JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The North Carolina A&T men’s outdoor track and field 4×400-meter relay team did it again. And that’s only a fraction of the story from Friday night at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium during the 2021 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round.
The Aggie men qualified eight more athletes for the 2021 NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships, June 9-12, in Eugene, Ore. They will send nine men to the nationals after junior long jumper Brandon Hicklin qualified on Wednesday.
N.C. A&T’s nine Aggies will be competing in nine different events. That is a new school record, topping the old mark from 2019 when the Aggies qualified seven male athletes in seven various events.
That alone is worthy of praise. But the way the Aggie men did it, is worthy of reverence.
The 4×400-meter relay team toppled records. Freshmen Javonte Harding and Randolph Ross Jr. each qualified for nationals in three different events. Senior Trevor Stewart now owns two of the fastest 400-meter times in NCAA east regional history.
N.C. A&T won the 4×400 indoor national championship with the foursome of junior Daniel Stokes, seniors Trevor Stewart and Elijah Young and freshman Randolph Ross, Jr. Earlier this outdoor season, they posted the world’s fastest time at the University of Texas by crossing the finish line in 3:00.23.
The foursome of Stokes, Stewart, Ross Jr. and senior Akeem Sirleaf topped that world’s fastest time on Friday night by finishing in 2:59.21.
Their time is also a Hodges Stadium facility record and a new standard for a Division I track and field regionals (east or west). It is also the third-fastest time in NCAA history. They just missed breaking the NCAA record, which LSU still owns at 2:59.00.
Many more superb accomplishments happened before the 4×400 team came to the track. Earlier in the day, the 4×100 team of Ross Jr, Sirleaf, Harding and Stokes ran the fastest quarterfinal qualifying time at 38.54.
It is the fastest time in NCAA regional history (east or west) topping the University of Arkansas’ time of 38.66 set in 2015’s west prelim. It is the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season behind the University of Houston’s 38.49, and it is a Hodges Stadium facility record.
There were also some outstanding individual performances starting with Stewart and Ross Jr. Both men won their respective heats, with Stewart crossing the line in 44.59. It is the second-fastest time in east prelim history. Stewart (5/26/21, 5/23/19) and the University of Kentucky’s Dwight St. Hillaire (5/24/18, 5/25/18) have recorded the 44.55 time two times each.
Ross Jr. won his heat in 44.86 to qualify for nationals. He ran the third-fastest time in east prelim history on Wednesday (44.63). He ran the eighth-fastest time in east regional history on Friday.
Harding showcased his talents on Friday as well. In addition to competing in the 4×100 at nationals, he will also compete in the 100 and 200m. He secured a personal-best 10.08 in the 100. It is the fastest 100 an Aggie has ever run at a regional, topping Christopher Belcher’s 10.13 in 2017.
In the 200m, Harding posted a 20.33 to guarantee himself another event at nationals.
“I’m extremely proud of these young men,” said N.C. A&T director of track and field programs, Duane Ross. “This was a tough week of competition, and they handled it like champions. Both relays were exciting. Akeem Sirleaf ran on both and did an excellent job of leading the teams.”
Junior Cory Poole, fifth-year senior Abbas Abbkar and senior Akeem Lindo will also be on a plane headed to Eugene. Poole qualified in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.64.
Abbkar is back at nationals. He qualified in the 800m with a time of 1:48.22. Abbkar reached the NCAA nationals in 2018 as a Savannah State Tiger.
Lindo returns to nationals after recording a 50.40 in the 400mh on Friday. He will be making his second career appearance in the 400mh at nationals after qualifying in 2019.
The Aggie women will get their turn at making history when they compete at Hodges Stadium on Saturday.
Courtesy: NC A&T Athletics