SEC 2017 preview - Ioannis Kyriazis
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Texas A&M enters SEC Championships with men and women nationally-ranked No. 1

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    • Aaliyah Brown Bio
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    • Jazmine Fray Bio
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    • Robert Grant Bio
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COLUMBIA, South Carolina – Postseason competition for the Aggies starts this week as they travel to the SEC Championships, held at Cregger Track on the South Carolina campus. Texas A&M enters the conference meet with the men and women ranked No. 1 in the latest national team computer rankings.

Events start on Thursday and conclude on Saturday. A live webcast will be available on SEC Network + for Friday (5:25 p.m. CT) and Saturday (2:10 p.m. CT). A two-hour recap will air via ESPNU on Wednesday, May 18 from 7 to 9 p.m.

"I think we're prepared to go and the group is excited," said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. "This is the time of the year where all these rehearsals come together."

While the Aggie men and women have been ranked No. 1 three consecutive weeks in the USTFCCCA rankings, 12 SEC men's teams and 11 SEC women's teams are ranked among the top 25 going into the conference championship weekend.

Following the Texas A&M men among the top 10 are Florida (2), Georgia (4), Alabama (5), LSU (6) and Arkansas (7). Ranked behind the Aggie women among the top 10 are LSU (4), Arkansas (5), Kentucky (6), Georgia (7), Florida (8) and Alabama (10).

Heading into its fifth SEC Outdoor Championships, Texas A&M men and women have each won a team title, placed second twice and third once. Both Aggie squads have finished second the past two years.

"The SEC Championships is a fantastic meet and it's a different championship than the NCAA Championships," noted Henry. "Within the top 10 of the national rankings we have six or seven SEC school among the men and women. It doesn't get much tougher than that and makes this a tough meet. That's what makes it rewarding and a lot of fun to try to win it."

Ioannis Kyriazis has claimed the SEC javelin title twice while Lindon Victor returns as the SEC decathlon champion after setting a conference meet record of 8,446 points last season.

Victor and Kyriazis both established world leading marks this season during the Texas Relays. Victor broke the collegiate decathlon record with a score of 8,472 points while Kyriazis won the javelin with one throw of 288-9 (88.01), which ranks second all-time on the collegiate list.

Victor remains the world leader in the decathlon while the mark by Kyriazis was bettered by two professional throwers in the first Diamond League meeting held this past weekend.

"Right now I feel good physically and mentally," said Victor. "I like to get better each time I compete in the decathlon. If getting better means I'm going to break the collegiate record, then I'm really hoping to get better during the SEC decathlon.

"The SEC Championships are like nationals since there are so many good athletes at our conference meet. You have to bring your 'A' game if you want to come out on top. With the level of competition, plus the fact that everyone wants to beat the collegiate record holder, it's not going to be easy. I'm up for the challenge, and I know my team needs the 10 points from the decathlon."

Kyriazis could join rare company in securing a third consecutive SEC javelin victory. The last person to achieve it was Florida's Derek Trafus from 1993 to 1995, and it was also accomplished by Tennessee's Bill Skinner from 1968 to 1970.

Three other javelin throwers – Tennessee's Danny Martin (1972 to 1975), Tennessee's Leigh Smith (2001 to 2004), and Alabama's Siggy Einarsson (1984 to 1987) claimed three SEC titles over a four-year span.

"I've been throwing much better this season, and my technique has been better," said Kyriazis. "I'm confident I can throw further than last year in the SEC meet. If I hit everything well, even with a short approach, I think I can still improve by a couple of meters in the conference meet."

The men's javelin will be one of five finals held on the opening day of the SEC Championships. The other finals include the men's and women's hammer along with the 10,000m.

Joining Kyriazis in the javelin are teammates Sam Hardin (238-6) and William Petersson (225-4). Hardin placed fifth last season and ranks fifth this season while Petersson, a freshman, enters his first conference meet ranked seventh. The main competition comes from Curtis Thompson of Mississippi State, the 2016 NCAA Champion who also placed second at the Olympics Trials last summer.

"I don't focus that much on competitors, I tend to focus on myself," noted Kyriazis. "If I do better, then I think I can win."

Texas A&M's men's 4x400 relay enters the SEC Championships as the world leader with a time of 3:00.74 set during the SEC Relays. The Aggies won the SEC 4x400 title in 2013 and 2014, when they set a meet record of 3:01.19, while placing fourth in 2015 and third last season. The meet record was lowered to 3:00.48 by LSU in 2016.

Fred Kerley, who ranks second in the world at 400m with a 44.60, will seek to add an outdoor conference title to the SEC Indoor 400m title he won earlier this season. Kerley is undefeated in the 400m this season and has been part of two collegiate relay records in the indoor 4x400 and the sprint medley relay. Joining Kerley in the 400m is younger brother Mylik as well as Richard Rose.

"My plan is just to make my race perfect and win the race," stated Kerley. "Every time I step on the track it's a learning process and I try to perfect my race."

SEC runner-up finishers returning for the Aggies from last season include Robert Grant (400H), Audie Wyatt (pole vault) and Will Williams (long jump). Wyatt, who has won two SEC Indoor titles, was also a runner-up two years ago outdoors.

Jazmine Fray is the top individual returner for the Aggie women, having placed second in the 800m as a freshman last season. Aaliyah Brown won the 2015 100m title while a pair of Texas A&M throwers finished third at the 2015 SEC meet in the hammer (Alison Ondrusek) and javelin (Kristen Clark).

Wyatt leads the SEC vaulters with an 18-8 ¼ (5.70) clearance this outdoor season and has company with teammates Carl Johansson (17-5 ½) and Jacob Wooten (17-3), who rank third and fourth in the conference.  Last year Johansson and Wooten tied for fifth place with a 17-1 clearance.

Fray, who broke the collegiate indoor record at 800m, leads the SEC 800m field outdoors with a 2:01.43. Another conference leader for Texas A&M is freshman Serena Brown, who set a career best and Bahamas national record with a 186-6 (56.84) victory in the SEC Relays.

Williams finished third in the long jump at SEC Indoors and claimed second place in the NCAA Indoor Championships. Recently he was the top collegiate in the long jump at the SEC Relays with a wind-aided 26-2 ¾ (7.99) and enters the conference meet ranked third with that mark.

Grant led the collegiate ranks in the 400m hurdles with a 49.40 until that mark was bettered by a 49.09 from Kemar Mowatt of Arkansas during the SEC Relays.

Audrey Malone leads the Texas A&M women's javelin crew with a season best of 181-9 (55.37) as she ranks second in the SEC to LSU's Rebekah Wales, the current collegiate leader at 188-0 (57.31). The Aggies have four throwers ranked among the top eight in the SEC. Following Malone are Shelby Poncik (171-9), Clark (171-7) and Madalaine Stulce (170-6).

Aggies also ranked among the top three in the SEC prior to the conference meet include Brenessa Thompson in the 200m (22.59), Jaevin Reed in the 400m (52.18), Jeffrey Prothro in the triple jump (53-5), and Garrett Cragin in the high jump (7-1 ¾).

In addition, the Aggie women's relays both rank second among conference schools in the 4x100 (42.82) and 4x400 (3:27.72).