June 8, 2010

By Amy Farnum, NCAA.com

The Texas A&M women’s track and field team is ready to defend its national title with a strong contingent of sprinters, featuring senior Porscha Lucas and sophomore Jeneba Tarmoh, who are two of the top contenders in the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships on June 9-12 in Eugene, Ore.

Lucas was the Aggies’ lone individual winner in 2009, claiming the 200 meter title, and was a member of the 4 x 100 relay team that captured its third straight NCAA title, boosting Texas A&M to its first-ever national championship.

This year, Lucas enters the meet seeded second in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes with times of 11.18 and 22.72, respectively. Some of her toughest competition in the races will come from her own teammates, especially Tarmoh, who is third on the 100 meter performance list with a mark of 11.20, and tops the 200 meter list with a time of 22.71. Tarmoh won the Big 12 titles in both races with career-best times of 11.19 and 22.65, respectively.

Junior Gabby Mayo is 13th on the 100 meter list with an 11.41, while sophomore Dominique Duncan is 20th with an 11.54. Duncan will also run the 200 and is seeded 13th with a time of 23.24.

“I love running against my teammates,” said Tarmoh. “The way I look at it, the more Texas A&M people you have in the final, the better chances are for Texas A&M. It makes me feel better. Having them by my side makes it feel more like a practice and helps me not get as nervous.”

Tarmoh, who was the 2008 Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year while attending the University of Tennessee, transferred to Texas A&M last year, and sat out the 2009 season from competition. She credits running alongside some of top sprinters in the nation with helping her personal improvement.

“Coach (Pat Henry) does a great job of showing us video of each other to show us what we are doing right from wrong,” said Tarmoh. “I’ve seen how Porscha runs right, I’ve seen how Jessica and Gabby run right. Seeing that from my teammates has me adopt some of those styles they have so I can become a better runner. I’m learning from my teammates, as well as running against them in competitions.”

“It is definitely a positive having those teammates around me, especially in practice,” said Lucas. “On competition days, we all push each other.”

Texas A&M will send 15 women to compete in 11 different events at NCAA Championships this week.

“I think environment is a big dictator,” said Henry. “We have a bunch of great people on one track team. The environment is good – the practices are good, and that’s what makes people better.”

In addition to being one another’s top competitors in individual races, Tarmoh and Lucas join Duncan and Mayo as the nation’s best 4x100 relay team with a time of 42.49. Last year, Texas A&M broke a 20-year-old collegiate record in the event, running a time of 42.36 at national championships in June. The group will look to claim the school’s fourth straight title in the event.

Henry knows his group will contend for the team title, but it will certainly be a tough road competing at the University of Oregon’s home track of Hayward Field. The Ducks are ranked second in the nation entering the championship, and won the NCAA Indoor Championship in March and placed second at last year’s Outdoor Championships.

“People always talk about repeating or the defending national champions doing this or that,” said Henry. “It really comes down to this group, and that they are different than the last group. It comes down to this group performing at a level they are capable of performing at. If they do that, we’ve done everything we can do. If we get beat doing that, it’s okay because then you can accept it. I think we have a good group of athletes, but I know that the team that wins this one is the one that will have the most perfect meet.”

CBS will televise the final two hours of the meet live from 10 a.m. to noon PT on Saturday. CBS College Sports will have a live broadcast window on Friday from 5-7 p.m. PT. In addition, other than when CBS/CBS College Sports is on the air, there will be a live web cast of the championships available at www.NCAA.com.