Arkansas Claims National Title No. 41; Spearmo
BY ANDRES FOCIL
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Arkansas reigned supreme once again as the Razorbacks captured their third-straight NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship and 12th outdoor national crown in front of a crowd of 10,200 at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex. Arkansas now owns an unprecedented 41 NCAA titles, the most of any NCAA Division I track program.
The Razorbacks’ outstanding performances racked up 60 points for the first-place team trophy, while Southeastern Conference opponents Florida and LSU finished second (49) and third (36), respectively. BYU and Florida State rounded out the top five and tied with 34 points each.
“It’s nice to have No. 41,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “Florida gave us a great meet and really pushed us with everything they had. I would rank this meet as a close second to the NCAA indoor meet (earlier this year). We were so well-balanced and everyone gave a 100 percent, but that’s what I’ve come to expect. We don’t like to lose. It’s a tradition that’s been handed down by teams from the past. I think this team is one of the great ones and people will compare them to the squads from 1984-85 and 1994-95.”
The convincing victory came after the 200-meter dash when UA’s trio of fantastic sprinters earned 17 points with a 1-3-8 finish and clinched the meet. Sophomore Wallace Spearmon Jr., led the crew as he successfully defended his 200-meter title and reclaimed the school record from senior Tyson Gay with a new world-leading time of 19.91. The winning time is seventh on the all-time collegiate list and is the third-fastest ever run at an NCAA meet.
“I knew I had to get out, so once I came around that turn I knew I had it,” Spearmon said. “I had to step up when it counted and help the team. On the straight-away I looked over and saw Tyson and (Xavier) Carter, so I knew I was in a good spot. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. It’s like a Disney movie.”
“It was awesome and it sealed the meet,” Brauman exclaimed. “Wallace has been banged up for the past month and he was able to put a good one together in the finals of the NCAA Championships.”
Spearmon is now a four-time NCAA champion and seven-time All-American. There is little doubt that the Fayetteville, Ark., native will leave an indelible mark on the University of Arkansas as he announced after his performance that he would more than likely turn professional based on the advice of his coaches, McDonnell and Brauman.
Gay had recorded the previous school record on Thursday night when he put up a 19.93 in the semifinals, besting Spearmon’s 19.97 from April. During Saturday night’s final he finished third with a time of 20.16, while LSU’s Xavier Carter took second place (20.08).
“I wasn’t shocked at all that Wallace won,” Gay said. “He has a tendency to put it together when it counts. I’m happy for him.”
Senior Omar Brown was the next Hog to finish when he came in eighth. Brown turned in a time of 22.38 after he cramped up towards the end of the race.
All three runners earned All-America honors by virtue of their finishes in their final races in an Arkansas jersey. Gay closed his career as a two-time NCAA champion and seven-time All-American, while Omar will go away as a member of the national championship relay team and a four-time All-American.
“That was terrific,” McDonnell said. “I’ll remember those guys for a long time. They are great athletes and great friends.”
Senior Terry Gatson picked up Arkansas’ first two points of the day when he finished in seventh place in the 400-meter dash with a clocking of 45.68. It was Gatson’s fourth-career All-American honor. In the semis he registered the second-fastest overall time and a career-best clocking of 44.93 and was hoping to carry that performance over to the finals, but it was Baylor’s Darold Williamson who took the tape with a time of 44.51.
The 1,500 meters was next on the schedule and sophomore Adam Perkins was coming off a five-second personal-best time of 3:39.82 from the prelims on Thursday. The Liberty, Mo., native put up a strong performance down the final stretch and passed four runners to finish in fourth place with another career-best time of 3:38.54. More importantly, he crossed the line one place ahead of Florida’s Shane Stroup (3:38.57), while the winning time of 3:37.13 was turned in by Texas freshman Leonel Manzano. Perkins’ time finally placed him in UA’s all-time outdoor top list at ninth, slightly ahead of former Razorback great Alistair Cragg (3:39.24).
“I went out hard and I felt it,” Perkins said. “I saw the guys from Florida (Shane Stroup) and Florida State (Tom Lancashire) and knew I had to finish ahead of them, so I gave it one last lean at the end. I wanted to win, but the way the race was run it didn’t work out.”
Perkins’ five points gave UA a total of 39, while Florida increased their tally to 32. The Gators earned more points in the 400-meter hurdles after Kerron Clement won the event in an NCAA meet record time. Those 10 points moved UF past the Hogs into first with 42 points as UA did not have an athlete entered in the event.
The Razorbacks wasted little time firing back with three of the nation’s top sprinters in the blocks for the 200-meter dash. The 17 points vaulted Arkansas back into first with 56 points, while Florida sat with 44 points.
Senior Jaanus Uudmae tacked on UA’s final four points for the night when he registered a fifth-place finish in the triple jump. Uudmae put up his best mark of 53-2.25 on his second-to-last attempt to garner his third-career All-America honor.
The 5,000 meters was the final running event and junior Josphat Boit was representing Arkansas. He was running in his third race for the weekend and was gunning for another point-earning finish after he came in sixth in the 10,000 meters on Thursday night. Unfortunately, a sore hamstring flared up and he had to drop out of the race.
For the weekend two national titles, including the 200-meter dash and 4×100-meter relay, were earned by Arkansas in record times and 11 Razorbacks gained 15 All-America honors.
The conclusion of the 2005 outdoor campaign also marked the final time that nine Razorback athletes would compete in an Arkansas jersey. This year’s large and talented group included Omar Brown, P.J. Brown, Terry Gatson, Tyson Gay, James Hatch, Jason Sandfort, Wallace Spearmon Jr., Robbie Stevens and Jaanus Uudmae.
Together they have amassed 36 All-America honors, 12 SEC championships and 72 All-SEC honors. Their presence on the roster will be missed, but with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes coming in the fall and decorated returnees Arkansas will look to continue its reign on top of the collegiate track and field scene in 2006.
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