Arkansas Falls Short of Reclaiming SEC Crown;
BY ANDRES FOCIL
Starkville, Miss. – A hard-fought battle at the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships ended with Arkansas finishing in a close second place behind defending champion Tennessee. Tennessee garnered a total of 147 points, Arkansas earned 133 and Florida put up 107.
“I was very, very pleased with the way our athletes competed and the chemistry on the team,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “That’s what I really like. They laid it on the line like the teams of old, but we just didn’t have enough bodies and Tennessee was the better team this time.”
At the start of the day, two Razorback triple jumpers earned 14 points as they registered NCAA automatic qualifying times in the event. This put Arkansas in first place with 64 points after nine events. Junior Richard Smith finished second with a career-best jump of 54-0.00. He exceeded his personal best by over three feet. In his first triple jump competition of the season sophomore Maurice Robinson finished third with a career-best jump of 53-7.00.
The 4×100-meter relay team of senior Sam Glover, junior Eddie Jackson, sophomore Michael Thomas and freshman Ahmad Carroll, earned Arkansas one point by placing eighth with a time of 40.20. Unfortunately, after Glover ran the anchor leg he reaggravated his hamstring injury and was unable to compete in the 400-meter hurdles or the 4×400-meter relay.
The Razorbacks were able to rack up 21 points after they finished first, third, fifth and eighth in the 1,500-meter run. Sophomore Chris Mulvaney captured the SEC 1,500-meter title with a time of 3:42.91. Mulvaney trailed defending SEC Champion, David Kimani of Alabama, during the majority of the race until he rallied on the last turn to take the lead for good. Sophomore Alistair Cragg finished third (3:45.55), freshmen James Hatch and Michael Taylor finished fifth (3:47.25) and eighth (3:54.13), respectively. Those points put Arkansas in first place once again with 86 points.
Jackson and Thomas finished third and fourth in the 110-meter hurdles. Thomas ran another automatic qualifying time of 13.69 and Jackson improved his provisional qualifying time of 13.76 from the prelims to a NCAA automatic qualifying time of 13.72. This gave Arkansas 11 points to keep them in first place with a total of 97 points after 13 events.
In the 800-meter run sophomore Robbie Stevens finished fifth with a career-best and provisional qualifying time of 1:47.76. In his second race of the day Mulvaney had a seventh place finish with a time of 1:51.21. Their finishes added six points to make Arkansas’ total 103 and place them in second behind Tennessee’s 123.
Arkansas carried a loaded field going into their final event of the 5,000-meter run and hoped to score as many points as possible to close the lead with Tennessee. Junior Daniel Lincoln won his third individual event of the weekend when he captured the 5,000-meter title with a time of 14:07.64. Sophomore Alistair Cragg finished second (14:21.12), junior Silverus Kimeli finished fourth (14:31.69), freshman Jason Sandfort finished fifth (14:33.43) and sophomore Westley Alkin finished sixth (14:37.21).
The Razorbacks earned 30 points after their dominating finishes. That gave them a final total of 133 points, but it fell just short of the Vol’s 145. Tennessee went on to score two more points with their seventh place finish in the 4×400-meter relay to end with a total of 147.
Upon returning from Starkville, Miss., the Razorbacks will send some of their runners to try to earn qualifying marks at the Reebok Invitational on May 17-18 in Atlanta, Ga. They will then compete at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge, La., on May 29-June 2.
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