FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Now a two-time All-American, J-Mee Samuels was Arkansas’ bright spot on day one of the NCAA Championships on a day that couldn’t have gone any better until the final event of the evening, the distance medley relay.
Prior to the start of the meet, Florida State’s Walter Dix, the 200-meter favorite, pulled out of the meet because of illness, seriously hindering the No. 1 Seminoles chance at a team title.
Lighting a fire under the Hogs, as the day progressed Arkansas qualified two for the mile finals, Samuels in the 60-meter finals and recorded six points in the 200 meters from its star sprinter.
Arkansas sits in 10th place with nine points after day one of competition. Florida State leads the team race with 26 points.
Samuels had a banner day on the track. He opened the day with the 60-meter prelims where he finished second in his heat and fifth overall with a personal-best time of 6.65. The clocking, good enough to advance to the finals, is the second-fastest time in UA school history.
“I was a little shocked but I knew he was ready to run, and his attitude has been great,” sprints coach Kyle White said. “He knows he can run with anyone in the nation. It started at conference and his attitude has been getting better and better. He has showed up every day at practice with a great attitude.”
In his third race of the day, the 200-meter finals, Samuels blew away the first heat to clock a personal best 20.67. His time, good for a bronze finish overall and the second All-America honor of his career, is the fourth fastest in UA school history and currently ranks No. 4 in the world.
“I had no clue what I was going to run coming into this race,” Samuels said. “I was really the underdog so I had no pressure on me and that made it a little bit easier. I ran 20.8 and 20.6 today, that’s my first time running a sub 21. The 200 meters isn’t my favorite race, so coming in here and PR-ing in both the prelims and the finals means it was a good day for me and I’m on the top of my game right now. I knew I could do better than what I was doing and today I proved that to be true.”
In the 200-meter prelims, Samuels won his heat with another personal-best time of 20.87 to win his heat and advance to the finals. The clocking was his second personal best in as many weeks. His time ranked him seventh entering the finals.
“I knew he was going to surprise some people because there are not a lot of expectations on him but his performances were great and everything worked out perfectly for him,” White said. “I couldn’t be happier for him because he’s really made a change in his attitude toward running. It’s good to see him running this well.”
“J-Mee (Samuels) was a real bright spot for us and I’m happy for him,” John McDonnell said. “What a day with three PRs. He came to compete and proved he can run with the best in the nation.”
A former walk-on to All-American, Tyler Hill saw one of his dreams come true Friday when he earned the prestigious honor for the first time in his career. Competing in the 5,000 meters, lap after grueling lap, Hill crossed the finish line with a time of 14:06.22 to earn his eighth-place finish.
“I’m thrilled to finally be an All-American,” Hill said. “This is an honor I have been dreaming about for a long time. Being an All-American is part of the rich Hog tradition and all of the All-Americans that have come before me. I didn’t know what place I was in on the final lap so I gave it everything I had at the finish. I was also trying to get as many points as I could. We couldn’t come away empty handed in this event.”
Alain Bailey earned the second All-America honor of his career with a seventh-place finish in the long jump and scored Arkansas’ first two points of the championship. His leap of 25-10.25, marked on his third attempt, is a personal best and is the seventh-best long jump in UA school history.
“I had a personal best, but I finished seventh and that’s not good,” Bailey said. “I had some runway problems and I’m disappointed. I finished in third place last year and this year I got seventh. But I still got points for the team.”
Good fortune continued in the mile prelims as both Micky Cobrin and Andy McClary qualified for the finals. Cobrin, running in heat one, finished fourth and seventh overall with a time of 4:05.79. It wasn’t an automatic qualifier but it was fast enough to advance him to the final.
McClary, the SEC runner-up, finished second in his heat with a time of 4:05.34. He finished third overall and second in his heat for automatic advancement to the finals.
Arkansas’ streak of good luck ended with the distance medley relay. Ranked No. 2 in the nation prior to the race and a sure thing for points, the Hogs had a tough go of it on Cobrin’s anchor leg. Still feeling the effects of the mile prelims, Cobrin started off strong but faded badly and couldn’t muster any momentum to catch the lead pack. After solid legs from Daniel LaCava (1,200 meters), Chris Bilbrew (400 meters) and Alex McClary (800 meters), all with fresh legs, Cobrin crossed the line with a time of 10:08.29 and an 11th-place finish.
“That DMR puts a bad taste in your mouth,” McDonnell said. “I don’t know what happened on that anchor leg, but it should have been a lot better. The first three legs were all right. We were in scoring range, maybe third or fourth, but we just didn’t get it done.”
Saturday’s events for the Razorbacks will consist of Nkosinza Balumbu and Daniel Quinn in the triple jump, Cobrin and McClary in the mile final and J-Mee Samuels in the 60-meter finals.
Live results from the NCAA Championships can be found at www.Hogwired.com, www.LadyBacks.com or www.ncaa.com. The NCAA Championships will be aired, tape-delayed, Thursday, March 20, 3-4:30 p.m., on ESPN2.
For complete details of the NCAA Indoor Championships and Arkansas Track and Field, visit www.hogwired.com.
Download: NCAA Results.pdf