Sunday, May 28, 2017

5 SWAC teams with something to prove in 2017

JACKSON, Mississippi -- Spring practice starts in 60 days, so it’s as good a time as any to start looking forward to the 2017 football season.

Several SWAC teams were close to breaking through last year, and seven of the 10 teams in the league could have made the conference championship by swinging the outcome of just two games.

Here’s a look at the five SWAC teams that have the most to prove, given the lay of the land.

5. Alabama A&M: The Bulldogs got off to a miserable 1-5 start last year that included a win over Mississippi Valley and losses to Prairie View, Southern, Texas Southern and Alcorn State. But they won three out of their final four SWAC games, and are hoping to carry that momentum over into this season. If A&M coach James Spady can find a way to get his team to pick off a couple of games early (they lost to Texas Southern 34-31 last year, for example) they could make a serious run at their first East title since 2011.


Chatters named Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete

NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana track and field standout Drew Chatters earned an academic honor for the second straight day when she was named Friday as a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete for 2016-17.
Chatters, a junior from Lake Charles, La., and a graduate of St. Louis Catholic High School, is a biology / pre-medical major. She is a 3-time Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champion in the javelin and holds school and GCAC meet records in that event.
To qualify for Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete, student-athletes are nominated by their institution, must maintain a minimum grade-point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved junior academic status.
Chatters was announced Thursday as Academic All-District 2 by the College Sports Information Directors of America. She made that team for the second consecutive year. Chatters will learn June 20 if she made the Academic All-America team.

Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

N.C. A&T Aggies Put On Historic Performance In Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Kentucky  –  North Carolina A&T will roll into the NCAA Division I Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., in record fashion after completing a historic NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round for a historically black college or university institution.

The Aggies will send 13 of the school-record 20 athletes they sent to the East Prelims to the University of Oregon's Hayward Field, June 7-10 for the NCAA championships. Over the past three days, the Aggies have taken down numerous school records. Saturday was another superb day of qualifying. The Aggies will have more representation than any other North Carolina institution at the NCAA championships in two weeks. They will also send more athletes to the NCAA nationals than any other HBCU in history.

The men's 4x100 meter relay team consisting of seniors Chris Belcher, Caleb Gabriel and junior Rodney Rower and freshman Jaylen Mitchell nearly took the top qualifying time for the East to Oregon with them, but were defeated by a narrow margin by Auburn (38.74) and LSU (38.75) to finish third in 38.76. The top 12 times advance to NCAA nationals. The foursome's time broke the school record of 39.44, set during this season's MEAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships at N.C. A&T's Irwin Belk Track. It was the same runners save for junior Joel Thomas ran instead of Mitchell.

“Man, they looked awesome today,” said N.C. A&T director of track and field programs, Duane Ross. “They were right there until the end, but LSU got us at the line.”

The women's 4x1 was also impressive. Junior India Brown, sophomores Yakira Love and Kayla White and freshman Taliyah Townsend sprinted to a school record as they qualified for nationals with the 10th-best time (44.01). The previous record was established at the 2017 Aggie Invitational when the same runners except Love ran on Friday instead of Tori Ray. One more Aggies relay team saw success on Saturday when the 4x4 team qualified for nationals with a school-record time. Senior Dorian Claggett, junior Dajuan Harding, sophomore Justin Hamilton and freshman Najee Reams completed the 4x4 in 3:06.14 to be the 11th team out of 12 to qualify. They finished ahead of Clemson and Florida State to qualify. Saturday's 4x4 team out did itself as the same four guys held the previous record which was 3:07.32 recorded at the 2017 MEAC outdoor championships.

Belcher and Brown will represent the Aggies in three different events in Eugene. Both qualified on the men's and women's side in the 200 meters. A day after running the fastest qualifying time to reach the quarterfinals with a school-record 20.06, Belcher qualified for nationals in 20.31. Brown also pulled off a trifecta by finishing her 200m race in 22.92 to break her own school record of 22.98 recorded at the Tom Jones Memorial hosted by the University of Florida on April 28.

There were mixed reviews for the Aggies in the hurdles on Saturday. Kayla White is headed to nationals in the 100-meter hurdles as she qualified in 13.18 a day after breaking the school record by running 12.94. White broke an 8-year old record set by Loreal Smith at 12.97. White will try to become the Aggies first All-American in the 100mh since Smith in 2009. White had the sixth-fastest qualifying time on Saturday. The Aggies 110mh participants on Saturday – sophomore Michael Dickson and senior TeQuille Jackson – failed to qualify as both men could not reach the Top-12.

N.C. A&T's representation at the NCAA championships will be off the track as well. Sophomore Lasheon Strozier qualified in the men's triple jump with a personal-record 51-feet, 10 ½-inch jump. It surpassed his previous best which was 51-feet, 10-inches at the Duke Invitational on April 21. Strozier will be the first Aggies triple jumper since Brandon Via in 2006 to compete at NCAA nationals.

