Arkansas Gains Seven Regional Qualifiers at Mc
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After a 60-minute rain delay the John McDonnell Invitational finally got under way and the third-ranked Razorbacks were able to gain seven new NCAA mideast regional qualifiers and seven event winners, despite the unseasonably cold and rainy weather.
“It’s been a good meet, considering the conditions,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “Everyone competed very well, especially the 4×100. There were a lot of bright spots. I like for the guys to compete in adverse conditions, because it shows that their hearts and minds are in the right place.”
The 800 meters was loaded with Razorback athletes and all of them came away with new NCAA regional qualifying times. Junior James Hatch held the lead and took the tape with a time of 1:48.92. Senior Chris Mulvaney led the next contingent as he finished fourth (1:50.07), with junior Said Ahmed close behind in fifth (1:50.46) and freshman Sam Vazquez was sixth (1:50.50).
The Razorback 4×100-meter relay team captured first place as it put up an NCAA regional qualifying time of 39.70. Senior Michael Thomas, freshmen Wallace Spearmon and Creighton Kiper and junior Omar Brown handled all baton duties smoothly for the Arkansas victory. Their time placed them at seventh on UA’s all-time outdoor top-10 list and was the first sub-40 time recorded since 2000.
Spearmon also represented Arkansas in the 200-meter dash and clocked a time of 21.02 for top honors and the crucial regional qualification. Right after Thomas ran on the relay he lined up for the finals of the 110-meter hurdles. He was able to register a regional time of 13.90 for runner-up honors after turning in a time of 14.06 in the prelims. Thomas had already qualified regionally at the Texas Relays with a time of 13.86.
The pole vault was moved to the Randal Tyson Track Center due to the inclement weather, but that didn’t stop senior transfer Jeremy Scott from clearing a regional qualifying height of 16-8.75 in his first meet as a Razorback. He used a halfway approach in his performance and it was good enough for fourth place. Junior Jimmy Duke came in seventh (16-1.00).
Senior Maurice Bridges was the next to capture the hardware when he finished first in the 400-meter hurdles with a regional time of 52.14. Bridges was already qualified with his performance of 50.97 in Austin, Texas. Sophomore Brad Dittoe joined Bridges in the race and was third (53.66).
Sophomore Eric Brown also claimed his second-straight javelin title in as many weeks when he threw an even 230-0. Brown had also previously earned a regional qualification (235-6) at the Texas Relays.
Junior Terry Gatson tallied another UA meet title on Saturday when he crossed the line in first (47.48) in the 400-meter dash and junior Chason Pompey ran a time of 50.30 in the unseeded section for ninth place. Sophomore David Wittenmyer had a strong showing in the unseeded section of the 400-meter hurdles when he posted the fastest time (54.27) in two sections for first place.
Two open distance events capped off the day as the daylight quickly disappeared. In the 3,000 meters sophomore Eric Gross kicked at the end for second place and a time of 8:31.10. Freshman Adam Perkins crossed the line in fifth (8:32.61) and sophomore Luis Bordes rounded out the Razorbacks in 10th (8:50.23).
Three UA athletes competed in the 1,500 meters and junior Jason Sandfort was the team’s top finisher in third place (3:49.03). Freshmen Josh Harper and Mike Poe finished eighth (3:57.15) and ninth (4:00.48), respectively.
Junior P.J. Brown, who normally competes in the pole vault, tried his hand in the 100-meter dash. He finished 15th overall with a time of 11.06.
In additional field events action sophomore Tony Ugoh made his outdoor season debut and was seventh (140-05) in the discus throw. Freshman Greg Martin saw action in the long jump and leaped a mark of 22-2.50 for 10th place.
With three meets under its belt Arkansas now has one automatic and 11 regional qualifiers. Next week the Razorbacks will travel to Walnut, Calif., for the Mt. SAC Relays on April 16-18, before they compete in the historic Penn Relays on April 22-24 in Philadelphia, Penn.
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