FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – While most of the Arkansas track and field team will spend this weekend taking a well-deserved reprieve from the indoor schedule, Razorback senior Said Ahmed will be returning home in an effort to kick his final collegiate track campaign into high gear. Ahmed, a native of Boston, Mass., will join some of the nation’s best collegiate and professional athletes, including former Razorbacks Alistair Cragg and Daniel Lincoln, at the Boston Indoor Games at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center on Saturday.
Ahmed has already made a name for himself in his Razorback career. A four-time All-American and a three-time Southeastern Conference champion, Ahmed is hoping his senior season will be capped with both the NCAA individual and team crown. Ahmed appeared to have earned his first event national championship last season when he anchored the Hogs to a first-place finish in the distance medley relay. However, a controversial disqualification ruling by the meet referee left Ahmed and his teammates with nothing to show for their stellar performance. Arkansas rebounded from the controversy to win its 40th team national championship, but Ahmed is still looking for that elusive individual event NCAA title.
During his Razorback career, the former English High School standout has competed at both 800 meters and in the mile run. Ahmed finished third in the 800-meter run last weekend at the Razorback Invitational in a time of 1:49.82. His best chance for an NCAA individual medal, however, appears to be in the mile. The defending SEC mile champion, Ahmed was slowed by an injury and finished sixth in that event last year at the NCAA Championships. Ahmed is ranked ninth nationally in the mile in the latest Trackwire poll. Despite the early national prognostications, it would be safe to assume that Ahmed has his sights set on more than just another top-10 finish this season.
“Said is looking as good now as he has ever been,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “He is focused. He knows this is his swan song. He knows that if he wants to continue on in international athletics, the clock is ticking on him. He certainly has the talent, he just needs to stay healthy enough to do really well.”
While Ahmed will spend most of the indoor season focusing on the mile run, this weekend will give him an opportunity to show his wares in the 1,000-meter run. Last year, he finished fourth in the same race at the Boston Indoor Games with a time of 2:21.26. He will line up as part of the 10-man 2006 field at 5 p.m. CT on Saturday. Although not an official NCAA championship event, Ahmed will use this weekend’s 1,000-meter race as another step on his championship journey.
“The 1,000 (meter run) is about 600 meters short of a mile and run at a much faster pace,” McDonnell said. “This is a great opportunity to compete with some professional guys. He is going to run the invitational mile next weekend at the Tyson meet so this will be great preparation for that race. We are doing everything we can to get him ready for that mile.”
Cragg and Lincoln will help comprise a star-studded field for the Boston Indoor Game’s marquee event, the two-mile run. Cragg is the defending European 3,000-meter champion while Lincoln was an Olympic steeplechase finalist in Athens. Cragg stunned the track and field world in last year’s Boston Indoor Games by upsetting Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele in the 3,000 meters.
Australian Craig Mottram is the pre-race favorite in the two-mile run this year after becoming the first non-African to win a 5,000-meters medal in nearly two decades at the 2005 World Championships. The two-mile run marks the culmination of the meet and is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT.
“I think Alistair and Daniel are ready,” McDonnell said. “Alistair ran a 3:55 mile last weekend and made it look easy. He is ready to go four minutes in that first mile. It will be an awfully good field. Alistair has won this race three times, so they will be ready for him. Daniel will give it a go as well. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do against a stacked field.”