For the first time in HBCU history, the Aggies men and women’s team are both ranked in Top 10 nationally.
The state of North Carolina’s 4A track MVP Randolph Ross, son of North Carolina A&T’s track coach, nationally ranked in the 400m, shocked the HBCU community when he shunned offers from several Power 5 schools including Ohio State and Iowa, to remain home, lend his talents to A&T and help the exploding track program continue to rise up the national rankings.
When they think you are going to a big P5 school and then BOOM, an HBCU. pic.twitter.com/aToK8dAKiQ
— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) May 21, 2019
Ross isn’t a football or basketball player, which would have been a watershed moment in HBCU sports, but his decision to attend an HBCU rather than a Power 5 school with all of the trimmings, has sparked a discussion about the potential of HBCU athletics.
What if the schools were able to corral the elite black athletes, rather than watch them go to predominantly white universities?
A&T track seems to be a leading university in this endeavor. The track field is the best place to start because it is an individual sport where the only thing that matters is the runner’s times. The level of talent surrounding a runner doesn’t affect their individual performance as it does in football, baseball, and hoops. Therefore, the lure of a Power 5 school doesn’t have the same impact on the decisions of potential blue-chip track recruits.
Ross decided to stay home, close to his family while pursuing the same goals he would have if he attended a USC, UCLA, UNC or Florida. The national success that A&T’s men and women’s track team has had in recent years was a huge factor.
His Dad Duane, who also happens to be A&T’s director of track and field programs, definitely had a heavy advantage in the recruiting process.
Following a weekend where A&T men’s and women’s outdoor track and field teams won their respective Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championships held at A&T Irwin Belk Track May 2-4, both the men’s and women’s teams are now ranked sixth nationally in USTFCCCA latest poll.
According to A&T’s site, “Each team has the highest ranking of any Division I historically black college or university in the history of the poll. Both teams are there because individuals from those teams posted some remarkable and historic times.
“I’m excited for our kids,” said Duane Ross.”They have worked hard this season. They understand that high rankings are a projection and the goal is to be NCAA champions.”
In all, N.C. A&T has 14 times or marks in the top-50 nationally. Six of their times are in the top-5 nationally. The rankings are based on the number of individuals on a particular team who are highly ranked nationally in various events.
— HBCULegacy (@HBCULEGACY1837) February 23, 2019
Only Texas Tech, LSU, BYU, Florida and Texas A&M are ranked higher than the Aggies men. Junior Trevor Stewart won the 400 meters at the MEAC outdoor championships with the 14th-fastest time in world history, one of several great accomplishments by the men’s team.
— N.C. A&T Athletics (@NCATAGGIES) May 5, 2019
On the women’s side, the top-5 teams are Arkansas, Texas A&M, Southern Cal, Kentucky, and Oregon.
The Aggie women are knocking on the door of a Top 5 ranking thanks in part to the fifth-fastest time ever run in 100-meter collegiate history; a 10.96 by senior Kayla White.
White has the No. 1 time in the nation in the 100 and 200m (22.52).
The foursome of White, freshmen Cambrea Sturgis and Kamaya Debose-Epps and junior Taliyah Townsend, have the second fastest 4×100-meter relay time in the nation (43.45).
For decades, white college institutions have filled their coiffeurs and casually picked off the top from the elite pool of African-American athletes in the country, leaving the HBCUs with scraps, red flag recruits, and slept on talents.
Ross’ power move definitely continues a shift in NC A&T’s ability to attract pro talent and compete with powerhouse colleges in various sports.
The Aggies’ athletic program had a banner 2017 sports season. Tarik Cohen got drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, pitcher Cutter Dyals taken in the 17th round of the MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves and track star Christopher Belcher signed a professional contract with Nike while earning a place in the United States Track and Field team.
The program continues to elevate to new levels. Ross hopes to follow in Belcher’s steps while becoming another building block for an HBCU program that is changing the game.