Baylor relay streak ends in NCAA track final
Sunday, June 14, 2009
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Baylor’s incredible run of 42 consecutive victories and five straight NCAA 4x400-meter relay national championships ended Saturday afternoon as the Bears finished third in the NCAA outdoor meet at Arkansas’ McDonnell Field.
The Bears clocked their fastest time of the season at 3 minutes, 1.12 seconds, but it wasn’t fast enough to catch new champ Florida State. The Seminoles’ time of 2:59.99 was just .4 off the NCAA record.
Texas A&M finished second in the 4x400 to claim the men’s team championship, sweeping the men’s and women’s team national titles for the Aggies.
Baylor's Tiffany Townsend (left) tries to track down Texas' Chantel Malone and LSU's LaTavia Thomas in the 4x400-meter relay. The Bears finished third. (Beth Hall photo / Associated Press)
Baylor’s first three legs of Zwede Hewitt, Marcus Boyd and J.T. Scheuerman got the baton around to anchor leg Quentin Iglehart-Summers just a few steps behind leader Florida State.
But Iglehart-Summers, a senior who pushed Baylor into the lead in the 4x400 on the anchor leg at the regional meet for its 42nd straight win, couldn’t do so in his final race.
“He’s hurting pretty bad right now,” Baylor coach Todd Harbour said. “I told him, ‘Q, we’re not defined by one moment.’ He’s had an amazing career and been one of the all time greatest anchors in BU history.”
Florida State anchor Jonathan Borlee, a freshman, ran away from the pack to give the Seminoles the 4x400 gold medal.
“They ran a great race today,” Harbour said.
Baylor lost a key member of its 4x400 team this season when LeJerald Betters was suspended from school, and the Bears were also without 4x400 regular Boyd, who missed much of the outdoor season with an injury.
Boyd was back Saturday, running his first race in five weeks.
“We ran well considering what they had to fight through,” Harbour said. “This team has probably overcome as much as any one we’ve had.”
The Baylor women claimed the bronze in the 4x400 with a time of of 3:29.51. The Bears — Katrina Taylor, Brittany Bruce, Diamond Richardson and Tiffany Townsend — clocked their fastest time of the season, 3.26 faster than their previous best of the season set at NCAA Midwest Regional. Baylor improved its finish in the relay by one place over 2008.
Texas won the women’s 4x400 gold at 3:28.51, while LSU was second at 3:28.82.
“They came a long way,” Harbour said. “We weren’t even one of the top teams indoor this year.”
Baylor senior Chris Gowell ran his fastest time of the season to finish fourth in the men’s 800. Gowell’s time of 1:46.88 was .54 faster than his previous best time, clocked at the Michael Johnson Classic. Andrew Wheating of Oregon won the event with a time of 1:46.21.
Townsend, a sophomore, finished fifth in the women’s 200, improving her place by three spots over her freshman year.
Townsend posted a time of 23.04, .41 off her fastest time of the season and .23 behind NCAA winner Porscha Lucas of Texas A&M at 22.81.
Townsend was .32 faster than her eight-place time in 2008.
Baylor junior Trey Harts entered the men’s 200 with the fastest time in the nation at 20.29, which he ran at the Michael Johnson Classic in April. But Harts faded to seventh place in the NCAA 200 final with a time of 21.09.
Charles Clark of Florida State won the men’s 200 at 20.55. Harts was .12 off his time in the 200 in 2008 when he also finished seventh.
The Baylor women matched their best ever finish in the team standings, tying Tennessee for 10th with 21 points.
The Baylor men scored 13 points to finish in a three-way tie for 20th with Washington and Texas. The Bears have now finished in the top 20 in 12 straight national meets.
But it was Texas A&M that made track and field history.
Justin Oliver held on for second place as the anchor in the 1,600-meter relay, giving the Aggies the men’s team title. Texas A&M also won the women’s title, becoming the first school since 1990 to win both outdoor championships.
The Oregon men were seeking a rare “Triple Crown” after winning titles in cross country and indoor track and field earlier this season. Nobody’s done that since Arkansas in 1998-99. The relay — the last event of this week’s meet — knocked the Ducks out of first place.
“When it got to the 300 mark and I saw I was still second place, I see the finish line, I see the trophy at the finish line waiting on me,” Oliver said. “We’re the national champions. Texas A&M. No one else. That’s all I could say. We did it.”
The Aggies finished with 48 points. If Texas A&M had finished one spot lower in the relay, it would have ended up in a four-way tie for the title with Florida, Florida State and Oregon.
The women’s finish was less tense. Texas A&M ended up with 50 points, seven ahead of Oregon.
Texas A&M had never won any team title before this week. Coach Pat Henry is in his fifth year there after coming over from LSU. He won 27 NCAA team championships while coaching the LSU men and women, including 15 outdoor titles.
“This one is something we’ve been working very hard to do,” Henry said. “This one is very, very special to me because it’s a new one. It’s a new championship.”
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