Arkansas Aims to Reclaim SEC Indoor Title at H
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Last year at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships in Lexington, Ky., the Razorbacks fell short of their eighth-straight league title, when they finished second behind Florida. It was the first time since 1996 UA failed to bring home the first-place trophy. This year the Hogs are looking for redemption as UA hosts the conference championship meet on Feb. 25-27 at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
It is the third time in six years the SEC Championships have been held in the Hogs’ home. Each time the meet was in Fayetteville (2000 and 2002) the Razorbacks successfully claimed the team title and if they are successful again it would mark the program’s 75th conference title overall. Top-ranked Arkansas is considered the favorite entering the meet, but will encounter strong competition from No.3 Florida, as well as eighth-ranked Auburn and LSU.
“We’ve got some great teams coming in this weekend, the best in the country,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We’re hoping to have all the fans come out and support us, because we’re in a battle to regain our crown we lost last year to Florida, but we feel pretty good about our chances.”
The young Razorback squad will have to forge ahead without one of their top sprinters, junior five-time SEC Champion Tyson Gay. Gay will sit out to rest his hamstring that he injured at the Powered by Tyson Invitational and not have a chance to defend his titles in the 60 and 200-meter dashes.
“We made that decision to not take a chance on getting him hurt,” McDonnell said. “He’s too valuable of an athlete to this school and to himself down the road to risk getting hurt. Even without Tyson (Gay) we have some people that can pick up the slack.
“We’re very strong in all the running events,” McDonnell said. “We have some good people in the field events and have a chance to score good points there. Last year we had nothing in that area. We’re a little better balanced this year.”
The heptathlon will kick off the meet on Friday at 4 p.m. Prelims will be contested starting at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the finals of the weight throw, long jump and 3,000 meters also taking place. On Sunday every event will be a final with the opening ceremonies scheduled for 12:30 p.m. The last event, the 4×400-meter relay, is set for 3:45 p.m.
Arkansas will look to load up on points in many of the distance events. The 800 meters has senior James Hatch, juniors Said Ahmed and Harun Iman and sophomore Brian Roe entered. Ahmed, who has the league’s top time (4:01.33), will also compete in the mile with juniors Marc Rodrigues and Seth Summerside and sophomore Adam Perkins. In addition to the mile Perkins will look to contribute to the team cause in the 3,000 meters.
Several athletes are doubling in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs, including 14-time All-SEC senior Jason Sandfort, juniors Josphat Boit and Jose Campos, sophomore Peter Kosgei and freshman Shawn Forrest. Their gusty doubles will prove crucial for Arkansas in its quest for top team honors, while juniors Luis Bordes and Matt Gunn will run only in the 5,000 meters.
UA’s distance medley relay team claimed first place last year, but a new lineup will handle the baton on Sunday. The DMR relay pool includes juniors Harun Iman, Marc Rodrigues and David Wittenmyer, sophomore Brian Roe and freshman Michael Grant.
Razorback sprinters also have the potential to tally important points with four-time All-SEC sophomore Wallace Spearmon Jr. leading the charge. The Fayetteville, Ark., native will compete in the 60 and 200-meter dashes and take a leg of the 4×400-meter relay. Grant will join Spearmon in both the 60 and 200.
UA’s 4×400-meter relay time (3:06.09) is currently second in the SEC and in addition to Spearmon the team is comprised of an experienced group of runners, including seniors Omar Brown, Terry Gatson and James Hatch. Brown, Gatson and Wittenmyer will also take to the track in the 400 meters.
There is at least one UA athlete in every field event, except the shot put, allowing the team to be much more evenly distributed this year. Junior Jimmy Duke is entered in the challenging heptathlon and pole vault.
Senior All-American Jaanus Uudmae is at the top of the SEC in the triple jump (53-10.50) and he will have his sights set on first place this weekend. His long jump mark stands at (24-3.50).
True freshmen Chessly Johnson and Mychael Stewart are ready to make an impression of their own in the triple jump. Stewart is also competing in the high jump with junior Cory Oldham, sophomore Greg Martin and freshman Brent Rosson. Martin is in the long jump as well.
Junior Tony Ugoh will have his try in the weight throw after he made his indoor debut two weeks ago at the Tyson Invitational.
Sports Category :