A&M makes history with 3-peat sweep
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Texas A&M's dream of becoming the first school with three straight men's and women's team titles came down to the final two races of the NCAA championships.
The Aggie men needed to take first in the 1,600-meter relay outright to claim a third straight crown. The women needed to beat Oregon in the 1,600 and finish in the top three to overtake LSU.
Texas A&M won both relays and the national titles in thrilling style Saturday, proving once again that the Aggies are the powerhouse program in outdoor track and field.
"You don't ever want it to come down to the relay, but it has for us for the last three years," said Texas A&M coach Pat Henry, who has won 33 national titles dating to his time coaching at LSU. "It's a great, great feeling, especially when you know you have a pretty good group when fixing the lineup."
Men's anchor Tabarie Henry, no relation to the coach, held off LSU's Riker Hylton in the 1,600 relay to clinch the victory in 3 minutes, 0.62 seconds. Jessica Beard anchored the women's foursome with a meet-record split of 49:14 seconds that gave the A&M women the win and the team crown over Oregon.
Texas A&M's men won their third straight title with 55 points, one ahead of Florida State and two ahead of Florida.
"Before we came out, our coach (Pat Henry) got us up, gave us our motivational speech as always. He told us it would come down to the relay," Tabarie Henry said. "He said 365 days, this is the day. We all knew what we had to do."
The Aggie women claimed their third crown in a row with 49 points. The Ducks missed their first outdoor team title in 26 years, finishing four points behind A&M.
LSU was third in the women's standings with 43.5 points, as Kimberlyn Duncan won the women's 200 in a world-leading 22.24 seconds.
Though the Aggies ended up on top, things looked shaky early in the day.
Texas A&M's quest for a fifth straight title in the women's 400 relay ended when Dominique Duncan lost her balance passing the baton to anchor Ashley Collier. That gave the edge to LSU, and Kimberlyn Duncan's strong final 100 gave the Tigers the win in 42.64.
The Aggies were second in 42.93, though they more than made up for that in the 1,600 relay thanks to Beard's stellar anchor leg.
"I'm kind of speechless about it," she said. "I just was thinking I had to go for the win, run all the way through the line."
Texas A&M men's 400 team suffered the same fate, as 100-meter and long jump champion Ngonidzashe Makusha helped give the Seminoles a nine-point cushion in the team race.
"I'm loving it. It's been a good weekend," Makusha said.
Though Florida State's Maurice Mitchell took the men's 200 in a wind-aided 19.99, the Seminoles didn't make the 1,600 relay finals. That came back to haunt them in the end.
Florida, which won the 400 relay a year ago, botched an exchange and failed to finish a race in which it was expected to score points. But a pair of Gators nearly made up for that in the long jump.
Christian Taylor won the event with a leap of 58 feet, 4 3/4 inches, which would have shattered the meet record of 57-7 3/4 had it not been wind-aided. Still, it ranked as the best all-conditions jump in collegiate history.
Teammate Will Claye was second at 57-9 3/4, giving the Gators 18 points from one event.
Needing a strong finish in the 1,600 relay, the Gators finished sixth, and their shot at their first outdoor title fell short for the third year in a row.
Florida was second to the Aggies in 2009 and 2010.
Up until the very end, it looked as though this might finally be the year for the Gators -- and the same went for the Ducks.
But Texas A&M's talent, depth and perseverance carried it through in the clutch.
"Our whole school is about tradition. Just putting on a uniform you feel it. So it means a lot winning this race and the team title," Tabarie Henry said. "It seems like we are always trying to prove something, to show people they are wrong when they doubt us."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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