By Brian Holloway – Associate Athletics Director/Communications – North Carolina A&T
Randolph Ross Jr., Brandon Hicklin and Grace Nwokocha secure Big South track and field of the year honors.
EAST GREENSBORO – In its first and only season in the Big South Conference as a track and field program, North Carolina A&T broke many records and walked away with numerous accolades.
That trend continued Monday when the Aggies earned three of the conference’s four postseason accolades.
To no surprise, the Big South named junior and Olympic gold medalist Randolph Ross Jr. the male track athlete of the year. A&T monopolized the male awards, with senior Brandon Hicklin earning male field athlete of the year.
On the women’s side, Grace Nwokocha secured women’s track athlete of the year honors.
Expectations increased for Ross Jr. following the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021. He did not disappoint. The United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) named him a Bowerman Watch List semifinalist for the second straight season last Thursday. The Bowerman Awards recognize the country’s best track and field athletes on both the men’s and women’s sides.
Ross Jr. won the NCAA indoor national championship in the 400 meters by running a 44.62 in Birmingham, Ala., the third-fastest time in world history. It marked the third-fastest indoor time in NCAA Division I history, making Ross Jr. only one of two men in collegiate history to have an all-time top-5 400m time indoors and outdoors (43.85, 2021 NCAA nationals). In addition, Ross Jr. won Big South indoor track athlete of the week twice.
Ross Jr. pulled off the 400m national championship double at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Despite running out of Lane 8, Ross Jr. won the national title with a Big-South record 44.13, the fastest collegiate time of 2022. In addition, Ross Jr. has three of the fastest 400m outdoor times in NCAA history.
In addition to those accolades, Ross Jr. also captured first-team All-American honors in the 4×100-meter relay and the 4×400 outdoor. He was a second-team All-America in the 4×400 indoor.
Before competing at outdoor nationals, Ross Jr. won Big South titles in the 400 and 4×100. He finished second in the 200m (20.26) behind teammate Javonte’ Harding with the second-fastest time in league history.
He was part of the top two outdoor 4×100 times in Big South history, including the record of 38.61 set at the Tom Jones Memorial in April, as well as the top four 4x400m relay times in conference history, including the all-time mark of 3:01.59 established at the NCAA East Preliminary in May.
Hicklin, a two-time first-team All-American in the long jump, ended the 2022 outdoor season with the nation’s best long jump, 26-feet, 10-inches.
It marked another Big South record the Aggies broke this season. He recorded the jump on April 23 at the 2022 Aggie Classic hosted by A&T at Marcus T. Johnson Track.
Hicklin finished fifth nationally in the long jump at 25-feet, 9 1/2-inches. He won the Big South outdoor title in the long jump with a leap of 24-feet, 11 1/4-inches. He finished ninth nationally during the indoor season to earn his second straight second-team All-America recognition in the event.
Nwokocha became an Aggie in January and immediately impacted the women’s program. In February, she debuted by running a 7.36 in the 60 meters at Clemson University’s Tiger Paw Invite. Later, she finished third in the 60 and fourth in the 200 at the Big South indoor championships before becoming one of the nation’s best sprinters during the outdoor season.
She won the 100m at the prestigious Drake Relays before winning Big South outdoor titles in the 100 and 200m. As a result, the Big South named her outstanding women’s athlete and freshman of the year.
Nwokocha then won first-team All-American honors in the 100 and 200 becoming the first Aggie freshman to earn All-America accolades in both events in the same season. She is also the first NCAT Aggie freshman to earn first-team honors in the 100.
She established Big South records in both events during the NCAA semifinals, as she first ran a 10.97 in the 100m — the first sub-11.00 time in league history — followed by a 22.44 in the 200. Nwokocha qualified for NCAA nationals in Eugene with a third-place finish in the 100m (11.17) and fourth-place standing in the 200m (22.45) at the NCAA east prelim.
Nwochoka received three freshman of the week accolades this past year — two outdoor honors and one indoor.