North Carolina A & T sees double in MEAC

LANDOVER, Md. – Sometimes good things come in pairs. That worked out pretty well for North Carolina A & T’s track and field team at the 2017 MEAC Indoor Championship. Both the Aggies’ men and women track and field squads came into the MEAC Conference Indoor Championship in bit of a drought when it comes to winning any type of indoor track and field titles.

The North Carolina A & T women’s team had recorded zero championships under its belt. The Aggies’ men’s team went through 21 years without securing a title. That changed over the weekend.

The North Carolina A&T State men’s indoor track and field team sprinted to its first title in 21 years after claiming the 2017 MEAC Indoor Championship. North Carolina A&T State captured its first-ever MEAC women’s indoor championship, tallying 145 points and finishing well ahead of runner-up Florida A&M (94), third-place Hampton (73.5) and fourth-place Norfolk State (72).

Only 10.5 points separated four teams entering Saturday’s finals on the men’s side with Norfolk State sitting atop the ledger. Maryland Eastern Shore’s Khalil Rmidi Kinini won the mile run in a time of 4:14.86 but Hampton jumped to the top after claiming third, fourth and fifth in the event.

Because of the mile, North Carolina A&T State dropped to fourth but things would change in an instant once the sprints started as Dajuan Harding posted the top and a personal indoor-best time (47.75) in the 400 to claim the title. Hampton’s Charles Graham claimed the 60-meter hurdles as he clocked 7.95 but A&T racked up 15 points and moved to third after placing second, fourth and seventh in the event.

This was the first time in 21 years that the North Carolina A & T men’s track and field team won the MEAC Conference Indoor Championship. Photo courtesy of MEAC Conference

The Aggies blew the meet open once the 60-meter dash commenced as Christopher Belcher (6.65), Rodney Rowe (6.76), Joel Thomas (6.78) and Caleb Gabriel (6.79) finished 1-2-3-4 to total 29 points and move atop the standings with 83.5 points. Belcher returned to the track several minutes later in the 200 and picked up his second individual title as he finished the race with a season-best run of 21.38. Belcher had a tough race as he held off fellow teammates Rowe and Gabriel down the stretch. With the lead comfortably in tow, the Aggies brought the crowd to its feet after posting the top time in the mile relay (3:16.91).

Howard’s Robert Mercer won his fourth MEAC pole vault title and his first since 2015 after posting a mark of 14-06. Christopher Lee of Norfolk State won his second consecutive indoor shot put title (55-3) after a tight battle with Hampton’s Sulaiman Fared.

Michael Tiller of Bethune-Cookman closed out his career as a three-time MEAC indoor triple jump champion with a jump of 52-08.75 while Rmidi Kinini also went out in style with his third consecutive 3,000-meter run championship.

The Aggies, which ended Bethune-Cookman’s two-year MEAC Indoor Championship run, won their first MEAC Championship since 1996 behind the strength of 146.5 points. Norfolk State finished as the runner-up with 96 points followed by Hampton’s 91 points.

Rmidi Kinini won Most Outstanding Runner for the third straight year while Coppin State’s Steven Thomas was named Most Outstanding Field Performer.

Aggies coach Duane Ross was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Coach.

Martha Bissah of Norfolk State was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Runner on the women’s side after adding two more titles to her ledger on Saturday, taking gold in the women’s mile with a time of 4:53.48 and the 3,000-meter run with a 10:13.70.

These titles came in addition to the 800 and distance medley titles she won on Friday.

Morgan Knight of North Carolina A&T State defended her title in the women’s pole vault, leaping 3.52 meters (11 feet, 6.5 inches). It was the first of six event titles on the day for the Lady Aggies; in other field action, Most Outstanding Field Performer Anisa Toppin won the women’s triple jump with a mark of 12.73 meters (41 feet, 9.25 inches).

India Brown gave North Carolina A&T State the women’s 200 title with a time of 24.08, and her teammate Tori Ray won the women’s 400 in 55.77. Kayla White ran an 8.36 to win gold in the women’s 60-meter hurdles.

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