“This year we did a good job of putting them in meets where they saw some of the same competition they saw this weekend,” said Ross. “Our administration fully backed us in taking them down to (the University of) Florida and Georgia and putting them against tough competition so that when they are competing at regionals, when they are competing at nationals, it's nothing new.”

NCAA Division I Track and Field Championship Qualifiers

Men's 100m – Chris Belcher; Women's 100m – India Brown; Men's 200m – Chris Belcher; Women's 200m – India Brown; Men's 400m – Dajuan Harding; Women's 100mh – Kayla White; Men's 4x100 – Jaylen Mitchell, Belcher, Caleb Gabriel and Rodney Rowe; Women's 4x100 – Yakira Love, Brown, Taliyah Townsend and White; Men's 4x400 – Justin Hamilton, Dorian Claggett, Najee Reams and Harding; Men's Triple Jump – Lasheon Strozier.


Career best for Keith on first day of national meet

GULF SHORES, Alabama — Xavier University of Louisiana sophomore Ireyon Keithproduced a career best in the long jump Thursday on the opening day of the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships.
Keith's mark was 5.58 meters (18 feet, 3 3/4 inches), the best by a Gold Nugget in two years. She placed 16th out of 46 jumpers.
XULA's other long jumper was freshman Ry-Anne Riley, who placed 22nd with 5.44 meters (17-10 1/4). Sophomore Abby Stricker of Columbia (Mo.) won with 5.91 meters (18-4 3/4).
The Gold Nuggets did not advance in the preliminaries of the 400 relay. Martina WrightAlexis MiltonJustyce Riggs and Riley finished seventh out of seven in their heat in 48.59 seconds and placed 16th out of 21 teams overall. Defending champion and No. 1 seed Indiana Tech posted the fastest time, 45.83.
XULA will compete in two Friday events: Ariane Williams in the 400 trials at 3:30 p.m., and the 1,600 relay trials at 7:45 p.m. with Riley, Williams, Tramaine Shannon and Clarke Allen. The meet will conclude Saturday.

Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

Chatters, Pace earn CoSIDA Academic All-District

NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana's Drew Chatters and Brianna Pace were named Thursday to the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District™ 2 women's track and field/cross country team in the college division for 2016-17.
Chatters, a junior from Lake Charles, La., and a graduate of St. Louis Catholic High School, is a biology / pre-medical major with a 3.78 cumulative GPA at XULA. She made Academic All-District for the second straight year, making her the sixth XULA athlete to receive the honor more than once. Chatters is a 3-time Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champion in the javelin throw; she holds school and GCAC meet records in that event.
Pace, a sophomore from Junction City, Kan., and a graduate of Junction City High School, is majoring in computer science at XULA and has a 3.87 cumulative GPA. Pace scored a team-best 26 points April 22 to help the Gold Nuggets win the GCAC team championship. She scored in five events that day, including second in the 800-meter run and 3,200 relay, and was All-GCAC in four events. In October she finished third at the GCAC cross country meet and helped the Nuggets win the team championship.
District 2 consists of non-NCAA colleges in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee. Nominees must be a starter or important reserve with at least a 3.30 cumulative GPA on a 4.0 scale. They also must have completed at least one full calendar year at their current institution and reached sophomore athletic eligibility.
Chatters and Pace are the only athletes from the GCAC to make an Academic All-District™ track/cross country team this year. They are among eight from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges or Universities) to be honored, regardless of gender.
First-team Academic All-District™ members advance to the Academic All-America™ ballot. The College Division Academic All-America™ team will be announced June 20.
During the past nine years, XULA has produced 22 Academic All-District™ selections, all but one on the first team.


Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

XULA to compete in 5 events at NAIA national meet

NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana will have six entries in five events — the men's triple jump and the women's 400-meter dash, 400 relay, 1,600 relay and long jump — at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships.
The 3-day meet will begin Thursday at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Freshman Ry-Anne Riley will be the busiest of the 10 XULA athletes. She'll compete in the long jump and will run the anchor segment of the 400 relay and the leadoff lap of the 1,600 relay.
"I feel really good about our chances here," XULA coach Joseph Moses said. "We look real fast, and we're healthy. That's the key to doing well at nationals. You can't go into this meet 80- or 85-percent healthy."
The XULA entries:
•  Women's 400 Relay (trials at 2:30 p.m. Thursday; finals at 2:40 p.m. Saturday):  Joining Riley on this team will be Martina WrightAlexis Milton and Janelle JonesJustyce Riggs is the alternate. None of the five is a senior. Wright, Milton, Jones and Riley won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship in this event in 47.25 seconds April 22. Defending champion Indiana Tech is No. 1 this season at 45.23. The Warriors won a year ago in 45.57.
 •  Women's Long Jump (5:30 p.m. Thursday):  Riley (5.57 meters/18 feet, 3 1/4 inches) and Ireyon Keith (5.51/18-1) both qualified for nationals April 7 at the University of Mobile Invitational, then finished 1-2 in this event at the GCAC meet to help the Gold Nuggets win the team title. Wayland Baptist freshman Telecia Briscoe (6.26/20-6 1/2) is the season leader. Defending champion is Mobile's Joniana Brinson, who jumped 5.86/19-2 3/4 last year and is No. 3 in 2017 at 6.06/19-10 3/4.
•  Women's 400 (trials at 3:30 p.m. Friday; finals at 4:30 p.m. Saturday):  Newcomer Ariane Williams set a XULA record of 56.63 April 22 at the GCAC meet. She ranks 17th in the NAIA. GCAC rival SUNO has the top three in this event, including leader Shadae Hilton at 53.50. Teammate and defending champion Orenthia Bennett is No. 2 at 53.98; Bennett won a year ago in 54.44.
•  Women's 1,600 Relay (trials at 7:45 p.m. Friday; finals at 6:15 p.m. Saturday): Clarke Allen will run anchor for the second straight year. She's the only returnee from last year's team that produced an All-America performance (seventh place) at nationals and set a school-record of 3:49.87 in the preliminaries. Williams will take the baton from Riley for the second lap, then hand off to Tramaine Shannon. The alternates are Jones and Milton. XULA is the No. 9 seed after its 3:53.83 March 17 at the Emory Invitational. Wiley is top-seeded at 3:43.71. Carroll (Mont.) won the 2016 title in 3:44.89 and is third-seeded this year at 3:47.54.
•  Men's Triple Jump (1:30 p.m. Saturday):  Keairez Coleman was the GCAC champion this year but did not qualify for nationals until he jumped 14.32/46-11 3/4 at XULA's final meet before nationals, the Southern Miss Open April 28. He ranks 27th nationally. Lindsey Wilson's Goabaone Mosheleketi (15.64/51-3 3/4) is the season leader. The 2016 champion, Eastern Oregon's Eric England (16.13/52-11), is not competing collegiately this season.
"We had a great week of practice after final exams," Moses said. "We're entering nationals with a positive outlook. I'm looking forward to seeing how well we'll do."

Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

Gold Rush earn No. 2 again in NAIA postseason poll

NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana men's tennis, four days after its second consecutive runner-up finish at the NAIA National Championships, was ranked No. 2 in the postseason coaches poll.

The XULA men made their 86th consecutive top-25 appearance dating to April 4, 2007. It is the longest active streak in NAIA men's tennis. The Gold Rush were second in the 2016 postseason poll.

The Gold Rush finished 14-6 after a 5-0 loss Saturday to Georgia Gwinnett in the NAIA final at Mobile, Ala. Twelve XULA victories this season were against ranked or NCAA Division I teams — 10 of those were on the road.

XULA's resume got shinier Wednesday when Emory defeated Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 5-1 in the NCAA Division III final at Chattanooga, Tenn. XULA won 5-4 at Emory Feb. 18.

The Gold Rush active poll streaks:
• 86 consecutive appearances in the top 25 . . . streak began April 4, 2007.
• 77 consecutive appearances in the top 20 . . . streak began April 30, 2008.
• 62 consecutive appearances in the top 15 . . . streak began Feb. 1, 2011.
• 56 consecutive appearances in the top 10 . . . streak began May 3, 2011.
• 18 consecutive appearances in the top 5 . . . streak began Jan. 26, 2016.
• 16 consecutive appearances in the top 3 . . . streak began March 1, 2016.
• 10 consecutive appearances in the top 2 . . . streak began May 25, 2016.

NAIA Men's Tennis Coaches' Top 25 Postseason Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses — records through May 20)

Rank Team Record Points Last
1 Georgia Gwinnett (12) 24-0 312 1
2 XULA 14-6 302 2
3 Keiser 19-4 292 3
4 Campbellsville 26-5 282 5
5 Northwestern Ohio 22-2 271 4
6 Lindsey Wilson 17-7 258 7
7 William Carey 18-6 254 6
8 William Woods 15-6 240 9
9 Cardinal Stritch 19-6 228 10
10 Arizona Christian 15-13 224 8
11 Mobile 23-5 213 11
12 Westmont 14-8 202 12
13 San Diego Christian 7-11 188 13
14 Middle Georgia 10-9 182 16
15 SCAD Savannah 9-9 162 19
16 Reinhardt 13-6 150 15
17 Asbury 17-2 146 RV
18 Coastal Georgia 14-8 143 14
19 Tennessee Wesleyan 12-5 137 17
20 McPherson 11-4 122 21
21 Lawrence Tech 20-7 118 20
22 Olivet Nazarene 12-7 102 18
23 Aquinas 17-7 88 22
24 Cumberland 7-6 78 23
25 SCAD Atlanta 11-4 75 24

Dropped from rankings: No. 25 St. Thomas (Fla.)
Others receiving votes: St. Thomas (Fla.) 60, Marian (Ind.) 41, Warner 29, Missouri Valley 20, Hastings 17, Davenport 15, Cumberlands 8, Point 6, Bethany (Kan.) 5, Cornerstone 3

Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director