AUSTIN — The pain coming down the stretch of the 800 meters has stuck with Texas A&M’s Jazmine Fray for three years. The feeling of winning in her final attempt Saturday will last a lot longer.
Fray ran a season best and Mike A. Myers Stadium record time of 2 minutes, 1.31 to claim the title at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. She had qualified for the national race all four years at A&M but hadn’t finished better than eighth.
“To lock out the pain I think of winning,” Fray said. “The pain is temporary, but winning is forever, so which one am I going to choose?”
Fray used a fast start to set the pace and led from start to finish.
“I changed on how I go out go out in 58 [seconds] and try to hold on and wanted to try a different approach this year,” Fray said. “Sometimes you make mistakes, but some things just don’t work, so I had to change it up a bit, and this was the perfect race strategy.”
Fray’s victory gave the Aggies 10 points and pushed them up the team leaderboard. Tyra Gittens added eight points with a second-place finish in the heptathlon, then A&M capped the meet with a school-record 3:25.57 in the 4x400 relay to finish fourth in the team standings with 38 points.
Arkansas was tied with defending champion Southern California for the team lead going into the 4x400 and cruised to the team title by finishing second behind A&M, while USC finished eighth. Arkansas won the crown with 64 points followed by USC (57), LSU (43), A&M, and Oregon (34).
“I’m pleased with the efforts,” A&M head track and field coach Pat Henry said. “We just don’t have enough bullets, but we are really, really close. [We] worked hard, and I’m proud of this.”
A&M freshman Tierra Robinson-Jones led off the 4x400 followed by junior Jaevin Reed. Fray came back after the 800 to run the third leg. Sophomore Syaira Richardson also came back with little rest, anchoring the team after finishing seventh in the 400 in 51.98.
“Coming after the 400, it’s always tough to run the 4x400, but we train for it,” Richardson said. “It’s mentally tough, and knowing this level of competition every anchor is an elite 400-meter runner. It could have been anyone’s race. This was the first time we ran this group together. Everyone executed their leg and ended up the way it was supposed to be.”
A&M’s men also won their 4x400 title, giving the Aggies just their second double in the event. A&M also swept both mile relays in 2011.
In the heptathlon, Gittens finished the 800 in 2:29.99, good enough to keep her second-place standing entering the race. Texas’ Ashtin Zamzow, who transferred from A&M after one season, won with 6,222 points. Gittens followed with 6,049, and Miami’s Michelle Atherly placed third at 6,014.
“I’m pleased I didn’t drop places, which means I’m really growing up as an athlete,” said Gittens, who struggles in the 800, the final event of seven over the two-day heptathlon. “Once again, I did not drop places, which I normally do, and I can’t be any happier to be where I am.”
Gittens was the overall leader after the first four events Friday, and she remained in first after opening Saturday’s three events with a field-topping 20-foot, 8.5-inch long jump. But she fouled on her first two javelin throws and registered just a 109-0 on her last attempt. By comparison, she threw 129 feet at the Southeastern Conference meet. Zamzow, meanwhile, had the best throw of the 24 competitors at 162-7 and picked up 314 points on Gittens to move into the overall lead.
“Today, overall I’m still pretty pleased with myself even though the javelin did not go the way it was planned at all,” Gittens said. “Yesterday couldn’t have been any happier, the ideal meet for me.”
Between the javelin and 800 on Saturday, Gittens competed in the open high jump. She missed at 5-11 and did not score a team point. In the heptathlon high jump on Friday, Gittens cleared 6-1.5.
Henry knew it was a tough ask of Gittens to compete in both events and was most proud of her 800.
“I kissed her on the cheek because she is turning into a competitor,” Henry said. “I was a little worried going into that last run, but she held on and did a great job, and it’s a great score.”
The Aggies also got six points from Deborah Acquah in the long jump in one of the few women’s finals held Thursday. Acquah took third at 21-9, trailing Florida’s Yanis David (22-5.25) and Northwestern State and A&M Consolidated graduate Jasmyn Steels (22-0.25).
Ciynamon Stevenson scored A&M’s other two points in the triple jump. She leapt 43-10 to open the event, but couldn’t duplicate or pass her season-best 45-9, fouling three times and dropping from third to seventh.
NOTES – Boise State’s Allie Ostrander became the first woman to win the 3,000 steeplechase three straight years at the NCAA outdoor meet, easily winning in 9:37.73. ... LSU’s Sha’Carri Richardson won the 100 in a meet record 10.75 then finished second by 0.01 seconds in the 200 to defending champion Angelerne Annelas of USC, who won in 22.16.