COLLEGE STATION - The Texas A&M Conference Challenge hosted by the Aggies on Saturday, January 15, will include three schools each from the Big 12, Southland, Sunbelt and SWAC schools. Action in the meet, which will be scored by conference, begins at noon with prelims in the 60 hurdles and 60 meters with finals set to begin at 2 p.m. and conclude at 6:30 p.m. in the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.

A&M, Baylor, and Oklahoma will comprise the Big 12 trio while the Southland is represented by Northwestern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin, and Texas-Arlington. The Sunbelt will have Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe and North Texas while the SWAC trio includes Prairie View A&M, Southern-Baton Rouge and Texas Southern.

The meet will feature three league team champions from the 2010 indoor season, which includes a pair of Big 12 Championship teams in Texas A&M women and Oklahoma men along with the Southland women's team champ in Stephen F. Austin. In addition there are three conference runner-up teams from the Southland (SFA men, UTA women) and the Sunbelt (North Texas men).

"This is the first step in the series of three conference challenge meets we host this season," Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry said. "It's a great competitive situation this weekend with a dozen schools representing four conferences. This format allows for a meet that is scored, which is good for the sport. It will be scored as a conference, so points attained by Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas A&M will count towards the Big 12 total.

"For our athletes and our team it's also a first step of the season. We have expectations for the team and now it's time to start meeting some of those expectations. We are starting to do some things this weekend which we are preparing to do in June. The amount of work we've done to this point has been very good, so we are looking for some good things out of a lot of people."

 

Returning to competitive action this weekend are two Aggie athletes who were injured late last spring and missed the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Senior hurdlers Gabby Mayo and Natasha Ruddock will each compete in the 60 hurdles at the Texas A&M Conference Challenge. Mayo is also scheduled to run the 200 meters while Ruddock will contest the 60 meters.

"Both hurdlers were hurt last year right at the end of the outdoor season," Henry noted. "They have been getting healthy through fall training and now will have an opportunity to get back on the track this weekend. It will be good for our team to see them competing."

Mayo's injury occurred during a practice session following the NCAA West region preliminaries. During the region meet she anchored the Aggies 4 x 100 relay to a time of 42.49, the second fastest collegiate time ever, and also recorded times of 11.41 in the 100 and a career best of 12.81 in the 100 hurdles, which is second fastest ever on the A&M all-time list.

Ruddock, meanwhile, suffered her injury preparing for the first round of 100 hurdles at the NCAA West region in Austin. Ruddock's season included a personal best of 12.87 as runner-up at the Penn Relays and a Big 12 title in the 100 hurdles, with a windy 12.89. Earlier in the spring, Ruddock and Mayo had teamed up as half of the Aggie quartet in the shuttle hurdle relay when Texas A&M set a collegiate record of 52.50 to win at the Penn Relay Carnival.

USTFCCCA preseason rankings heading into the 2011 season have the Aggie women No. 2 and the A&M men No. 3 in the nation. Both defending team champions from the 2010 NCAA Indoor meet - Florida men and Oregon women - are the top ranked teams. The preseason rankings are based on the individuals each team has returning from the previous season.

The men's top 10 includes: 1. Florida, 2. LSU, 3. Texas A&M, 4. Oregon, 5. Virginia Tech, 6. Florida State, 7. Texas Tech, 8. Penn State, 9. Stanford and 10. Indiana. Included in the women's top 10 are: 1. Oregon, 2. Texas A&M, 3. LSU, 4. Tennessee, 5. Clemson, 6. Arkansas, 7. Auburn, 8. West Virginia, 9. Southern Illinois, and 10. Oklahoma.

Other Big 12 schools in the men's rankings include: 12. Nebraska, 15. Texas, 18. Oklahoma, 19. Oklahoma State, 20. Kansas State and 24. Baylor. Among the women's rankings other Big 12 programs include: 15. Texas Tech, 16. Texas, and 17. Nebraska.

This is the second home meet of the season for the Aggies after hosting a meet in December. In the early stages of the 2011 indoor season, Texas A&M has three collegiate-leading marks along with nine leading marks in the Big 12.

In addition to topping the list in the men's 4 x 400 with a 3:08.03 by the foursome of Michael Preble, Tabarie Henry, Tran Howell, and Bryan Miller, the Aggies also have the top collegiate times in the men's and women's 800 meters. Joey Roberts set a school record of 1:49.47 while Aliese Hyde ran the fourth fastest Aggie time ever with a 2:11.38.

Texas A&M also has the top Big 12 marks in the men's 60 (Gerald Phiri), 5000 (Micah Dettmer), 60 hurdles (Wayne Davis II) as well as the women's 60 (Jeneba Tarmoh), 4 x 400 relay (Ibukun Mayungbe, Jessica Beard, Andrea Sutherland, Jeneba Tarmoh) and distance medley relay (Colbea Harris, Courtnie Allen, Julie Blanco, Caitlin Gilmore).


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