|North Carolina A&T track & field has lofty goals|
|Published Thursday, January 31, 2019|
Duane Ross has proven he knows a thing or two about building a track program. How else could he have guided the North Carolina A&T State men’s and women’s track & field and cross country teams to seven MEAC championships in his six seasons as the Aggies’ director of track and field programs?
It’s pretty obvious Ross is a master of the understatement as well, considering this assessment of how the Aggie men and women have fared thus far in the indoor season. “We’ve started off pretty good,” he said.
That’s like saying “Bullet” Bob Hayes ran pretty fast.
The A&T men are ranked No. 24 in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national computer rankings. The Aggies are also ranked second in the Southeast Region. The women are No. 6 in the Southeast Region.
With three weeks remaining before the MEAC Indoor Track & Field Championships Feb. 21-23 in Landover, Maryland, the conference statistical leaderboard on the men’s and women’s side resembles an Aggies roster sheet. No fewer than two A&T athletes have the best times in virtually every event, and many events as many as Aggies appear. Additionally, an Aggie has been named the MEAC Athlete of the Week after each meet North Carolina A&T has competed in this season. The Aggies’ dominance bodes well for them as they pursue lofty goals they have set for themselves.
Those goals are:
- Joining Norfolk State (2006-13) as the only schools in conference history to win the men’s and women’s indoor championships in the same season three times in a row
- Finishing in the top three in the NCAA Championships
- Winning cross country, indoor and outdoor championships – the Triple Crown of track and field – on the men’s side.
“We aim high,” Ross said. “That’s the culture we’ve developed here. Our goal is to aim high; if we’re in the competition, win the competition. We’re happy, but we don’t want the kids to be too content. We expect everybody to bring their best. The NCAA Championships is the best in the country. We have to be prepared for that.”
Ross said the Aggies have embraced chasing the goals set for them and are committed to reaching them. They took a step toward reaching one of them – winning the Triple Crown – when they captured the men’s cross country title this past fall. It was their first cross country championship in 35 years.
“That’s something we take a lot of pride in,” he said. “When they can see the fruits of their labors, it’s a plus. We talk to them about establishing their legacy, doing something that hasn’t been done. They want to leave their legacy. They want to be called the best ever. It’s attainable.”
The Aggies’ track program was in the doldrums when Ross took charge in 2012. He said he changed the culture by implementing simple rules, such as being on time for practice, dressing according to protocol, going to class, being good teammates and supporting each other.
Ross stresses character, discipline and structure. But he also places a high priority on talent, and there is an abundance of talent in Greensboro on both teams. Senior sprinter Rodney Rowe, a two-time MEAC Athlete of the Week this season, has emerged as a team leader on and off the track.
Rowe, a four-time All-American, made his season debut in the 200 meters on Jan. 18 with a first-place finish at Virginia Tech’s Hokie Invitational in 21.11. His time tied for the 17th-fastest in the nation and is the fastest in the MEAC. Rowe also ran the 60 meters at Virginia Tech, where he finished third in the prelims in 6.77 before finishing second in the final at 6.69 – tied for the 20th best in the country and the fastest in the conference.
Freshman sprinter Cambrea Sturgis is an emerging star on the women’s side. Sturgis clocked a school record 23.43 in the 200 meters at the Hokie Invitational to win the event. Her time is the best in the MEAC and is tied for eighth-fastest in the nation. Sturgis’ 60-meter time of 7:38 at the Virginia Tech Invitational is second-fastest in the MEAC to teammate Kayla White’s 7:25, which also came at the Virginia Tech Invitational.
Other Aggies in the top 25 nationally:
- Akeem Sirleaf, tied for 25th in the 60-meter dash, with a time of 6.70
- Trevor Stewart, tied for ninth in the 400-meter dash, with a time of 47.03
- Michael Dickson, ninth in the 60-meter hurdles
- The men’s 4x400-meter relay team, No. 9 with a time of 3:08.96
- Lasheon Stozier, No. 21 in the triple jump
- Madeleine Akobundu, fourth in the 60-meter hurdles
“We’ve got some good athletes,” Ross said. “Let’s not forget that.”
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