AUSTIN — Texas A&M’s Jazmine Fray and Syaira Richardson had to wait for different reasons to see if they would make Saturday’s finals at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Richardson finished third in her heat of the women’s 400 meters Thursday at Mike A. Myers Stadium, then had to wait for two more heats to finish to see if her time of 51.60 seconds would make it through. The top two runners in each heat automatically qualify for the final with the last two berths determined by the remaining top two times.
“I was pretty confident and after watching the second heat I knew I was in,” said Richardson, a sophomore transfer from Ohio State. “I did think I had [second overall]. I thought, dang, it was so close, so I didn’t see myself not making it, but I still had to wait because you never know.”
South Carolina’s Aliyah Abrams had the top qualifying time at 51.51 with Kentucky edging Richardson for the next fastest at 51.59.
Richardson’s time would have won the other two heats. She will get one of the outside lanes in Saturday’s final.
Teammate Tierra Robinson-Jones, the lone freshman of the 24 qualifiers, finished 12th in 52.90 and did not advance.
Fray had to wait and watch as others posted times close to her season best in the women’s 800. But when her third heat started, she had no trouble advancing, finishing the first half of the race in 1:02. She got to the 600 mark in front by a couple of strides and finished strong for a 2:03.08 — the second-fastest time in the preliminaries.
“Going into the race, even before I saw the times, I was like this is the NCAAs — you are going to have to be on you’re A game, so I was already on my A game no matter what happened,” said Fray, who qualified for the final last year in Oregon but finished eighth. “To be honest, I don’t worry about the heats ahead of me. I just do my own thing, execute my plan, but I saw that they did run really well, and I was just happy to make it to the finals.”
Penn’s Nia Akins topped the field at 2:02.88. The final qualifying time was 2:03.81.
“Everyone’s time was amazing, and I’m so excited for this competition,” Fray said. ”The crowd and the energy is amazing out there, too. I felt good behind me, and girls were pushing me, and that is the main thing I wanted.”
A&M’s Jarra Owens, Tierra Robinson-Jones, Jaevin Reed and Richardson posted the sixth-fastest qualifying time in the 4x400 relay at 3:32.18 to advance to the finals.
Deborah Acquah finished third in the women’s long jump with a school-record leap of 21 feet, 9 inches. Northwestern State’s Jasmyn Steels, an A&M Consolidated graduate, took second at 22-0.25, while Florida’s Yanis David won at 22-5.25.
Because of weather delays, the women’s javelin was postponed until Friday. A&M’s Maddy Stulce will compete in the javelin, while Tyra Gittens will begin the heptathlon Friday.
On the men’s side, A&M senior Nate Hite finished 13th in the decathlon — the only men’s event contested Thursday. His best event of the second day was the pole vault. He cleared 15-5 ½ for 822 of his 7,348 total points. Johannes Erm of Georgia won the overall title with 8,352 points.
The men will crown a champion Friday. A&M’s Devin Dixon and Carlton Orange are qualified in the 800 finals, Bryce Deadmon in the 400 and Robert Grant in the 400 hurdles. The Aggies also are in the men’s 4x400 relay.