EAST GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T is an up-and-coming team. North Carolina A&T is on the come-up in track and field. North Carolina A&T is the best historically black college or university (HBCU) track and field program in the nation.
Duane Ross, N.C. A&T’s director of track and field programs appreciates all the compliments. But the compliments seem a little backhanded at this point.
On the final day of the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the newly renovated Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, the Aggies added to their pile of evidence that their men’s and women’s track and field teams have arrived.
A day after the Aggie men finished third nationally, sophomore sprinter Cambrea Sturgis led the women to a fourth-place finish by winning national titles in the women’s 100 and 200 meters and having a third-place finish in the 4×100-meter relay.
The Aggies were the only school at the NCAA championships to have their men and women finish in the top-4 this week.
“We are an HBCU. We will always be an HBCU. That is who we are, that is our history, and we’re proud of that,” said Ross. “But that acronym needs to be retired if people are going to continue to misuse it. It’s almost like they are saying you guys are good for an HBCU. No, we’re good, period.
These young people are great because they decided to attend an HBCU, and they understand the importance of what they are accomplishing. They are not great in spite of.”
Great is the proper word to describe Sturgis’s Saturday afternoon in Eugene. After helping sophomore Kamaya Debose-Epps, freshman Jonah Ross and junior Symone Darius run a 43.03 in the 4×100, Sturgis entered track and field cream of the crop status.
Sturgis is the fastest woman in the NCAA after running the fastest all-weather time in NCAA history, a 10.74. It is the 11th-fastest time for a woman in world history.
“I was a little bit nervous,” said Sturgis as she described how she felt before the starter pistol went off for the 100m race. “Even though there were other good competitors, I knew I was just as good as them. I just went out there and ran my race.”
Sturgis then turned her attention to the 200m. She and High Point, N.C. native and University of Alabama sprinter Tamara Clark battle to the end. Sturgis pulled away slightly over the final 30 meters of the race and leaned forward to record a time of 22.12. Clark crossed in 22.17.
Sturgis’s 200m time on Saturday is the fourth-fastest time in NCAA history. Saturday marked the 13th time in NCAA history a women’s sprinter has won the national championship in the 100 and 200m. Sturgis is the first female athlete to win both since Oregon’s Ariana Washington did it in 2016.
“It just shows NCAT can be an elite school, and we can run with the best,” said Sturgis.
The Aggie women also had two participants in the 100-meter hurdles and one in the high jump. Senior Madeleine Akobundu finished fifth with a 12.90. Unfortunately, senior TeJyrica Robinson tripped over the final hurdle, but Ross complimented her because she got up and finished the race, which allowed the Aggies to finish fourth.
In the high jump, sophomore Kenady Wilson’s best jump was 5-feet, 10-inches to finish 20th.
“I think some of our competition is still struggling with the fact that we are better,” said Ross. “They should have been paying attention when I claimed it before it happened. We take what we do over here seriously like everybody else. We’re passionate about our track and field program. Our kids are passionate about what they do. This is nothing new for us. I know a lot of people are surprised about what we did this weekend, but they shouldn’t be.”
Courtesy: NC A&T Athletics