Arkansas Claims Inaugural NCAA Mideast Regiona
BY ANDRES FOCIL
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The NCAA Mideast Regional Championships served as good qualifying grounds for the Arkansas track team as it came away with eight national qualifiers at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in the blistering winds and cold temperatures. With their performances the Razorbacks also won the first NCAA Mideast Regional Championship with 73 points.
Auburn followed in second with 68 points, while LSU was third with 53. The host school, Ohio State tallied 43 points for fourth and Middle Tennessee State rounded out the top five with 37.
“We beat some of the top-ranked teams in the country today,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “It’s nice to win the first one, because we don’t like to lose anything. We had a great meet, considering the poor conditions.
“We can’t take for granted the fact that Thomas, Lincoln and Smith are individual champions,” McDonnell said. “I think we’ve got good representation going into the national meet, even though we didn’t have Robbie (Stevens) starting in the 800 or Chris (Mulvaney) in the 1,500. That’s a nice cushion to have going into nationals.”
As icing on the cake seniors Daniel Lincoln and Richard Smith and junior Michael Thomas each captured individual titles in their respective events.
Lincoln dominated the two sections of the 3,000-meter steeplechase and ran to victory with a time of 8:37.56.
Junior Michael Thomas took the tape against some of the top collegiate runners in the nation in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.57. Senior Eddie Jackson was unable to finish the race after he sustained an injury right before the finish line.
“When you have a good field and you go out in first, you feel really good,” Thomas said. “I had confidence going into the race and in what I was going to be able to do. It was nice to beat Jabari Greer (Tennessee), because he’s been whooping me for a while.”
“It was also really nice to have the triple jumpers come through today,” McDonnell said. “They hadn’t done a lot all year, so it does a lot for Richard’s confidence. Ahmad did great too, especially to come back from disappointment in the 100.”
The triple jumpers came through in a big way after having to go through three hours of prelims and finals in poor weather conditions. Smith rallied on his last two jumps to post a career-best and Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium record jump of 54-1.25. Sophomore transfer Jaanus Uudmae registered a fifth place finish to automatically qualify for the national meet with a season-best mark of 52-11.50.
“It does a lot for my confidence to PR after being hurt all year,” Smith said. “We’ve got some great jumpers going to nationals and we’re going to have to try to put it all together again once we get there.”
All three of UA’s runners in the 1,500 meters automatically advanced due to their finishes. Sophomores Said Ahmed, Michael Taylor and James Hatch crossed the line in second (3:47.35), third (3:47.60) and fourth (3:48.82), respectively. Junior Chris Mulvaney did not start after he had qualified in the prelims with a time of 3:48.26, because of an injury.
In the 800-meter run junior Robbie Stevens was also was unable to start because of an injury. Both Stevens and Mulvaney will have to rely on their top times set earlier in the season to get them into the national meet on wild card spots. Stevens had the second-fastest time in the country (1:46.62) and Mulvaney was seventh on the descending order list with 3:42.31.
Sophomore Ahmad Carroll did not automatically qualify to nationals after he came in seventh in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.33, but redeemed himself less than an hour later in the 200-meter dash when he finished fourth, tying his season-best time of 20.91.
Junior transfer Maurice Bridges was also unable to earn an auto qualification when he came in seventh (52.66) in the 400-meter hurdles.
Freshman Eric Brown withdrew from the javelin after he threw 171-03 on his second attempt.
The 2003 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be in Sacramento, Calif., June 11-14 at Hornet Stadium.
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