Nathon Allen (above) runs in his first NCAA outdoor national championship meet.
Eugene, Ore.--Strong performances in the 4x100 relay and the 400 meters led the Auburn men’s track and field team to a fifth place finish on Friday night at the NCAA Championships.
For the Tigers it was their best result at the national outdoor meet since taking second place in 2008. It was the first Top 10 finish since a sixth place showing in 2012.
"We had to do some reloading and it is good to be back up there," said Coach Ralph Spry, who noted that he expects the Tigers to be strong again next season. "This was a tough, tough meet," Spry added. "I am proud of how we lined up. Our guys fought hard."
SEC teams were particularly strong as Florida defended its championship with 61.5 points to edge Texas A&M (59).
Virginia from the ACC was third with 36 points followed by SEC teams Arkansas (33), Auburn (24), Georgia (22.5) and LSU and Tennessee, which tied for seventh place with 20 points apiece.
A pair of freshmen came through in the 400 meters as Nathon Allen finished second with a time of 44.69 while Akeem Bloomfield took fifth place in 45.13. Fred Kerley of Texas A&M, the No. 1 runner in the world in the event,? won the race in 44.13. "Nathon did a great job in the race and Akeem would have done even better if he had not hurt his hamstring in the race. That is why he ended up fifth. I am really happy for those two freshmen to perform so well on the big stage."
Competing at Heyward Field on the University of Oregon campus, Auburn opened the running competition in the final day of men’s races with a time of 38.48 in the 4x100 to finish second behind Houston’s 38.34. Odean Skeen, Kahlil Henderson, Raheem Chambers and Teray Smith just were just .01 off their best time of the season despite running in cold and damp conditions.
Teray Smith prepares to make the baton exchange during the 4x100 relay.
Smith scored two points with a seventh place finish in the 200 meters with a time of 20.77.
Skean scored a point for the Tigers with an eighth place finish in the 100 meters in a time of 10.97 as he pulled up short of the finish line, almost a full second off his season-best time. "We had a tough break with Odean because we had to patch him up this week," Spry said. "It was good he was able to help us in the 4x100 and at least get to the (finish) line to score in the 100. That was an unfortunate break."
The Tigers also scored a point by finishing eighth in the 4x400 relay. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Bloomfield was unable to compete in the event after tweaking his hamstring in the 400 meters. "That cost us fourth place in the team race," said Spry, who replaced the quarter-miler with 110-hurdler Wellington Zaza for the final race of the season. Spry also noted that Khalil Henderson ran the 4x400 at less than 100 percent health-wise. "The way we were running we could have finished second in the mile relay if we were healthy," Spry said.
However, overall the coach liked the performance. "We are reloading and excited for the future," he said.