AUSTIN — The Texas A&M men’s track and field team finished with a flourish in a night that otherwise saw the Aggies take a step back every time it appeared they were about to make some noise.
A&M’s 4x400-meter relay team set a school and Mike A. Myers Stadium record, winning in 2 minutes, 59.05 seconds on Friday at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Bryce Deadmon, Robert Grant, Kyree Johnson and Devin Dixon carried the baton for the Aggies, finishing in the second fastest time in college history.
“We got four guys that click, and actually we got six guys and I ran these four tonight,” A&M coach Pat Henry said. “Bryce leads off with the best leadoff he’s ever had, and the rest of the guys run fast, so I’m pretty pleased with that.”
Dixon had a couple of runners close the gap early on the anchor leg, but he all but pulled away down the stretch. Florida’s Grant Holliway stayed close as the Gators took second in 2:59.60.
“Devin knows how to run his leg,” Henry said. “People can run 290 meters and try to catch him, but the last 110 you are not going to catch him. He knows how to win.”
Texas Tech won its first national championship with 60 points behind sprinter David Oduduru’s double win in the 100 and 200. Florida took second with 50 points thanks primarily to Holliway, and Houston placed third with 40.
The Aggies finished sixth with 29 points after having five points for fourth place taken away from them when Grant was disqualified in the 400 hurdles for his foot dragging around a hurdle. A&M would have been fourth with Grant’s points.
Grant, who ran a split of 44.5 in the 4x400 relay, said he was glad he had one more race as an Aggie.
“It’s happened before, so fortunately I was ready to handle it mentally,” Grant said of the disqualification. “It’s a relay, and I got three other guys out there, so I don’t have time to mope about something that happened to me.”
Ten meters after the finish line of the relay Grant grabbed Dixon and gave him a big hug.
“Devin and I have run on every single relay here since we started winning,” Grant said. “People have come and go but it’s always been Devin and I and that was my last meet so I gave him a big hug and told him I love him and that it’s been a pleasure to run with him.”
Grant rallied from seventh on the final turn to take fourth with what would have been a school record 48.48.
“I don’t know how to say this because I don’t want to criticize officials but he was DQed two years ago, broke an ankle in a race and is DQed again tonight,” Henry said. “To get all the way to the final race in the NCAA and that is the only place to be DQed when we’ve run other rounds is just a tough one to swallow. The rule is the rule. It was certainly tough on that young man.”
Dixon finished second in the 800 with an impressive time of 1:44.84. The junior led until about the final 150 meters when Kansas’ Bryce Hoppel, who was undefeated throughout the season, went inside Dixon on the final turn. Hoppel ran a stadium record 1:44.41.
“I thought he was on my outside and so I was just running on the outside of lane 1,” Dixon said. “I just didn’t know where he was. I just let him in the inside and that was a big mistake. That shouldn’t happen the way it happened.”
A&M’s Carlton Orange was fourth in the same race with a personal best of 1:46.40.
“To run 1:44 and get beat I just don’t know how to express how fast 1:44 is. He got beat by a great guy tonight,” Henry said. “It is a good tactic if you do think the guy is on your outside shoulder you move out in lane 1 a little bit, but the guy slipped out underneath him and I think it shocked him and then he came back after him again twice. He made a tactical mistake. He is a junior and will be back next year.”
Deadmon opened the night on a high note by running a personal best in the 400, finishing sixth with a 45.18. Houston’s Kahmari Montgomery was first with a 44.23.
Tyra Gittens overcame a scare in her specialty, the high jump, to finish the opening day of the heptathlon with 3,872 points and a 161-point lead going into Saturday’s three final disciplines.
Gittens, who will be in the high jump finals on Saturday, cleared her first two heights with ease, but missed twice at 5-10 before clearing it and going on to jump 6-1 1/2
“It was like did you not get the message Tyra, like why are you putting yourself through this,” Gittens said. “So it was like OK this is an easy bar let’s get this. Every time on a third jump when it’s a perfect execution you say why didn’t you do that on the first one. It’s a reminder have to stay focused. You have to treat every bar like last jump.”
Gittens had already posted a season best in the 100 hurdles. She then finished second in the shot put with her best toss in a multi-event competition and set a personal best in the 200 late in the night with a 23.86.
“Our multi is just going crazy, we couldn’t ask for anything more out of her so she had a great, great first day.”
Gittens scored 3,872 points, 30 better than her best first day. She will take a 161-point lead over Texas’ Ashtin Zamzow into the final three events.
NOTES — Holliway was part of two college records before the main part of the meet was an hour old. He broke a 40-year old college mark held by former world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah when he ran a 12.98 in the 110 hurdles, breaking the mark by .02. Holliday also ran the third leg of Florida’s college record-setting 37.97 in the 4x100 relay to open the meet. ... In the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the leader Indiana’s Daniel Michalski on the last leg fell into the water jump and then Stanford’s Steven Fahy, who took the lead after Michalski’s fall, tripped on the final jump. He did a forward roll got on his feet and won the event. ... Texas Tech’s Divine Oduduru won the men’s 100 in 9.86, the second fastest collegiate mark and a facility record. The junior then won the 200 in a meet record 19.73. ... LSU’s JuVaughn Harrison became the first male in 98 years to win the long jump (26-11) and high jump (7-5 ¼) national title.