Texas A&M Director of Athletic Ross Bjork has kept up the tradition that his predecessor began of writing an open letter to Aggie students, alumni and fans each month. The following was penned on Monday evening.
I hope that everyone had a great Spring Break and Easter weekend, and was able to relax and enjoy time with friends and family. Though these holidays allow us to slow down, things here in Aggieland are in full swing. Many of you saw that in full effect this past Family Weekend which was chock-full of events from Men’s Golf, Track and Field, Softball, Baseball, Women’s Tennis, Soccer and even the Professional Bull Riders competing in Reed Arena. On any given day of the week you can find our teams competing and I hope to see you supporting our student-athletes at one of our athletic facilities!
Over the past year, I have been very thankful for the University’s leadership as our normal operations had to be adjusted and modified along the way. Everyone in a leadership position has provided direction through adversity which allowed us to achieve all that we were able to this past year. As announced a few weeks ago, the University will offer near normal coursework for the fall semester and students should plan for in person classes. Athletics will be operating under the same conditions and we are making plans to have the 12th Man back in full force to support our student-athletes! It is not too late to purchase football season tickets and join us in Kyle Field.
The spring Maroon and White Game, presented by St. Joseph Health, is set to kick off on Saturday, April 24th at 1 p.m. and admission is free. With our team coming off a phenomenal season and Orange Bowl victory, this should be an exciting time! The rosters for the 2021 Aggie Legends Flag Football game were just announced – you won’t want to miss this halftime matchup! As you make your plans to attend all the activities that weekend, be sure to check out more details below.
On behalf of the 12th Man, I want to congratulate Dr. Katherine Banks on her appointment as the 26th President of Texas A&M University. I look forward to working closely with her to enhance not only our University, but also our athletics programs. After seeing the positive impact that she made as the Vice Chancellor for Engineering and National Libraries, I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for Texas A&M University under her leadership.
There is so much momentum across our campus right now, and I am excited to see all that will be accomplished as we move forward!
Notable Sport Updates
Junior Shaine Casas was named CSCAA Men’s Swimmer of the Year after making Texas A&M history and becoming the Aggies’ first NCAA Champion. Casas went on to win all three of his individual events, the fourth swimmer to do so at NCAA Championships since 2000, while also posting the second-fastest time in the history of the 200 back in his final event of the meet. Casas brought home seven All-America honors, while teammate Mark Theall tallied six All-America accolades. Casas, Theall, Kaloyan Bratanov and Clayton Bobo made school history with a school record time and third-place finish in the 800 free relay, while the 200 free relay team of Casas, Tanner Olson, Bratanov and Theall also lowered its own school record and earned All-America honors with a fifth-place finish. In total 10 Aggies brought home All-America accolades, while the men’s team matched its best finish at NCAA Championships, taking 10th.
Senior diver Charlye Campbell and freshman swimmer Chloe Stepanek highlighted NCAA Championships for the women’s swimming & diving team, earning All-America honors with two top-eight finishes apiece in their finals debuts at the meet. Campbell, the reigning SEC 3-meter Champion, posted a pair of seventh-place finishes on the springboards to become the first Aggie since national champion Jaele Patrick in 2012 to finish in the top eight on both boards. Stepanek posted an impressive fourth-place finish in the 200 free after lowering the school record on day one as the leadoff swimmer on the 800 free relay, and added an eighth-place finish in the 100 free to close out the meet. Seniors Taylor Pike and Camryn Toney also garnered All-America accolades with career-best times to earn top-eight finishes. Pike took fourth in the 200 fly and Toney finished seventh in the 1,650 free. In total nine Aggies brought home All-America accolades, while A&M earned a 14th-place finish as a team.
Sam Bennett, a two-time SEC Golfer of the Week in the month of March, was named national Golfer of the Month by the Ben Hogan Award. Bennett, from nearby Madisonville, tallied wins at the Cabo Collegiate in San Antonio and the Old Waverly Collegiate in West Point, Miss., and earned a PGA Tour exemption to compete in the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. Last weekend, Bennett added another trophy to his resume with a win at the Aggie Invitational, while also helping the Aggies to win their home tournament at Traditions Club. And a huge debt of gratitude to everyone at Traditions who worked overtime to ensure that the Aggie Invitational could be played after the severe hailstorm on the night before the first round!
Equestrian’s Caroline Dance and Hayley Riddle were named NCEA First Team All-Americans in Flat and Horsemanship, respectively. Dance compiled five wins and was named Most Outstanding Player three times. Riddle tallied six wins and was named MOP three times. Additionally, 29 members of the equestrian team earned NCEA academic awards for their work in the arena and the classroom. Coach Tana McKay and the Aggies compete at the NCEA Championships, beginning Thursday with a matchup against SMU.
Indoor Track and Field’s Athing Mu was named Indoor U.S. Woman of the Year as Tyra Gittens was named the Collegiate Woman of the Year by Track and Field News. Gittens, a redshirt junior, recorded one of the best performances in collegiate history at the NCAA Championship meet in the pentathlon and high jump, while finishing third in long jump. She became the first woman to win national championships in the pentathlon and high jump in the same meet. Freshman Mu has set four school records and three collegiate records, was named athlete of the week eight times including four USTFCCCA honors, three SEC accolades and once the United States Track & Field Athlete of the week. Both athletes earned USTFCCCA National accolades. Gittens was named the National Field Athlete of the Year, while Mu was named the National Track Athlete of the Year.
