AUSTIN, Texas - The No. 8 University of Arkansas men's track and field team added four national qualifiers Saturday on the final day of competition at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary. Overall, the Razorbacks collected eight NCAA entries during the three-day event and, with their trio of decathletes, will have a total of 11 entries at the NCAA Championships in two weeks in Des Moines, Iowa.
The list of day-three qualifiers includes Duncan Phillips at 1,500 meters, Caleb Cross in the 110-meter hurdles and both 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays. Arkansas' remaining entries at the national meet will be Neil Braddy and Akheem Gauntlett at 400 meters, Cross in the 400-meter hurdles, Raymond Higgs in the long jump and Kevin Lazas, Gunnar Nixon and Terry Prentice in the decathlon.
Arkansas' first qualifier of the day, and fifth of the weekend, came from its 4x100-meter relay team. The quartet of Cross, Gauntlett, Braddy and Marek Niit combined for a time of 39.41 to finish second in heat two and secure a bid into the NCAA Championships. The Razorbacks' time was their second fastest of the season, trailing only their SEC-winning 39.23 from two weeks ago.
In the next event on the track, Phillips secured his spot at the national meet with a fourth-place overall finish in the 1,500 meters. The Razorback senior posted a time of 3:46.21 and finished second in his heat to get one of the guaranteed places to advance. This will be Phillips' second consecutive appearance at the NCAA Championships in the event.
Qualifying continued for the Razorbacks with Cross returning to the track for the 110-meter hurdles. He finished third in his heat to gain the automatic berth into the NCAA Championships. Cross posted a wind-aided time of 13.68. The Newport, Ark., native wrapped up his third NCAA bid of the weekend having qualified in the 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles and with the 4x100-meter relay.
The foursome of Niit (46.24), Gauntlett (45.08), Ben Skidmore (45.82) and Braddy (46.10)was the top-performing team in the qualifying heats of the 4x400-meter relay. Arkansas, the NCAA indoor champion in the event, ran to a victory in heat two with a time of 3:03.56. On the anchor leg, Braddy held off a charge from Texas Tech and Arizona State to seal the top spot for the Razorbacks. Arkansas will have its 4x400 relay at the national meet for the second-consecutive season. Prior to last year, the team's last entry in the event was during the 2000 season.
In addition to the entries collected this weekend, Kevin Lazas, Gunnar Nixon and Terry Prentice have already secured a spot at the NCAA Championships based on their respective decathlon scores during the season. With three in the decathlon field, Arkansas will have the most multi-event competitors in the field. Lazas will be making his second appearance at the national meet.
Up next, the Razorbacks will take their 11 national qualifiers to the NCAA Championships. The collegiate-season finale will be contested June 6-9 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information regarding Razorback track and field or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
13. Marek Niit - 20.829
4. Duncan Phillips - 3:46.21Q
4. Cross/Gauntlett/Braddy/Niit - 39.41Q
1. Niit/Gauntlett/Skidmore/Braddy - 3:03.56Q
29. Justin Holmes - 51.73m/169-9
Q - qualified for NCAA Championships
NCAA Championship Qualifiers
Neil Braddy - 400m
Caleb Cross - 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles
Akheem Gauntlett - 400m
Raymond Higgs - long jump
Kevin Lazas - decathlon
Gunnar Nixon - decathlon
Duncan Phillips - 1,500m
Terry Prentice - decathlon
Cross/Gauntlett/Braddy/Niit - 4x100m
Niit/Gauntlett/Skidmore/Braddy - 4x400m