HBCU athletes looking to make some noise at NCAA Division I track championships
Seven schools have competitors who hope to win titles this weekend
The NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships this weekend will feature a significant number of track and field athletes from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) who are striving to etch their names in history.
After finishing in the top 12 of their respective events at the NCAA East Regional in Lexington, Kentucky, 17 HBCU athletes have earned the right to compete for their titles at the historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
HBCUs will participate in 12 events, including the 100-meter dash and the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Several of these athletes are in prime position to capture an NCAA championship after their stellar performances in Lexington.
This competition has historically served as the foundation for track and field athletes interested in participating for the United States in the world championships and the Olympics.
They will look to follow in the footsteps of prominent HBCU track stars such as 2016 Olympic gold medalist Jeff Henderson, who won NCAA Division II titles in the 100 meters and the long jump while at Stillman College, and Hampton University alum Francena McCorory, who won gold in the 4-x-400 meter relay.
North Carolina A&T standout sprinter Chris Belcher will be in three championship finals after an extraordinary first day of competition Wednesday in Oregon. Belcher shattered his Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference record in the 100 in the semifinals and later posted the fastest time of the day in the 200-meter dash. He also was key in helping the North Carolina A&T men’s 4-x-100 meter relay team finish with the second-fastest time overall.
Belcher is one of an HBCU-record 13 athletes who traveled to the championships from North Carolina A&T.
“Schools like us don’t really get the attention or big-time athletes like the ACC, SEC and the Pac 12 do, so it’s nice to finally have people paying attention and understand what we are doing,” Belcher said. “All year long we have been anticipating heavy-hitting competition, and now we got it.”
Bethune-Cookman triple jumper Michael Tiller, who placed first at the NCAA East Regional, shared sentiments similar to Belcher’s. Tiller is looking to embrace the underdog mentality that lifted him to have the best overall mark in Lexington.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to compete in Eugene. We are a very small school and rarely have people competing,” said Tiller. “I feel like some people might look past us; it just gives me more push to prove who I am and put my school on the map.”
Representatives from Prairie View A&M (Deonca Bookman, 400 meter hurdles; men’s 4-x-100 relay), Hampton University (Jaelen Williams, 400 meter hurdles), Alabama State (long jumper Jamie Brown; 4-x-100 men’s relay team), Tennessee State (Amber Hughes, women’s triple jump) and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Khalil Rmidi Kinini, 3,000-meter steeplechase) will also compete.
Donovan Dooley is a Rhoden Fellow from North Carolina A&T University.