Women’s Basketball Sweet 16
Gary Blair and the Aggies finished 25-3 overall after making their third-consecutive Sweet Sixteen Appearance. The team’s 89.3-winning percentage was the highest in program history and A&M captured its first ever regular season SEC Championship. With N’dea Jones and Aaliyah Wilson garnering All-America honors, this marks the eighth-straight season that an Aggie has been named an All-American. The Maroon & White received national recognition in the second round of the NCAA Tournament when sophomore Jordan Nixon scored 35 points and hit a buzzer-beater to defeat the Iowa State Cyclones. The nation was shown the Aggie Spirit in full as the Fightin’ Texas Aggies advanced in the tournament.
Jordan Nixon made a name for herself after the second round after making a layup as time expired. Her outstanding play was not only celebrated locally by our softball team, but nationally by ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and SportsCenter, Good Morning America, LeBron James, Jay Bilas, Gabrielle Union, Tamika Catchings, Shea Serrano and other celebrities and superstars!
Maroon & White Game: April 24
As mentioned above, the Maroon & White Game sponsored by St. Joseph Health is set for Saturday, April 24 at 1 p.m.. Admission to the game is free and seating is general admission, with the exception of the club and suite areas. Additional entertainment can be found pre-game at our Fan Zone and during half time and more details can be found here.
Special Events at Reed Arena
After a successful weekend of Professional Bull Riders action at Reed Arena, make sure you join us for some more exciting events heading to Bryan-College Station. Casting Crowns makes their way to Aggieland on April 16 at 7:30 p.m., and will perform at the Fan Field Parking Lot adjacent to the George Bush Presidential Library.
On May 28, Rumble at Reed features a multitude of exciting boxing matches that will air exclusively on UFC FIGHT PASS®, the world’s leading streaming service for combat sports. Michael Dutchover (14-1), a Texas native, takes on Ivan Leon Benitez (14-4-1) in the headliner. The event co-features the United States debut from undefeated heavyweight Isaac Munoz Gutierrez (12-0-1). In separate bouts, undefeated lightweight knockout artist Miguel Madueno (22-0, 20 KOs) will be putting his perfect record on the line, as well as the United States debut from Uzbekistan’s Jamshidbek Najmitdinov (16-1, 13 KOs).
Three hours of high-octane, unhinged, Mixed Martial Arts will take over Reed Arena on June 5th for the World Fighting Championships 125. Come see the stars of tomorrow step into the WFC cage to prove they have what it takes to be the future of MMA. Bringing Las Vegas style combat fighting to the Brazos Valley, the WFC production includes bright lights, great music, and of course the fights! World Fighting Championships 125 presented by The Ranch Harley-Davidson is truly a live event experience that you will not want to miss! Aggie alum and former A&M football standout Keith Ford returns to Aggieland to fight in the WFC.
For more information on all three events and to purchase tickets, visit ReedArena.com.
The Aggie Commitment
Congratulations to B.L.U.E.print for being awarded the Diversity Service Team Award by Texas A&M University. The leaders will be recognized at the 2021 Accountability, Climate and Equity (ACE) Awards Ceremony, for their demonstrated commitment to the University’s core value of Respect, promoting the respectful treatment of others, affirming and encouraging individuals to take pride in their social and cultural identities, and including all in their definition of the “Aggie Family”. You can tune in this Wednesday (April 14) at 11 a.m. on the Texas A&M University Multicultural Services YouTube page.
Back in February, our Aggie Commitment initiative debuted “Unified Voices”, a platform designed to provide our student-athletes, coaches, and staff an uncensored space to share their own unique experiences and journeys. Please take the time to watch these videos, and check out our newest one featuring women’s track and field star Tyra Gittens.
Congratulations to senior equestrian student-athlete Rhian Murphy for being named by the Office of Sustainability as a 2021 Student Sustainability Champion. Rhian was recognized for demonstrating exemplary effort, dedication, and leadership throughout the year in fostering a campus culture of sustainability. Rhian serves as Vice President of the student-athlete Green Team and is a representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Thank you for your work in educating and promoting sustainability efforts across the athletic community!
Aggie Dance Team Wins at Nationals
Congratulations to our very own Aggie Dance Team, which captured two national titles at the College Classic National Invitational last weekend at the World Center Marriott in Orlando. The Aggies won the Division 1A Jazz routine with a score of 93.34, over two points higher than second-place finisher, Western Kentucky. In the Division 1A Team routine, the Maroon & White scored a 93.02 to claim their second trophy of the weekend. Additionally, the Aggies were named “The Battle” winner for their performance in the Jazz routine.
SEC Professor of the Year
We learned some great news today when Commissioner Greg Sankey announced Dr. Karen Wooley, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the College of Science at Texas A&M University, as the 2021 SEC Professor of the Year. Dr. Wooley is a member of the National Academy of Sciences who holds the W.T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry and serves as Director of the Laboratory for Synthetic-Biologic Interactions. She came to Texas A&M in 2009 and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors. In recognition of the honor, the SEC will provide Dr. Wooley with a $20,000 honorarium.