….First Caribbean athlete to win collegiate’s top track & field honour
PHOENIX - An undefeated season and a pair of national championship titles in the 400 metres earned Texas A&M sprinter Deon Lendore a prestigious honour in track and field as he was named the 2014 winner of The Bowerman Award during a ceremony held Wednesday evening at the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association convention.
“It’s a tremendous recognition for a great athlete,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “It was a tough competition and to be chosen as the top athlete is a huge award. Deon is very deserving of this honour and we are glad we have him for another year.”
It’s the second Bowerman honour for the Aggie track and field programme as Texas A&M joins Oregon as the only schools to have a male and female recipient of the award. Aggie sprinter Jessica Beard claimed the women’s 2011 Bowerman Award.
“I’m thankful for being chosen as the winner of the 2014 Bowerman,” said Lendore. “I’d like to thank God for giving me the talent and I’d also like to thank the board for selecting me.
“At first it didn’t kick in that it was me when he said quarter-miler. Then when he said Deon, I knew it was me. It was nerve-racking waiting for an announcement.”
Finalists for the men’s Bowerman, which honours the most outstanding collegiate track and field athlete, included a pair of distance runners in Lawi Lalang of Arizona and Oregon’s Edward Cheserek.
“I was a bit nervous since distance runners can run different events and they’re able to rack up more titles,” stated Lendore. “Running other relays besides the 4x400 was a good decision for me. It was a good choice to run the 4x100 and 4x200 so I could add something to my achievements and my resume.”
Henry noted: “Having him run the 4x100 enabled him to improve his 400 with the training we do for the shorter relay. The success we had in all of relays this season aided Deon when they looked at his overall performances in addition to his individual success this year.”
Laura Roesler of Oregon won the women’s Bowerman amid a field of finalists that included Courtney Okolo of Texas and Arkansas State’s Sharika Nelvis.
Lendore and Roesler both won the fan vote during the summer which earned each athlete one vote in the overall process.
“Even winning the fan vote during the summer I knew it was only one portion of the voting process,” said Lendore. “So it was special to hear my name called out as the Bowerman winner. This is the icing on cake with the junior season I had. Winning the Bowerman is a good way to cap off the 2014 season.”
Lendore went undefeated through 14 races at 400 metres this year, sweeping SEC and NCAA titles in the event as he produced some of the fastest times ever run by a collegian in the open 400 as well as on 4x400 relay legs.
The native of Trinidad & Tobago set a national record indoors with his A&M school record of 45.03 at the SEC Indoor Championships, which is fourth fastest ever by a collegian indoors and sixth best on the world all-time list.
When Lendore won his first individual national title at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March his time of 45.21 was the second fastest winning mark in the history of the meet.
Outdoors, he moved to No ten on the all-time collegiate list with a 44.36 clocking to win the SEC Outdoor title. The 44.36, which broke a 45-year-old Aggie record set by Curtis Mills, was the fourth fastest time in the world for the 2014 season. Lendore posted a 45.02 to become the first A&M winner of the NCAA Outdoor 400m title since Mills won in 1969.
Accomplishments during Lendore’s junior campaign included five SEC titles and three NCAA championships as he added three SEC relay titles and one NCAA relay title to his individual championship races.
In completing a third sweep of indoor and outdoor conference 400m titles, Lendore also achieved a third set of 4x400 relay titles. He is a perfect 13 for 13 in conference races over his career, which includes six races in the 400, six in the 4x400, and once in the 4x100.
In relay action Lendore anchored four A&M school record performances in the 4x100 (38.30), 4x200 (1:20.29), 4x400 indoor (3:03.20) and 4x400 outdoor (2:59.60).
The indoor 4x400 effort at the SEC Championships was a collegiate indoor record as Lendore’s split of 44.63 seconds, the fastest ever recorded by a collegian indoors, secured the victory. Lendore supplied the Aggies with a split of 44.10 seconds in the 4x400 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as A&M claimed the win and just missed the collegiate record by 0.01 of a second with a 2:59.60, the second fastest collegiate time ever run.