BRADENTON, Fla. – The Saint Augustine’s University track and field program continues to roll along.
The Falcons claimed their fourth straight men’s title and the Lady Falcons finished as women national runner-ups on the final day of the 2016 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the IMG Academy Track and Field Stadium on Saturday, May 28.
The title was the 38th for the highly successful program under legendary Head Coach George Williams including their 15th men’s outdoor championship. Starting the day with zero points, the Falcons zoomed past their opponents to win in dominating fashion. They scored all 85 points on the final day to rout Tiffin University and Texas A&M University-Kingsville, who both tied for second with 36 points.
“I thought the men would perform well, but I didn’t expect them to win like they did,” said Williams, who has won the most NCAA track and field championships of any coach regardless of division.
The Lady Falcons nearly captured their fifth national outdoor title. They were edged out by national champion Pittsburg State University 52-51 in the women’s division which wasn’t decided until the final event. Hillsdale College placed third with 45 points.
“I wish the women had won,” Williams said. “We were right there. We gave too many bonuses away. I want all the kids to be winners. The women work hard, so I hate to see them lose by one point like that.”
Had the Lady Falcons won, it would have been the first outdoor sweep for Saint Augustine’s University since 2001 and the first women’s crown since 2002. Still, the finish was the highest for the Lady Falcons in an outdoor meet since 2003 when they placed second.
The Falcons relied on their relay teams and depth to surge ahead Saturday. They had multiple qualifiers in four events – the 100 and 200 dashes, the 800 run and the triple jump. They scored 57 points in those four events and 20 points in the relays to take control.
Burkheart Ellis, Jr. (Sr./Raleigh, NC), the team’s most versatile performer, led the way for the Falcons. He gained the 200 national title, finished second in the 100 and was a member of the winning 4×100 relay team.
“I am ecstatic,” said Ellis, who has been a member of six national title teams including four outdoor champions. “We’ve been winning since my freshman year which has been great. To finish off with another championship and finally get the 200 national championship means a lot to me. I’ve wanted [the 200 title] bad since my freshman year.”
Daniel Jamieson (Jr./Windsor, CT) was fourth in the 200, seventh in the 100 and ran on the winning 4×100 squad. Shaquille Dill (Fr./Pembroke, Bermuda) and Immanuel Hutchinson (Sr./San Jacinto, CA) were first and third, respectively, in the 800 and both ran on the winning 4×400 relay. Dill won his national title as a freshman.
Shawn Rowe (Jr./West Palm Beach, FL) finished second in the 400 hurdles and ran on the winning 4×400 relay while Kendall Kee (Sr./Shelby, NC) placed sixth in the 100 and ran on the winning 4×100 relay. David Shaw (Sr./St. Pauls, NC) was second and Jumonne Exeter (So./St. Vincent) placed fourth in the triple jump.
The men served notice that this would be their day in the first running event. The 4×100 team of Brent Arceneaux (Sr./Snellville, GA), Ellis, Kee and Jamieson outran the field in 39.41. When the 100 dash, the 800 run, the triple jump and the 200 dash were completed, the Falcons were ahead 75-36 over TAMU-Kingsville with two events left.
“We wanted to let everybody know we were here,” said Jamieson about the 4×100 relay victory. “It set the tone.”
The Falcons capped the meet with a convincing victory in the 4×400 relay. The squad of Rowe, Dill, Hutchinson and Khari Herbert, Jr. (Jr./Coral Springs, FL) won by nearly two seconds with a time of 3:05.47.
The Lady Falcons had less depth than the men but got the most out of their seven women qualifiers in the finals. The spectacular Tia-Adana Belle (Jr./St. Michaels, Barbados) provided the spark with plenty of help from Ornella Livingston (Sr./St. Ann, Jamaica).
Belle broke the championship meet record again in winning the 400 hurdles. Her time of 56.13 was one-hundreth of a second better than the previous record time she set two days ago. She finished three seconds ahead of the second-place competitor. Belle was also on the 4×400 squad which placed fourth.
Livingston provided the bulk of the points with a victory in the 100 for a national title and a third-place finish in the 200. She also was on the 4×400 relay team and the 4×100 relay squad which placed fifth.
Shamia Lassiter (Sr./Chesapeake, VA) finished second in the 100 hurdles and also ran on the 4×100 team, which included Shakinah Brooks (Jr./Raleigh, NC) and Leah Barker (So./St. Michaels, Barbados). The 4×400 squad also included Barker and Ade Hunter (So./Philadelphia, PA).
After starting the day with eight points, the Lady Falcons started climbing up the standings. Livingston’s third-place finish in the 200 put her team ahead for the first time at 46-42 with three events left.
The Lady Falcons trailed 52-46 with one event left after a victory by Pittsburg State in the high jump. They needed to place third or better in the 4×400 for the national crown but finished fourth. Still, their performance in the meet was one of the best in quite a while for a Lady Falcons’ squad.
“After the relay, and I saw we came in fourth, I cried, because to miss it by one point, my mind went crazy,” said Belle, who anchored the 4×400 relay. “I was thinking if I did this or that, it wouldn’t have happened but I’m content and proud of my girls. It was a long season.”
Belle added: “I’m proud at the end of the day. We came in third [in our heat], and finished second [overall]. I’m happy. The team this year was just great, we all put in effort and fought. We lost by one point but that’s the best we have done in a while and I’m proud to be apart of this team.?
Each Falcons and Lady Falcons student-athlete who finished eighth or better earned All-America honors.