The Rattlers are aiming for three SWAC titles in a year

Florida A&M track and cross country won the Southwestern Athletic Conference, with the women winning both league trophies in 2023-2024. They will pursue their third goal this weekend.

Will the third time be the charm for Florida A&M's competitive running program?

It could be.

The Rattlers will seek their third Southwestern Athletic Conference title of the 2023-2024 season at this week's outdoor championships in Baton Rouge Thursday through Saturday.

FAMU women's track and field won the SWAC cross country title last October and the league's indoor championships last February.

“Oh, it would be great if we could do it,” FAMU Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Garfield Ellenwood said.

“Ultimately it will be the will of the Lord; All we can do is control our performances and let the chips fall where they may. I'm excited to see where we are right now. We had a few injuries, but we got through those injuries.

“Now it’s just a matter of lacing them up and putting one foot in front of the other.”

FAMU's SWAC women's cross country title was its first of the athletic year. Additionally, the women's track and field team's victory at the SWAC Outdoor Championships marked the first and only FAMU spring sport to be crowned champions.

The last team to win the women's cross country, indoor and outdoor SWAC championships was Alabama State in 2016, capping a six-year run. The only other SWAC teams to achieve this feat are Prairie View A&M in 1977, Southern in 1993 and Alabama State in 2005.

The Rattlers know they would be in rare company if they won three titles in a single season.

“We’re just trying to keep that momentum going and encourage each other to reach our goals as a FAMULY,” FAMU track team captain Lacie Deboskie said. “We will achieve our goals because we are there for each other and love seeing everyone grow.”

Under coach Garfield Ellenwood, FAMU's athletics program is enjoying a resurgence

Ellenwood was around the athletics block.

He has coached for Olympic teams, Power Five programs and HBCU schools.

Now Ellenwood wants to preserve FAMU's historic athletics culture that stands on the shoulders of yesterday's Rattlers like FAMU Hall of Fame coach Bobby Lang, Pro Football Hall of Famer “Bullet” Bob Hayes and sportscaster Pam Oliver.

“I want to develop a program that they can be proud of. If we can exceed their performance, they should be proud of us,” Ellenwood said.

“FAMU has the name from an academic perspective and performance. It's history here. It’s just a matter of designing the athletics program to accommodate the academics.”

Deboskie, a middle-distance runner, came to FAMU from Dallas, Texas.

She appreciates the journey she took from the Southwest to the Panhandle to run for FAMU, to collect SWAC medals and the League Cup, and to achieve national reach.

“Coach Gee is working hard to make sure we continue to develop in every aspect. He’s trying to change the program,” said Deboskie, the FAMU 800-meter record holder. “We’re trying to fight with these Big 10 and SECs to show that HBCUs can fight like others.”

By winning the SWAC Outdoor Championships, FAMU secured its fifth championship title in the last calendar year, joining baseball, women's cross country, soccer and women's indoor track and field.

And while Ellenwood and his athletes are already responsible for two titles, he still doesn't want to see outdoor track and field left off FAMU's championship list.

That's why he's motivated to bring more SWAC hardware back to the highest of the seven hills.

“It would be a great honor,” Ellenwood said of sweeping the SWAC and adding to FAMU’s trophy cabinet.

“We don’t want to be left out when everyone else is doing their job. We are trying to set new standards and hopefully we will do our part to strengthen the university's athletic presence.

“Our goal is just to keep up.”

For the full SWAC Outdoor Championships schedule, click here.

Gerald Thomas, III covers Florida A&M University Athletics for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on the app formerly known as Twitter @3peatgee.

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