Arkansas Tallies Six New NCAA Qualifiers at Ty
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Top-ranked Arkansas got off to an exceptional start at the Tyson Foods Invitational when six UA athletes posted new NCAA automatic or provisional qualifying times. The times gained were crucial with the national championships only a month away and as icing on the cake sophomore transfer Tyson Gay broke his own school record in the 60-meter dash.
“We had some good things happen and some not so good things,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “The sprints were outstanding with the 60-meter dash, 60 hurdles and the 200. If there was a star tonight it would have to be Wallace Spearmon and Omar Brown did well too. He’s (Brown) only going to get better. Jason Sandfort’s time in the 5K was pretty good and it should get him in. Hopefully the distance guys will do better tomorrow.”
Gay came in a close second place with an NCAA automatic time of 6.61, while the winner, Tyrone Edgar of Kansas City Community College just a hair ahead with 6.60. The previous 60-meter dash record was a provisional 6.65 Gay had set at the Arkansas Invitational on Jan. 16.
Freshman Wallace Spearmon made his presence known in his first race as a Razorback as he automatically qualified in the 200-meter dash with a time of 20.74 to grab second place. His time put him at second on the UA’s all-time top 10 list, just one-hundredths of a second behind Gay’s school record of 20.73. It was also the fourth-fastest time run in the world this year.
Spearmon’s father, Wallace Spearmon Sr., was a two-time All-American for Coach McDonnell from 1982-85 and was a part of the UA’s first national track and field championship team.
“I just wanted to beat my dad’s time,” Spearmon said. “I still haven’t practiced yet with the team, but I don’t really look at times. I just hate losing. I wanted to run for Coach McDonnell, so I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Junior transfer Omar Brown joined Spearmon in the race and clocked a new provisional qualifying time of 21.19 to finish 10th.
Senior All-American Michael Thomas improved his time in the 60-meter hurdles when he posted an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 6.69 in the prelims. He then went on to register a 7.75 in the finals for fourth-place honors.
The 5,000 meters was full of Razorback runners, but junior All-American Jason Sandfort was the only one who was able to come away with a provisional qualification. Sandfort garnered runner-up honors with a time of 13:59.86.
Freshmen Josh Harper and Mike Poe were the next UA athletes to cross the line as they finished 10th (14:31.21) and 12th (14:38.35), respectively. Sophomore transfer Matt Gunn turned in a career-best time of 14:57.11 for the 16th spot. Sophomore Luis Bordes made his first appearance for the 2004 indoor season as he came in 17th (15:05.87), while sophomore transfer Eric Gross was 18th (15:15.26).
The mile run produced one provisional qualifier for UA when freshman Sam Vazquez ran a personal best time of 4:03.17 for a sixth-place showing. Junior Michael Taylor (4:10.51) and freshman Ryan Botha (4:14.52) were 10th and 11th, respectively.
Senior P.J. Brown cleared a season-best height of 16-8.75 in the pole vault to finish fifth, while junior Jimmy Duke tied for 15th (15-9.00). In the high jump junior Cory Oldham and freshman Greg Martin both posted season-bests clearances. Oldham came in ninth with a mark of 6-10.75, while Martin put up a height of 6-8.75 for 14th.
Freshman Adam Perkins was the lone UA runner in the 3,000 meters and lead most of the race, but couldn’t maintain the pace and ended up finishing 13th (8:41.05). Junior James Hatch was in a fast field of 800-meter runners and was doing well going into the last lap, but was bumped out when the pack became too tight and was unable to finish.
In the unseeded section of the 800-meter run sophomores Brad Dittoe and David Wittenmyer finished 14th (1:55.35) and 26th (1:57.29). In other running events junior Chason Pompey put up a time of 48.87 (32nd) in the 400-meter dash and the 4×400-meter relay team of Dittoe, freshman Creighton Kiper, Pompey and Wittenmyer put together a time of 3:17.40 for 13th place.
Through Friday’s portion of the Tyson Foods Invitational Arkansas has now tallied four automatic and eight provisional qualifications. The Razorbacks will hope to earn more as they will compete against the world’s best professional athletes in USA Track and Field’s Golden Spike Tour.
Saturday’s meet will run from 1-3 p.m. at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Reserved seats are $20, general admission is $10 and children under 10 years old and UA students with an I.D. are $5.
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