PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – In commanding fashion, the Arkansas milers returned the Razorbacks to the Penn Relays award stand with a dominating win in the 4xMile relay Saturday afternoon.
"I’m pretty proud of these guys," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "We wanted to get back on the podium and win a wheel. We’ve been through a lot with the transition. It hasn’t been easy but these guys made it easy by the way they carry themselves. We got stung yesterday by a very good Villanova team (in the distance medley relay) and my hat is off to them. I’m proud to be a Razorback and be associated with this team."
"Of course I feel (pressure being at Penn Relays). It’s real and these guys feel it, probably more than I do. With a history like Arkansas it’s something special to wear that singlet. There’s a lot of pressure on these guys but they answered the call and got the job done."
Senior Alex McClary, sophomore Michael Chinchar, junior Dorian Ulrey and senior Andy McClary combined for a time of 16:16.11 to take the 4xMile title. The win is Arkansas’ 45th Penn Relays title and its 20th in the 4xMile. Saturday’s relay win is Arkansas’ first Penn Relay title since winning the 4xMile in 2006.
Alex McClary, known for his 800-meter prowess, led off with a 4:04.9 split. He led the lead pack for his four laps and handed to Chinchar. Chinchar battled with runners from Virginia and Providence but stayed strong and handed off to Ulrey just behind the race leaders. He split 4:05.3.
Ulrey, a three-time All-American and two-time SEC Champion indoors, took the baton and went with the runners from Virginia and Providence. Floating among the leaders, he made his move with 300 meters to go. Splitting a 4:03.2, he handed to Andy McClary with a 60-meter lead.
"After I got the baton, I just settled into a rhythm and it felt amazing," Ulrey said. "I haven’t been on the track too much yet this year but I knew if I could just sit until the last 200 meters and just blow the doors off everyone we’d have a great shot of winning. My philosophy was to make it easy and make them hurt in the last 200 meters."
McClary, essentially running four victory laps, kept a steady pace and the steady lead Ulrey provided. He crossed the finish line triumphantly with a 4:02.7 split.
"It’s my last Penn Relays and I wanted to win one," McClary said. "When I saw Dorian throw down in the last 200 meters, I knew when I got the baton I would just keep going and not let them catch up and make them work pretty hard to even get back in the race. Dorian really gave me four victory laps because I just kind of cruised to the finish and that last 50 meters I just threw up the baton because I knew we were going to win. Coach Bucknam got us in the right situation because we switched up the order at last minute and it was definitely for the better."
Remarkably, three of the four 4xMile relay legs came back three hours later to run in the 4×800-meter relay, their third race of the weekend. Joining with sophomore Chris Bilbrew, the McClary’s and Ulrey combined for a solid time of 7:18.16 and a third-place finish.
Bilbrew, also in his third race of the weekend, led off and stayed at the back of the pack. After avoiding a fall by the Penn runner, Bilbrew made his move with 200 meters to go and went from last to hand off in first, passing 27 otherlead-off legs. He split 1:50.42.
Andy McClary ran the second leg and continued to lead. Runners from Penn State and Texas challenged for the lead and all three took turns at the front. He split 1:50.08. Alex McClary took the stick for the third leg and continued to run with Penn State and Texas. He handed to Ulrey with a 1:50.04 split.
Ulrey anchored his second relay of the weekend and tried to keep pace with the anchors from Texas, Penn State and challenging Georgetown. With 300 meters to go, Ulrey sat in fourth as the front of the pack started to split. He caught the Penn State anchor on the final turn but was unable to catch Texas’ anchor and NCAA 800-meter Champion Jacob Hernandez. Ulrey split 1:47.62.
Senior Nkosinza Balumbu finished sixth in the championships flight of the triple jump. His best jump of the day measured 52-7.25.
Arkansas 4×100-meter relay finished fourth in the collegiate final. Senior Cedric Zellner, junior Alain Bailey, seniors Mychael Stewart and J-Mee Samuels combined for a time of 40.17.
The Razorbacks will compete next when they host the Arkansas Twilight, Fri., May 1, at Fayetteville’s John McDonnell Field. For more information on Razorback Athletics, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.