Prezel Hardy Jr. and Michael Bryan are doing exactly what they are accustomed to — competing for a championship.
The pair of Texas A&M sprinters, whose ties take them all the way back to 2009 when they made up half of Ellison’s state champion 800-meter relay team, qualified for their third consecutive NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
After sharing the glory for years, including as members of the Aggies’ fourth-place 400-meter relay team during last season’s outdoor championships, the longtime teammates will look to gain individual gold against one another.
Both will compete in the 100 at this year’s NCAA Outdoor Championships June 5-8 at Eugene, Ore.
Should the duo wind up in the finals against each other, it would be a showdown two years in the making.
For Hardy, who finished eighth in the event as a freshman in 2011, it will be his third time to compete in the 100 at the outdoor
championships. Last year, however, he was joined by Bryan, but neither qualified for the finals during their sophomore campaigns.
This year, however, could see both advance after putting together stellar seasons.
Hardy and Bryan were two of three Aggies to reach the outdoor championships with times of 10.50 and 10.59 in their respective heats of the NCAA Division I Track and Field West Preliminary Rounds at Austin over the weekend.
“I have to say how proud I am of every Aggie that competed today,” Hardy tweeted following the meet. “Tons of heart, courage and passion.”
The sprinting duo will have their work cut out for them, however, to catch up with Mississippi’s Isiah Young, who has the event’s fastest qualifying time (10.01), nearly half a second faster than Hardy (10.50) and nearly six-tenths of a second faster than Bryan (10.60).
Hardy also qualified for the national meet in the 200, with a seed time of 20.78. Jackson State sophomore Anaso Jobodwana has the best time of 20.13.
Hardy and Bryan will not be the only former Ellison Eagles to represent the area at the national meet. Their Texas A&M teammate, Hector Hernandez, qualified in the 800 and North Texas’ Steven White in the 400-meter hurdles.
Hernandez, a freshman, finished third overall in the 800 in a career-best 1:48.42 and moved to seventh on Texas A&M’s all-time list. Elijah Greer, of Oregon, has the best seed time in the 800 with a 1:46.20.
White has the ninth-best qualifying time in the 400 with his mark of 50.22. He set the North Texas school record at 49.93 at the Sun Belt Conference championship. Last year, White became the Mean Green’s first Texas Relays champion since 1981.
Oral Roberts’ Jeffery Gibson has the best qualifying mark going into the outdoor nationals with a time of 49.80.
Former Ellison standout Maya Williamson will join the A&M trio. Williamson led Memphis' women's 1,600-meter relay team to a program-record and automatic qualifying time of 3:33.65 taking first in their heat and second overall at the NCAA East Preliminary. The group (Kala Funderburk, Monica Mason, Keyona Neal and Maya Williamson) surpassed their previous record of 3:35.36 set in their gold medal performance at the Conference USA Outdoor Championship.
Williamson will also compete in the women's 400 hurdles. She set a new program-record of 58.07 in ts quarterfinal to advance to NCAA Outdoor Championship. Williamson broke her own record of 58.45 set during the outdoor season at the Ole Miss Invitational.
In addition to the former Ellison runners, a pair of jumpers with roots in the area will also be competing.
University of Houston sophomore John Horton, of Copperas Cove, and Florida senior Omar Craddock, a Killeen native, each qualified in the triple jump.
This marks Horton’s first trip to the outdoor championships after tying his personal best leap of 51 feet, 4½ inches at Austin.
“Just punched my ticket to eugene, Oregon,” Horton tweeted. “All the glory to god.”
The former Bulldawg will be pitted against Craddock, who won at both the outdoor and indoor championships in 2012 as a junior and finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Craddock won at the East Preliminary rounds at Greensboro, N.C., with a distance of 52-7½. Arkansas’ Tarik Batchelo has the distance to beat with his 16.15-meter (53 feet) mark.
“Today, Omar was Omar,” Florida head coach Mike Holloway said in a news release following the meet, “he delivered just like he does every meet. I’m very pleased with (his performance).”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com
Staff writer Kevin Posival contributed to this report.