The Texas A&M Aggies have one of the best men’s track and field programs in the country and compete in one of the nation’s toughest conferences.
And thanks to three high-flying former Ellison stars, the Aggies look for more NCAA qualifiers during the West Regional Meet this weekend.
Prezel Hardy Jr., Michael Bryan and Hector Hernandez will compete for A&M in Fayetteville, Ark., beginning Thursday.
“Killeen is a fountain of talent,” Hardy said. “There’s so much talent to choose from and we’re just able to have three of the best out of the city, and arguably of the state, at the same school.”
Bryan and Hardy are senior sprinters while Hernandez is a sophomore middle distance runner.
The trio helped the Aggie men’s team win its first Southeastern Conference outdoor track and field championship earlier this month in Lexington, Ky.
“That’s a great honor and I’m very excited,” Bryan said. “It’s very amazing because the SEC is the top conference and it’s good being a part of this team and being able to go out there, step on the track and be a part of A&M’s first SEC outdoor championship.”
Hardy won three gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes with times of 10.31 and 20.16 seconds. He also teamed with Shavez Hart, Aldrich Bailey Jr. and Deon Lendore to win the 400 relay (38.50).
Even though he walked away with three first-place finishes, Hardy sees room for improvement.
“I’m not fed up with it, but I’m always hoping to do better,” Hardy said. “I think on that day that was the best I could do. I’m very pleased, I’m very happy with how I performed in the coach’s eyes as well.”
Hardy had a breakout sophomore season in 2012 where he was named the Big 12 Outdoor Performer of the Year. Last year he was an NCAA Championships semifinalist in the 100 and made the championship meet in the 200.
For Hardy, the support he gets from Aggies is second to none.
“It’s great to be an athlete here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Hardy said.
Hernandez took the silver medal in the 800 (1:47.84) after finishing fourth in the same event at the 2013 conference meet as a freshman.
“Going to my race, we won pretty much every event so I knew that I had to do something good,” Hernandez said. “The SEC is probably the best competition in the 800. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I had to run fast, but we had a plan and as long as I stuck to the plan, it was going to be fine.”
Hernandez went to College Station after a successful career at Ellison that included a Class 5A state title in the 800 as a senior.
He said that even though he’s been a teammate of Hardy and Brady at both Ellison and A&M, he still looks up to the older guys.
“It’s amazing to have three runners at the top collegiate level right now,” Hernandez said. “I remember when I was a sophomore in high school everyone was talking about them and you would look up to them. Right now it’s still like that. We came from the same high school, same town and it’s amazing to have people that you knew they’re you’re teammates again.”
Bryan teamed with Hardy at Ellison to win the Class 5A 800 relay state championship in 2009.
He ran in both the 100 (10.51) and 200 (21.46) preliminary runs for the Aggies at the conference meet.
During his time at A&M, Bryan has competed against the best in both the Big 12 and SEC and said winning the outdoor conference title was a great accomplishment.
“Competing in the Big 12 and competing in the SEC is a little bit different,” Bryan said. “The SEC has a little bit more competition. We compete hard and did some good things out here in the SEC.”
The SEC has nine men’s teams in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s NCAA Division I National Team Computer Rankings, including top-ranked Florida and No. 2 A&M.
The Big 12 has only four, with the highest being No. 7 Texas. Four different SEC teams rank above UT.