Arkansas Claims Mideast Regional Team Title; Q
BY ANDRES FOCIL
BATON ROUGE, La. – Top-ranked Arkansas used the NCAA Mideast Regional meet to build its arsenal for the NCAA Outdoor Championships when nine athletes and one relay team qualified for the meet with top-five finishes in their respective events. In addition to their outstanding performances the 4×100-meter relay team and three Razorbacks captured individual titles and helped Arkansas successfully defend the team trophy with 95 points.
Host school LSU earned runner-up honors with 70 points and Auburn was third with 51. Ohio State was fourth (48) and Tennessee rounded out the fifth spot (43).
“I was proud of the guys and the way they competed,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “That’s the most important thing. We had a great team effort. Our guys all did it again like they did at conference. All we’ve got to do is keep everyone healthy, because they’ll have to run hard again at nationals.”
Senior transfer Jeremy Scott provided a nice highlight when he broke a 19-year old school record in the pole vault with a height of 18-2.75. His clearance was also good enough for first place. The previous record of 18-0.75 was held by Mark Klee in 1985. Even though Scott was the last competitor remaining he pushed himself to try to make 18-8.00, but was unable to clear the bar on three attempts. Junior P.J. Brown also competed in the event and finished seventh (16-11.00).
“It felt good to get that one (school record),” Scott said. “Things are finally pulling together and things were feeling good technically. I got out a few new poles and gave them a try. I’m just excited with the fact that I’m getting better every weekend, but I’m pretty disappointed that I couldn’t clear that last bar.”
Junior Tyson Gay had a phenomenal night in all three of his races as he captured the 100 and 200-meter dash titles in impressive times and was also a member of the victorious 4×100-meter relay team.
The relay was the first running event of the day and the UA team proved to dominant when they took the tape with a regional meet record time of 39.18. It tied for the third-fastest time in UA school history and the Hogs finished ahead of defending NCAA champion LSU (39.59). Senior Michael Thomas, sophomore Wallace Spearmon, Jr., Gay and sophomore Omar Brown were responsible for the quality victory and will see competition at the national meet.
Gay then lined up for the 100-meter dash. He put up a blazing time of 10.02 to take the tape over Middle Tennessee’s Mardy Scales by seven thousands of a second.
The 200-meter dash was the last event for Arkansas and the Razorbacks showcased their strength in the event by sweeping the top three spots. Gay led the charge with a time of 20.16, Spearmon was next with a 20.21 and Brown was third with 20.50. Their finishes qualified them for the national championships.
Under normal conditions Gay’s times would have easily been school records, but wind readings (4.0 meters per second) over the allowable limit prevent them from being written in the record books. However, it is still permissible on the descending order lists and Gay is now first in the nation in both events.
“You can’t get better than going 1, 2, 3 in the 200, first in the 100 and first in the 4×100,” Arkansas sprints and hurdles coach Lance Brauman said. “It’s impressive and obviously it’s a good sign for nationals. We doubled him (Gay) at regionals in order to get him race fit and he looked good out there.”
“I’m very excited because I know coach (Brauman) is always trying to impress Coach McDonnell,” Gay said. “I was fairly tired before the (200-meter) race started, but I knew I couldn’t give up so I came out and ran my hardest.”
In the 1,500 meters senior Chris Mulvaney and junior Said Ahmed punched their tickets to nationals when they finished first and third, respectively. Mulvaney staged a strong race and utilized his kick in the last 100 meters to take the lead and the win with a time of 3:49.75. Ahmed clocked a time of 3:50.40.
Freshman Sam Vazquez finished just out of the top five in sixth place (3:53.85). His top time of 3:42.40 from earlier in the season is 21st on the descending order list. He will now have to depend on that performance to gain an at-large bid to the NCAA meet.
Fast times were produced in the 110-meters with a 4.6 tailwind and senior Michael Thomas rode to fourth place with a time of 13.56 for a trip to Austin, Texas.
Junior Terry Gatson was the lone Hog in the 400-meter dash and clocked a time of 48.54. He crossed the line in ninth after an irritation in his hamstring flared up coming off of the last turn. He will also have to rely on his season-best time of 45.36 that is 10th on the NCAA descending order list to get into nationals.
Junior James Hatch had expectations of posting a top-five finish in the 800 meters, but in the last 200 meters of the tightly packed race several of the runners got tangled up. Hatch was tripped up when Alabama’s Peter Etoot went down and both were forced to step to the inside of the track. That slowed Hatch’s pace down significantly and he went from being in the mix for third and fourth place to ninth (1:57.60). Hatch will have to be granted an at-large bid to outdoor nationals with his time of 1:47.52 that is eighth in the nation.
The 400-meter hurdles had two Razorbacks entered, but senior Maurice Bridges was the only one to come away with a qualification to the national championships. He finished fifth (51.05) and sophomore Brad Dittoe was seventh with a new career-best time of 51.84.
Windy conditions prevented sophomore Eric Brown from posting a high mark in the javelin, but he still finished in third place. He threw 212-02 and guaranteed himself a spot at the national championships.
The triple jump was the last event of the night and junior Jaanus Uudmae registered a season-best mark of 52-6.75 in the triple jump for seventh place. With his improved jump Uudmae would have been bumped up to 16th on the descending order list, but a tailwind of 4.1 is too high for the measurement to be considered for nationals.
After the Razorbacks return from Louisiana they will have a week off to rest as they prepare to defend their outdoor crown in Austin, Texas on June 9-12. Arkansas will be in search of its 39th NCAA championship and 11th outdoor title. In addition to the one relay team and nine athletes that gained qualifications in Baton Rouge, La., Arkansas will also have the services of senior six-time NCAA champion Alistair Cragg in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs and junior six-time All-American Jason Sandfort joining him in the 10K.
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