Track program ready for lift off
N.C. A&T’s track and field program expects to improve tremendously this coming season.
“Physically, I believe we can run with any team in the country,” said Duane Ross, director of the track and field program.
Ross, a member of the 2004 USA Olympic team, became A&T’s director of track and field in July of 2012, after taking over for interim coach James Daniels.
Ross is serving as the fifth director for the track and field program in the past three years for the Aggies.
“My athletes asked me jokingly, how long are you going to be here?” said Ross.
“I understood it was the environment at the time.”
Ross says he took steps to immediately create an environment of stability and brand a culture that the players could easily adjust and commit to.
Before coaching at A&T, Ross experienced a great deal of success at Methodist University.
At Methodist, Ross coached nine individual NCAA champions and 46 All-Americans.
Ross feels that this year’s team will take strides in the right direction.
Last year, the men’s team placed fourth as the women’s team went on to place sixth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“2012 was a transition year, and we lost a lot of students from the year before,” said Ross.
Ross was quick to endorse sophomore distance runner Saeed Jones, redshirt senior sprinter Daryl Williams, and redshirt junior hurdler Jeffery Lewis.
He also added that senior sprinter Earl House has spent the summer rehabbing an Achilles tendon injury from last year.
When asked about team camaraderie, Ross was quick to cite his newcomers, “freshmen acting like seniors is what you need for a championship team.”
“A good recruiting class and getting the athletes who want to run for you is one of the first steps in building a successful program.”
In March, Ross announced his first five recruits to sign at A&T–Josiah Elliot (Winston-Salem, N.C.), Caleb Gabriel (Raleigh, N.C.), Barry Harris (Greensboro, N.C.), Dominique Irons (Haddon Heights, N.J.), and Thomas Jones II (Burlington, N.C.).
Josiah Elliot, brother of former A&T track star Jarrell Elliot, ranked first in the state in the indoor 800 meters and second in the 500m.
Caleb Gabriel placed fourth in the 55m and sixth in the 300m at the 2013 Class 4A Indoor State Championships.
Barry Harris was ranked third in the state in the 500m and eighth nationally.
Dominique Irons is the 2013 New Jersey state champion in the 55m.
Iron’s jump of 48-feet and 9-inches was second in the state and eighth in the country, while his time of 6.42 seconds in the 55m race was number one in the state and 14th nationally.
Thomas Jones II was ranked second in the state in the 55-meter hurdles and 11th nationally.
The Aggies are coached by second year assistant coach Perry Cabean, first year assistant coach Bill Dunn, and second year coach Tempest Vance.
Cabean will coach cross country runners and serve as a coach for long distance events for the men’s and women’s outdoor and indoor track programs. Cabean is known for his 10-year coaching and management contributions to the Tri-City Relay Track Club.
Dunn is entering his first season as an assistant coach. He spent time coaching at Methodist Univeristy under Ross, where 13 school records were broken. At Methodist, Dunn specialized in coaching mid-long distance events.
Vance will serve as the horizontal and vertical jumps coach and the program’s operation coordinator this season.
Reflecting on last year, Ross reiterated that improvements were made saying, “everyone did a personal best last year.”
It is clear that Ross has high expectations for the Aggies.
“They’ve [returning players] had a year in our program. I think it’s time for us to take off.”
When asked what the student body can do to help Ross said, “It would be wonderful to see our own student body in the stands.”
The men’s cross country team will compete in the UNC-Charlotte Invitational in Belmont on Saturday at 5 p.m..
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- Kalyn Hoyle, Managing Editor