GREENSBOROâ€“ There is a very good reason the Greensboro community should carve out some time this weekend to attend the NCAA Division I East Regional Track and Field Meet held at North Carolina A&Tâ€™s Irwin Belk Track May 29-30.
As spectators, the community will get an excellent chance to see the United Statesâ€™ future track and field world record holders, sports celebrities and American icons. Approximately 850 student-athletes representing more than 110 institutions from Maine to Florida will be competing for a chance to earn a trip to the NCAA Division I Menâ€™s and Womenâ€™s Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 10-13, 2009 at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
The top five individual event place finishers and the top three relay teams from each region automatically qualify to the championship meet.
â€œThis is a huge opportunity for the residents of Greensboro to see a true championship meet,â€™â€™ said Roy Thompson, N.C. A&Tâ€™s director of track and field championships. â€œFor a track and field meet of this magnitude to be in the city of Greensboro is a big deal. Some of the best times and distances will be set here this weekend. And surely, some of these athletes are going to the Olympics.â€
The first event on Friday will start at 11 a.m. The first running event begins at 4 p.m. Saturdayâ€™s events start at 11 a.m., with the running events beginning at 5 p.m. The Aggies are hosting their second NCAA regional in four years.
Fans planning to attend both sessions can buy a two-day pass for $18. A single-session ticket costs $10. Spectators under 12 will be admitted free. N.C. A&T students with valid student identification can purchase a two-day pass for $10 and a one-day pass for $7. Senior citizensâ€™ prices are the same as N.C. A&T student prices.
â€œWe are very proud to have the best in the country on our campus,â€™â€™ said Thompson. â€œIt is very prestigious to have an NCAA regional on your campus. When you look at the fact that we are a historically black university hosting our second regional, it says a lot about our university, our facility and our growing reputation in the track and field community.â€
Not only will N.C. A&T get another opportunity to showcase the university and the Irwin Belk Track facility, but the Aggies also have some elite athletes of their own to put on display.
On the womenâ€™s side, senior sprinter Alexandria Spruiel, senior hurdler and sprinter Loreal Smith and junior thrower Jerrine Foster are having excellent seasons. Spruiel is ranked sixth in the nation in the 400 meters. Her time of 51.95 is a school record and is the second fastest time in the east region this season, trailing only Hamptonâ€™s Francena McCorory.
Smith recently broke the MEAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships meet record in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 13.14. Smithâ€™s time ranks her eighth in the nation and third in the region. Smith will also compete in the 400 meter hurdles. She and Spruiel will also likely compete in the 4×100 and the 4×400 meter relays. Foster set the school record in the discus at the Penn Relays this season with a throw of 159-feet. Foster also claimed the MEAC Championship in the discus, and will also compete in the shot put at the east regional.
The men also have an excellent opportunity to shine over the weekend. Junior sprinter Calesio Newman is ranked 16th in the nation and fifth in the region in the 100 meters. He is the two-time MEAC 100 meters champion. Newman will also compete in the 200 meters.
Gordon Smith, who has also had an excellent season, will compete in the 400 meter hurdles, the high jump and he will be a part of the Aggies 4×400 meter relay team, which is ranked seventh in the region. David McFadgen and Ron Buchanan will compete in the triple jump for the Aggies, while Phifer will make another regional appearance in the shot put.
â€œI think the first time we hosted (the east regional) our athletes were competitive,â€™â€™ said Thompson. â€œBut I donâ€™t think they were as competitive as our athletes our now. I think this year we can have more people in the nationals than weâ€™ve ever had before.â€