As men’s track and field head coach Wayne Angel strode away from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Sunday night, he described his team’s performance as a “huge breakthrough.”
Led by impressive performances across the board, Florida A&M secured one victory, 15 top-10 finishes and six Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Indoor Championship qualifiers during the Gator Invitational in Gainesville, Fla.
With the MEAC Indoor Championship right around the corner, according to Angel, the team display indicates that it has reached “conference shape” right on time.
“We had a huge breakthrough; I’m very proud of those guys,” Angel said after the meet. “The momentum was going. Those things that we knew we could do well, we did just that. We focused on the positive things, and now we’re rounding into conference shape.”
A major highlight for FAMU was the 4 x 400m relay. The team comprised of Derrick Morgan, Shelton Tarver, Charief Lewis and Elijah Owens, blazed to a first-place finish in a season-best time of 3:18.82 – edging Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival Bethune-Cookman, who finished closely in second place.
Tarver later leapt to third place in the long jump (22-05.25) and fifth-place in the triple jump (43-03.00).
All-MEAC runner Lamere Buchanan put together a solid performance, finishing third in the 800m run in a time of 1:54.82. Owolabi Deji (1:56.02) and McDaniel Olivier (1:59.03) followed closely, finishing sixth and 12th respectively.
Buchanan said the team’s balanced performance in Gainesville was a product of Angel’s regular workout strategies.
“I’m excited to see that the workouts coach put us through this week paid off,” Buchanan said. “It helps us all see that the workouts we do actually are benefitting us week by week. When MEAC comes, we’ll be able to perform at our best.”
Willie Johnson soared to second place in the high jump with a leap of 6-06.00, matching distances of five other competitors and qualifying for a championship berth.
Distance runner Elias Chesire participated in the mile run unattached, sprinting to a second place finish in a time of 4:21.66. Freshman Dieumy Duclos finished seventh in the mile at 4:34.35.
“For my first race, I got a pretty good feel for what I need to do in order to qualify for MEAC’s next meet,” said Duclos, who participated in his first meet of the season on Sunday. “I just need to run more relaxed and conservatively.”
FAMU continued its pace with the 55m Dash, as Jeremy Tillman took third (6.40) and Defario Phillps finished ninth (6.59).
Morgan later bolted to a third place finish in the 400m dash (48.62), followed by Owens in sixth (49.28), D’Anthony Lewis in 10th (50.72) and Charief Lewis in 16th (51.66).
In the 55m hurdles, Carlton Nyalls surged to sixth place in a time of 7.91. Owens followed in ninth place at eight seconds flat.
FAMU will look to keep its momentum rolling as it travels to the Clemson Indoor Track and Field Complex in Clemson, S.C. to participate in Friday’s Clemson Invitational.