Texas A&M makes return to the top
EUGENE, Ore. -- Texas A&M coach Pat Henry told his team not to worry about the point totals in each event at the NCAA track and field championships.
He just wanted the Aggies to position themselves well going into the finals of each event.
By those standards, his team is a bunch of overachievers. The Aggies, who won the national title with 75 points, put themselves in excellent position through the entire meet. The team national championship is the fourth in six years for A&M but first since 2011.
Texas (66 points), Oregon (59), Florida (55) and Georgia (35) rounded out the top five.
Shelbi Vaughn got the Aggies off to a solid start on Thursday by winning the program's first discus national title and giving Texas A&M an early 10 points in its march toward the title.
On Saturday, Texas A&M dominated on the track. The Aggies started the day strong and won the 4x100 relay for the sixth time in the past seven years.
"We always practice hard on that," junior Kamaria Brown said. "We work very hard on exchanges, so that way, it helps us throughout each race."
The Aggies followed that up with first- and third-place finishes in the 200, with Brown winning in 22.623 and junior Olivia Ekpone third at 22.64. That race snagged the Aggies 16 points, and they capped the day with a second-place finish in the 4x400 in 3:25.63, a three-second personal best for the group this season.
"We did some things all the way through the meet that got us in a position to do what we did today," Henry said.
The 200 meters provided the most exciting finish of the day on the women's side, with Texas A&M's Brown taking the win by just seven one-thousandths of a second over Oregon sophomore Jenna Prandini.
Prandini had the lead coming around the turn, but Brown managed to come up on her right in lane 5. At the same time, Texas A&M's Ekpone made up time from lane 2, and the three were even with about 20 meters to go.
"I just wanted to make sure I kept my composure," Brown said. "I didn't really know where I was [place-wise] in the race. I just wanted to make sure I had a strong finish and just leaned to the tape, and it gave me the race."
Brown's time of 22.623 was more than .03 seconds faster than her previous personal best, which she ran just two weeks ago. But she wasn't able to enjoy her victory for long -- she wasn't even able to attend the medal ceremony -- as she had to cool down and then warm up for the Aggies 4x400.
A world-best time for 2014
Senior Sharika Nelvis won the 100-meter hurdles and capped off an impressive senior season that also included a 60-meter indoor national title.
In her victory Saturday, Nelvis posted the fastest time in the world this year (12.52). The previous 2014 best of 12.53 was set by Brianna Rollins, the defending world champ who also holds the current American record (12.26).
"It feels so, so, so great," Nelvis said. "I'm very excited."
She said it didn't feel like a personal-best race to her when she crossed the finish line. She pointed to a few errors in getting over hurdles but said she was happy because her goal was to run a 12.5.
Nelvis will compete at the USA Track & Field Championships meet in July in North Carolina.
Hillman takes shot put
Not only did Christina Hillman win a national championship in the shot put with a throw of 58 feet, 2 inches, but she also got to follow that up with everyone's favorite race -- the 400-meter dash -- during her victory lap.
"I'd say it was a personal best in the 400," Hillman said, laughing. "That was great."
The junior, an All-American last season, had a few nervous moments throughout the prelims and finals. She threw in the first flight (a random draw), and though she finished at the top of the pack, she had to wait for the second group to finish.
She returned to her team's tent, where she wouldn't watch the other competitors.
"I was just focusing on staying prepared," Hillman said. "But I kind of like that I wasn't able to get too overstimulated. I was just thinking about what I had to do and my technique."
She easily made the finals but experienced more nerves. Heading into her final throw, Hillman was in second place with two throwers to go.
She said when the shot put left her hand, it felt good, but she still was unsure. Nonetheless, the final two throwers were unable to eclipse her mark, giving Hillman the title.
"I was definitely shaking," she said.
Although the Longhorns finished second in the team standings to in-state rival Texas A&M, the day's final race gave Texas a few bragging rights.
The foursome of senior Briana Nelson, freshman Kendall Baisden, sophomore Morolake Akinosun and sophomore Courtney Okolo set a meet record of 3:24.21 in the 4x400, breaking the record set by Oregon at the 2012 NCAA championships (3:24.54).
Final team standings
1. Texas A&M (75)
2. Texas (66)
3. Oregon (59)
4. Florida (55)
5. Georgia (35)
1. Christina Hillman, Iowa State (58-2)
2. Tori Bliss, LSU (57-4¼)
3. Kearsten Peoples, Missouri (57-3¾)
4. Julie Labonte, Arizona (56-8)
5. Dani Bunch, Purdue (56-7½)
6. Mary Theisen, Indiana State (56-5¼)
7. Brittany Mann, Oregon (56-0)
8. Jessica Ramsey, Western Kentucky (55-1)
1. Leontia Kallenou, Georgia (6-2¼)
2. Tynita Butts, East Carolina (6-1¼)
3. Alyx Treasure, Kansas State (6-1¼)
4. Shanay Briscoe, Texas (6-1¼)
5. Amina Smith, Maryland (6-1¼)
6. Allison Barwise, Boston University (6-0)
7. Amber Melville, Maryland (6-0)
8. Courtney Anderson, South Florida (6-0)
1. Texas A&M (42.80)
2. USC (43.00)
3. Texas (43.19)
4. Florida (43.43)
5. Ohio State (44.08)
6. Alabama (44.19)
7. Florida State (44.82)
8. LSU - DNF
1. Shelby Houlihan, Arizona State (4:18.10)
2. Cory McGee, Florida (4:19.19)
3. Linden Hall, Florida State (4:19.33)
4. Emily Lipari, Villanova (4:19.60)
5. Allison Peare, Kentucky (4:19.68)
6. Brooke Handler, Michigan (4:20.45)
7. Agata Strausa, Florida (4:20.60)
8. Stephanie Brown, Arkansas (4:20.85)
1. Kamaria Brown, Texas A&M (22.623)
2. Jenna Prandini, Oregon (22.630)
3. Olivia Ekpone, Texas A&M (22.64)
4. Mahagony Jones, Penn State (22.68)
5. Morolake Akinosun, Texas (22.89)
6. Tynia Gaither, USC (23.05)
7. Ashley Fields, Baylor (23.20)
8. Cierra White, Texas Tech (23.33)
1. Sharika Nelvis, Arkansas State (12.52)
2. Jasmin Stowers, LSU (12.54)
3. Bridgette Owens, Florida (12.62)
4. Tiffani McReynolds, Baylor (12.78)
5. Kendra Harrison, Kentucky (12.79)
6. Anne Zagre, Florida State (12.80)
7. Morgan Snow, Texas (12.81)
8. Le'Tristan Pledger, Texas Tech (12.94)
1. Marielle Hall, Texas (15:35.11)
2. Aisling Cuffe, Stanford (15:37.74)
3. Abbey D'Agostino, Dartmouth (15:43.54)
4. Emma Bates, Boise State (15:51.87)
5. Juliet Bottorff, Duke (15:55.94)
6. Dominique Scott, Arkansas (15:57.79)
7. Elinor Kirk, UAB (15:57.96)
8. Kate Avery, Iona (15:58.73)
1. Texas (3:24.21)
2. Texas A&M (3:25.63)
3. Oregon (3:29.03)
4. Florida (3:30.13)
5. Penn State (3:31.17)
6. Arkansas (3:31.94)
7. USC (3:32.35)
8. Kansas State (3:34.76)