St. Augustine’s set to fly high again
Two-time defending champs ready to go at 2011 Championships
Since 1976, George Williams has been coaching track at St. Augustine’s. The tradition of success he has established in more than three decades at the school is remarkable.
Eleven NCAA Division II national championships anchor that tradition. And this week at the Al Brenda Track at Warrior Stadium in Turlock, Calif., the Falcons will go into the national meet as the two-time defending champions and a favorite to extend their streak of titles to three.
Success at St. Augustine’s, however, runs much deeper than what takes place on the track.
You see, Williams is more than just a legendary track coach who has not only shined at the collegiate level but as a United States Olympic coach as well. He cares about how his athletes perform in the classroom and never allows them to slide by in school. The fact that 95 percent of his scholarship student-athletes graduate is proof.
"I always tell the kids that when they come to St. Augustine's they are going to focus on three things. First is academics, the second is athletics and the third is to have control of your social life," Williams said. "When you have athletes who do that, it makes it easy to coach. I'm proud of what they have accomplished and it’s a blessing to see the program work the way it has for all of these years.”
Williams said he always reminds his athletes that there are young men out there who can probably run faster, jump higher or throw further than them. He reminds them that those people never had an opportunity to shine on the track or excel in the classroom.
His words serve as a motivational tool and so it’s not a surprise that eight athletes from the men’s team will compete at nationals, including Jason Boyd, the top-ranked athlete in the 110-meter hurdles. Boyd is the only hurdler in the nation to run in less than 14 seconds (13.84) this season.
The mile relay team of Kelly Fisher, Josh Edmonds, James Quarles and Antonio Abney is also ranked first for nationals with a time of 3:07.70.
“Our guys train hard and work to be the best they can be on the track,” Williams said. “They are always prepared mentally and physically and they will be ready to take it to another level this week.”
Having a reputation as being one of the best teams in the nation plays a role in that preparation. Week in and week out during the season, the third-ranked Falcons are challenged at every meet.
“Teams love competing against us because they know how big of a deal it is to knock us off,” Williams said. “Even the Division I teams we run against want to beat us. We are always being challenged and it pays off in the long run for us.”
The national meet begins Thursday, and if the Falcons win the title, it will mark the first time since the 1990s that they have won three or more championships in a row. St. Augustine’s won seven consecutive crowns from 1989-1995.
“The training is over. It’s time to go,” Williams said. “Our athletes will go out and do the best they can. If it’s enough, we will win another championship. If our effort isn’t good enough, we will go back to the drawing board and come back stronger next year. I know our athletes will take their performance to another level this week.”
Other Teams To Watch
The Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in the country and will have nine athletes competing in 11 events, along with one relay team, as they take aim at the program’s 19th national championship. Amos Sang will hit the West Coast as the defending champion in the 5,000. He is ranked first in the event and is seeded second in the 10,000.
Nick Jones, the national champion in the discus in 2008 and 2009, is the top-ranked discus thrower in the country. He is ranked third in the shot put.
Ramon Sparks will be looking to defend his triple jump title while Desmond Jackson enters the national meet as the top sprinter in the 100 and 200. Jackson is also part of the 400 relay team that lit up the clock with a time of 38.90, the best time in the nation this season.
No one for the Blue Tigers is ranked first heading into the national meet, however, there will be several athletes contending for individual titles.
Kimour Bruce has a time of 10.20 in the 100, the second-best time in the nation, while Roxroy Cato is seeded second in the 400 with a time of 50.89. The 400 relay team of Mandela Clifford, Ravel Grey, Terrel Cotton and Bruce are ranked second with a time of 39.83.
The Blue Tigers are ranked second in the nation and will have 10 athletes competing at nationals.
Ryan McNiff will be the favorite to win the 1,500, entering the meet with a time of 3:42.49.Teammate Andrew Graham is seeded fourth in the event, checking in with a time of 3:45.19. Keegan Calmes, (sixth, 3:47.98) and Drew Soucy (ninth, 3:48.94) are also in the top 10.
Johnson C. Smith: Leford Green will lead the Golden Bulls into action. Green is the top seed in the 400 and 400 hurdles and has not lost in either event this season. He has a time of 46.75 in the 400 while teammate Akino Ming is second with a time of 46.02. Green’s fastest time in the 400 hurdles is 50.00 this year.
Rolston Gabriel should score points for JC as well. He is fourth in the 110 hurdles (14.13).
Green and Ming are part of a mile-relay team that is ranked second, helping the unit hit a time of 3:07.90. Winston Brown and Jamille Calum are on the team as well.
• Western State has the top three runners in the 3,000 steeplechase. Ryan Haebe is first with a time of 8:44.98 while David Goodman (8:49.98) and David Flynn (8:52.19) are seeded second and third, respectively.
• The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is well-represented in the pole vault. Ashland’s Kurt Roberts is first with a toss of 64-feet-13/4 while Grand Valley State’s Daniel Vanek is second (63-21/4).
• Brent Vogel will be the top contender for the decathlon championship. The Central Missouri star is atop the list with a season-high 7,238 points.