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Courtesy: Walt Beazley
Andrew Irwin became a two-time NCAA champion Friday with his school-record performance at the Tyson Center.
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Irwin defends NCAA title; Razorbacks in first

Zach Lawson, Athletic Media Relations
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FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 1 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team leads the competition after day one of the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks totaled 30 points in front of 3,178 fans Friday, highlighted by an NCAA-title performance by sophomore Andrew Irwin in the pole vault. Competition begins Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT) with the conclusion of the heptathlon. Finals in the running events start at 6 p.m.

Down to one last attempt to stay in the competition, Irwin responded with a clearance at 18-4.5 and went on to clear the next two heights with first-attempt makes to turn the pressure onto the competition. The Mount Ida, Ark., native finished off the event with a final and school-record clearance of 5.70m/18-8.25. The win marked a success defense of the NCAA title he won last year as a freshman in Nampa, Idaho.

As a program, the Razorbacks now have 56 NCAA event titles. Irwin’s victories in the indoor pole vault are the only such wins in school history. Irwin is the program’s first back-to-back NCAA champion since Alistair Cragg pulled consecutive 3K-5K doubles in 2003 and 2004.

“It’s nerve racking when it comes down to the third attempt,” Irwin said following his win. “Luckily I was able to get down there and get off the ground really well, and make it. Being able to come down on the first attempt and get the first bar out of the way really settles those nerves. To come down and do the same thing on the second attempt for the second bar, that was really nice, too.

“I don’t like going to those third attempts, but sometimes you have to. I got my ten points, which is going to help our team tremendously. Hopefully, they’ll go out and win more events and get us more points, and we can pull this out.”

Arkansas’ first collection of points came from respective third- and fourth-place finishes from Raymond Higgs and Jarrion Lawson in the long jump. Higgs’ best mark of 7.93m/26-0.25 was good for six points toward the team’s total, while Lawson—in his NCAA debut—had a jump just off his teammates’ measurement of 7.92m/26-0 in the fifth round. It was the first 26-foot jump of Lawson’s freshman campaign.

In the final of the 200 meters, seniors Akheem Gauntlett and Marek Niit combined for seven points. Gauntlett was second in his section and finished fourth overall with a time of 20.67 while Niit clocked in at 20.89 for a seventh-place showing. In another NCAA debut for Arkansas, Stanley Kebenei picked up two points with his seventh-place finish at 5,000 meters. The Razorback newcomer completed his 25 trips around the Tyson track in a time of 13:45.87.

On day one of the heptathlon, Kevin Lazas established three personal-best marks and had two event wins to end Friday with a 98-point lead. The Razorback junior began the day with three consecutive lifetime bests with marks of 6.90 at 60 meters, 24-9.25 in the long jump and 49-2.5 in the shot put. Through four events, Lazas has a total of 3,449 points and leads second-place competitor Japheth Cato of Wisconsin.

Arkansas picked up its first qualifier of the day with Anton Kokorin’s performance at 400 meters. The Razorback senior entered meet as the No. 12 national seed but turned in the sixth-fastest time of 46.14 during Friday’s preliminary round. He will run in Saturday’s two-section final which begins at 6:50 p.m. In the prelims of the 800 meters, Patrick Rono was the fourth-overall qualifier while Tomas Squella had the fastest at-large time to advance to the championship race.

In addition to Friday’s qualifiers at 400 meters and 800 meters, the Razorbacks will have day-two scoring opportunities at 3,000 meters, in the 4x400-meter relay, high jump and triple jump. Kemoy Campbell (3,000m) and Anthony May II (high jump, triple jump) will be making their NCAA debuts Saturday.

The 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships will be streamed live by ESPN3.com Saturday beginning at 5:50 p.m. Early portions of the meet not covered by ESPN3 will be streamed at NCAA.com and ArkansasRazorbacks.com, beginning with the start of competition each day. A tape-delay broadcast of the national meet will air March 17 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

This weekend marks the 11th national indoor hosting duties for Arkansas (2000-08, 2010). For tickets, visit the Razorback Ticket Center on Razorback Road by Baum Stadium, log on to the online ticket center at ArkansasRazorbacks.com or call 800-982-HOGS (4647). Keep up with Arkansas cross country and track and field with the team’s RazorbackTF Facebook and Twitter pages.

Friday Results

200 Meters (prelim)
3. Akheem Gauntlett – 20.72Q
6. Marek Niit – 20.86Q

200 Meters (final)
4. Akheem Gauntlett – 20.67 [5 points]
7. Marek Niit – 20.89 [2]

400 Meters (prelim)
6. Anton Kokorin – 46.14 (PR – prev: 46.31)

800 Meters (prelim)
4. Patrick Rono – 1:48.91Q
7. Tomas Squella – 1:48.76Q
9. Anthony Lieghio – 1:48.93
16. Leoman Momoh – 2:07.10

5,000 Meters (final)
7. Stanley Kebenei – 13:45.87 [2 points]

60m Hurdles (prelim)
10. Caleb Cross – 7.74

Distance Medley Relay (final)
9. Efurd/Southard/Lieghio/Campbell – 9:42.31

Pole Vault (final)
1. Andrew Irwin – 5.70m/18-8.25 (PR – prev: 18-4.5) [10 points]

Long Jump (final)
3. Raymond Higgs – 7.93m/26-0.25 [6 points]
4. Jarrion Lawson – 7.92m/26-0 (PR – prev: 25-8.75) [5]

Heptathlon (Day 1)
1. Kevin Lazas – 3,449 points
    1. 60 Meters – 6.90 (PR – prev: 6.94) [918 points]
    2. Long Jump – 7.55m/24-9.25 (PR – prev: 24-5.5) [947]
    1. Shot Put – 15.00m/49-2.5 (PR – prev: 48-6.25) [790]
    7. High Jump – 1.99m/6-6.25 [794]

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