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Final round drama earns Will Williams NCAA Indoor long jump gold

(Source: Texas A&M Athletics)

COLLEGE STATION – With a dramatic final attempt, Texas A&M senior Will Williams became the first Aggie to claim a NCAA Indoor championship in the long jump Friday evening in front of a home crowd of 4,729 at Gilliam Indoor Stadium.

A school and facility record leap of 26 feet, 10 ½ inches (8.19) pushed Williams from third to first as he claimed gold after earning a silver medal the previous year. Williams set the early leading mark with a first round jump of 26-1 ¼ (7.98) and maintained the lead through five rounds.

“This is a blessing, these are the things I talk about, dream about, and write down,” said Williams. “I would like to applaud my competitors, since this was the best competition I’ve been in in a while.

“I executed my run and trusted in my coach. Assistant coach Sean Brady is phenomenal, he’s done a wonderful job with the jump group. He’s helped me gain confidence back. On the last jump I knew if I executed my run correctly and got on the board, then something big was going to come from it.”

Team scoring through the first day of action, which includes five of 17 men’s finals, has the Aggies in second place with 15.5 points. Virginia Tech is the currently leader with 16 points. Alabama and Florida are tied for third place with 11 points each.

In addition to 10 points scored by Williams, the Aggies added 5 ½ points from the pole vault combination of Audie Wyatt and Jacob Wooten.

Georgia women totaled 33 points on the first day through six of 17 finals to build a 20 point lead over Florida (13), with New Mexico (12) in third.

In third place when he attempted his final jump, Williams broke the Aggie school record with his winning leap of 26-10 ½ (8.19) to pass Florida’s Grant Holloway, who finished as runner-up with a 26-8 ¼ (8.13) that had taken the lead in the fifth round from third-place position.

Holloway didn’t have time to complete his final attempt after competing in his prelim heat of the 60m hurdles, which he won in 7.58 to lead the qualifying field to the finals. Finishing third in the long jump was Texas Tech’s Charles Brown, who passed Williams in the sixth round with a leap of 26-7 ¾ (8.12).

“The crowd was phenomenal,” stated Williams. “It was the best reaction I ever got a clap to start my approach and for making contact with the sand. They really carried me down that runway for that last jump.”

Williams, who won the SEC Indoor title two weeks ago on his first jump, broke the school record of 26-4 ½ (8.04) set by Fabrice Lapierre in placing second at the 2006 NCAA Indoor. The series for Williams between his first and last jumps included 25-8 (7.82), 26-0 ½ (7.93), 25-10 ¾ (7.89) and a foul.

Will Williams had a big time effort,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “That’s the best that’s ever been jumped in the building. It’s his personal best and wins the event on the last jump. If you’re hoping for something to happen that’s the scenario you’re hoping for. He looked great in here today.

“There was great jumping in the pole vault tonight as well. Our guys scored, but they would’ve liked to have scored more. The pole vault is one of those events. This was one of the finest pole vault competitions in the history of the NCAA. For us to have two vaulters finish among the top seven, I’m extremely pleased with that effort.”

Wyatt cleared 18-2 ½ (5.55) to tie for fifth place with Adrian Valles of Cincinnati while Wooten cleared 18-0 ½ (5.50) to finish seventh.

Nine vaulters cleared 18 feet in the event, which was won by Hussain Alhizam of Kansas with a clearance of 18-8 ½ (5.70). A pair of 18-4 ½ (5.60) clearances for South Dakota’s Chris Nilsen and Virginia Tech’s Deakin Volz placed second and third.

“Super tough battle today,” said Wyatt, a silver medalist in 2017 with a then school record of 18-2 ½. “With 18 feet getting 8th place, that’s crazy. I’m happy with a season’s best and tie for fifth with my indoor PR. It kind of sucks that I won’t be able to break the indoor school record.”

Tyra Gittens scored 4,197 points to improve her Trinidad & Tobago national record to in the pentathlon to place eighth in her first NCAA championship meet.

Her score puts her as the No. 2 performer with the No. 3 performance on the Aggie all-time list, trailing the school record of 4,363 by Annie Kunz as well as a 4,277 by Kunz. Gittens is the second Texas A&M athlete to score in the pentathlon, matching the eighth place by Jena Hemann (4,193) in 2014.

Gittens produced a cracking start with a career best of 8.35 in the 60m hurdles, improving her best of 8.51 she set in December, as she generated 1,050 points. Gittens equals No. 9 on the Aggie all-time list in the hurdle event.

A risky start in the high jump required three attempts at Gittens’ opening height of 5-6 ½ (1.69). Once past that height, though, Gittens cleared three more bars. A clearance of 5-10 (1.78) earned her 953 points.

Placing second overall in the shot put, Gittens hit a mark of 42-1 ½ (12.84) to generate another PR for 776 points. A 19-8 long jump (5.99) picked up another 846 points, putting Gittens into third place after four event with 3,566 points.

A best of 2:35.05 in the 800m completed the day for Gittens as she added 631 points to her total to finish in eighth place.

In qualifying races for Saturday’s final the Aggies advanced Mylik Kerley, who ran an indoor best of 45.64 in the 400m, and Danyel White, who clocked 23.07 in the 200m, along with the tandem of Sammy Watson and Jazmine Fray in the 800m.

Kerley won his heat, by 0.006 of a second, over Auburn’s Akeem Bloomfield, and had the second best qualifying time advancing to the final. USC’s Michael Norman led the field with a 45.56. After placing ninth in the NCAA Indoor prelims last season, White’s 23.07 in the 200m placed her second in the heat and eighth overall, just 0.002 of a second over USC’s Deanna Hill for the final place in the final.

Watson won her heat of the 800m in 2:03.55, the leading qualifying time to the finals, while Fray clocked 2:04.71 to place second in her heat and sixth overall. Matching the time by Watson was Villanova’s Siofra Cleirigh Buttner, who was 0.002 behind the Aggie freshman in the same heat.

Texas A&M’s Robert Grant, placed second in his 400m heat and 12th overall with a 46.46 that didn’t advance to the final. Devin Dixon finished 13th overall in the prelims of the 800m as he ran 1:48.72 to finish seventh in his heat.

Story courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics

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Posted by on Mar 10 2018. Filed under Sports.
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