GREENSBORO – Senior Chris Belcher became a part of the Aggie consciousness at the 2016 MEAC Track and Field Championships when he ran a then conference-meet record 10.07 to win the 100 meters. His next three 100m times in 2016, however, were 10.29, 10.30 and 10.71. Fast forward to 2017 and Belcher became a part of the world’s consciousness when he posted a 9.99 in the 100m at the 2017 Aggie Invitational at N.C. A&T’s Irwin Belk Track on April 14. His next three times in the 100m after 9.99 were 10.05, 10.10 and Saturday’s record-breaking 10.04 at the 2017 MEAC Track and Field Championships at Irwin Belk Track to help the Aggies win their first men’s outdoor championship in 21 years.
The N.C. A&T women’s track and field team claimed the outdoor title, giving the Aggies a sweep of the indoor and outdoor titles for the first time in school history. The last MEAC school to win all four track and field championships was Hampton in 2003. The winning of four MEAC titles in one year is also a N.C. A&T department of athletics school record. It wasn’t close on the men’s side. The Aggies posted 178 points to tower over second-place Bethune-Cookman who finished with 115.5 points.
In addition to breaking the conference-meet record for the second straight year, Belcher also took gold in the 200m (20.59) and was one-fourth of first-place 4x100 meter relay team. Belcher credits the learning process for his consistency this season. He said over the past month he has come to understand what Duane Ross, director of track and field programs, has been teaching him. He said he has become better at making those lessons a part of his everyday routine as he mentioned the importance of wicket drills, driving out well, keeping his knees up and using his arms.
Ross took Belcher through these processes because he more time to work with him this season. Belcher arrived in Aggieland in January of 2016. Ross and his staff had to rush Belcher into shape because he was admitted in the spring. They were able to get him to the point where he could run a 10.07, but there was a price to pay. “When you’re trying to get an athlete into shape you’re somewhat sacrificing other aspects of his training,” said Ross. “This year we were able to bring him along slowly. We made sure he was healthy. When an athlete is physically healthy and they start to see their times come down, mentally they are just on top of the world.
We took him to the side and said ‘This is how we're going to train you this year.’ No sprinter trains the exact same way. We train them based on where they need to improve. The reason why I think my sprinters progress so fast is because we are able to give them individual attention.”
Belcher may be the most known Aggie at the top of the world, but he is far from the only one there. N.C. A&T walked away with seven first-place finishes. On Saturday, those finishes were record-breaking. The men’s 4x1 which includes Belcher, sophomore Rodney Rowe, senior Caleb Gabriel and junior Joel Thomas broke the conference record with a 39.44 time. The record was set by nearly the same group of gentlemen in 2016 when Maurice Eaddy, Belcher, Gabriel and Rowe ran 39.58.
The Aggie men were so good on Saturday, they even picked up wins where they weren’t expected. N.C. A&T elite hurdler Michael Dickson failed to qualify in the 110-meter hurdles finals because on Friday he tripped and fell over a hurdle in a race he was clearly going to win. In Dickson’s place, senior TeQuille Jackson improved on a fourth-place finish in the preliminaries on Friday to win the title on Saturday with a personal-best 13.92. Jackson’s marvelous MEAC time moves him to 13th in the NCAA Division I East Region, one spot behind Dickson.
Expectations were high for Dajuan Harding, and he had no problem meeting them. Harding was four-tenths of a second off his PR on Saturday in the 400m when he posted a 46.18 time to win the event. Harding then ran the anchor leg on the first-place 4x4 team on Saturday. He joined sophomore Justin Hamilton, senior Dorian Claggett and freshman Najee Reams to run a 3:07.32.
The Aggies will now move their focus to the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round (East regional) in three weeks. From there they hope to take numerous athletes to the NCAA outdoor championships. After not having the type of performance he wanted at the NCAA indoor championships, Belcher hopes his newfound consistency will carry over to All-America and even national champion status.
“The main focus going into regionals and going into nationals is running there like I have been running here,” said Belcher. “I definitely need to show out because next year I’m going for everybody in the world.”
10,000m – Darren White (31:32.64)*; 4x100 – Chris Belcher, Rodney Rowe, Caleb Gabriel, Joel Thomas (39.44)^; 100m – Chris Belcher (10.04)*; 110mh – TeQuille Jackson (13.92); 400m – Dajuan Harding (46.18); 200m – Chris Belcher (20.59); 4x400 – Justin Hamilton, Dorian Claggett, Najee Reams, Dajuan Harding (3:07.32).
Triple Jump – Lasheon Strozier (49-feet, 8 ½ inches); Hammer Throw – Derrick Wheeler (164-feet, 4-inches); 200m – Rodney Rowe (20.79); 5000m – Darren White (15:24.18); 3000m steeplechase – Darren White (9:20.29);
High Jump – Nehemiah Lipford (6-feet, 9-inches); Long Jump – Lasheon Strozier (24-feet, 3-inches); 100m – Caleb Gabriel (10.27).
*MEAC Outdoor Championship Record