Hayles and Chambers advance to NCAA national championships
Athletics | 26/05/2023 22:29:00
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s finally their turn. North Carolina A&T’s men’s outdoor track and field program has had some great 400 yards over several years, from Dajuan Harding to Trevor Stewart to Randolph Ross Jr.
But on Friday night on Day 3 of the NCAA East Division I preliminary round at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium, two more names were added to that impressive list, second Reheem Hayles and junior Shemar Chambers.
The pair, who were on the team when Ross Jr. won back-to-back NCAA 400m Outdoor National Championships, will now have their turn to win a 400m Outdoor National Championship at Mike A Stadium. Myers in Austin, Texas on June 7. ten. Additionally, Hayles and Chambers will join Caleb Jackson and Brandon Nya in Austin as the 4×400 meter relay team also qualified to compete for a national championship by running a 308.13.
Hayles and Chambers have formed a dynamic duo this season in the 400m. Both will compete individually at the championships for the first time in their respective careers. They will be the first 400m runners representing the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) since 2013.
Additionally, this will be their second outdoor 4×400 appearance. Hayles and Chambers earned first-team All-America honors last season in the 4×400.
A&T’s 4×100 team of Nya, Chambers, Malcolm Croom-McFadden and Jackson failed to qualify for Nationals. They finished outside the top 12 with a time of 40.85.
To earn his invitation, Hayles placed second in round 3 in 46.74 behind the nation’s No. 1 400m runner in Florida, Ryan Willie (45.70). Chambers was fourth in the second run clocking 46.89. The two placed 10th and 11th overall in the quarterfinals.
“Today went well,” Hayles said. “It wasn’t the best because the weather wasn’t the best. But we had to work with it. I went out exceptionally hard and attacked the wind, but it affected me in the final straight , so it wasn’t a perfect execution, but I got the job done. That’s all that matters for now.
Despite the first-team All-American honor he received last season, Hayles has mentioned wanting a better season than he had individually in 2022. He finished second at the Big South Outdoor Championships. Conference ahead of Chambers and behind Ross Jr., with a then-career-best 45.82. He also qualified for the NCAA East preliminaries, where he reached the quarterfinals but did not qualify for the championships.
But this season, he stepped into the limelight and retreated from anyone’s shadow. He won his first two indoor 400m races in 2023 en route to the CAA 400m indoor title, the first individual conference title of his career. He was named CAA Male Indoor Track Athlete of the Year and CAA Best Track Performer for his efforts at the conference indoor championships.
Hayles then jumped onto the national radar by winning the 400m at the prestigious University of Florida Pepsi Relays in a personal best 45.47. It was the No. 1 time in the country and the 10th best time in the world.
“Last year taught me a lot this year,” Hayles said. “I go to training every day and try to give my best when I don’t feel like doing anything. I go out there and give my 100%. its fruit as I have plenty more in the tank. Watch out for more.
After the 400, I wasn’t excited because I knew I had messed up. But after thinking about it, it’s fine. I know what I have to do, and I have it in me, so I’m excited.”
Chambers had a familiar background, playing a vital role on Aggies 4×400 teams while gaining national experience by qualifying for regionals. But in 2023, he broke through with his first-ever individual conference title when he won the 200m at the CAA Indoor Championships before claiming the conference’s 200m outdoor title months later.
“Today was a great day,” Chambers said. “It was a very windy day but I managed to do it even though my competition today was high level. I had to give a high level performance. I worked hard so I deserve this moment.”
Saturday will be the last day of the Eastern Preliminaries and the focus will be on the women. The Aggies are looking to advance Paula Salmon in the 100-meter hurdles and Jada Griffin in the 400-meter to earn a bid for the NCAA championships. Salmon’s race is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. and Griffin’s race at 6:50 p.m.
Heading into Saturday, the Aggies will continue to enjoy Hayles and Chambers in turn in the spotlight.
“It’s been a long journey,” Chambers said. There have been a lot of setbacks and coaching changes and all that. I have to give thanks to God for all the way he has taken me because not everyone can go through different coaches and get there. It’s a confidence builder for me. I have to thank God and (Coach Allen Johnson, Director of Track and Programs) for all the hard work we’ve put in to get to this point. Because of all the hard work I’ve put in, I’m going to contribute a lot to the national championships.”