’ve known all season that these guys can compete with anyone in the country at any time. There’s still a lot of competing to do. The goal is the awards podium at the NCAA championships. Once we have that, I’ll celebrate. We don’t want to be the best HBCU track and field team in the country. We want to be the best track and field team in the country…period.”
Mightily assisting in the team’s national ranking were the performances given over the weekend at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Outdoor Track & Field Championships held at N.C. A&T’s Irwin Belk Track as N.C. A&T broke two MEAC records. The USTFCCCA recognized the top-10 college track & field performance in the country from May 2-8 by reviewing every college track & field contest from all levels (NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, etc.). Thirteen Aggies made the list, and a few received multiple recognition.
Aggie junior Christopher Belcher had the highest rankings. His performances in the 100 and 200 meters were established as the best in the country for the week, as he marked a MEAC record 10.07 and a 20.39 respectively. Moreover, surpassing simply weekend acclamation, Belcher’s performances elevated him nationally. He ranks third in the nation, second in the east region, in the 100. In the 200, he is fifth nationally and fourth in the east.
When disqualifying the times that were wind-aided, Belcher sits at No. 1 in the country in the 100 and No. 2 in the 200. Though times that are aided by the wind (where the wind measures 2.0 meters per second and above) are considered for qualifying times to NCAA regionals and nationals, they do not count toward any form of record breaking times or marks for conferences, regionals, nationals, etc., making Belcher’s performances even more significant.
“Chris is by far one of the hardest working athletes I’ve ever had. I have to make him take days off from practice,” said Ross. “What makes him so dangerous is that he and I are on the exact same page about how far we want him to go in this sport. He wants it all: the NCAA title, the Olympic trials title, and ultimately the Olympic medal. He’s an absolute joy to coach and watch compete and his future is very bright.”
Over the weekend, Belcher also assisted the 4x100 team in making the USTFCCCA top-10 list. Junior Maurice Eaddy, junior Caleb Gabriel and freshman Rodney Rowe teamed with Belcher to run a MEAC record 39.58 that placed them second in the nation for the week. The 4x1 team is ranked twice among the top-24 teams in the east region. Their 39.58 time has them ranked 11th and their 39.98 time at the Florida Relays (3/31/16) has them ranked 23rd.
Also making the USTFCCCA list for the men was the 4x400 relay team consisting of freshman Justin Hamilton, junior Dorian Claggett, sophomore Corey Aiken, and sophomore Dajuan Harding. The men’s 3:07.67 in the relay put them at third in the country for the week. Harding also had an individual performance rank third in his 46.14 mark in the 400. The last male to make the list was junior Frank Quarles, who won the individual conference title in the men’s long jump over the weekend. In the long jump, Quarles reached 25-feet, 7 ¼-inches in the finals that ranked third and 25-feet, 2-inches in the trials that ranked ninth last week.
As for the women, sophomore India Brown and freshman Kayla White were listed as the top individual performers. USTFCCCA ranked Brown’s times second and fourth in the 100, with her preliminary time of 11.47 and her finals run of 11.50.
Brown was also listed 10th in the in the 200 for her 23.75 sprint in the championships. Brown won MEAC championships in the 100 and 200 over the weekend.
Claiming three individual weekly rankings of her own, White took seventh in the 100 (11.57) and fourth (13.48) and eighth (13.52) in the 100-meter hurdles listings. Her 13.52 helped her win the MEAC title in the 100mh. Brown and White were also ranked together with freshman Yakira Love and sophomore Morgan Knight in the 4x100. The quartet was listed fifth for their 44.96 performance in the event.
COURTESY NORTH CAROLINA A&T STATE UNIVERSITY SPORTS INFORMATION