GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Arkansas vaulted into the team lead and took significant strides towards defending its Southeastern Conference crown with a big day at the 2006 SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday.
The Razorbacks racked up 40 points, including 28 in the 3,000-meter run, to claim the top spot in the team standings heading into the meet’s final day of action. In addition to the 28 points tallied in the 3,000, Arkansas earned six points in the long jump, four points in the heptathlon and two points in the weight throw. The Hogs hold a 13-point lead over second place South Carolina (27) with Tennessee (23), Florida (22) and LSU (13) rounding out the top five in the team standings after Saturday’s action.
“We are in good shape,” McDonnell said. “We can control our own destiny. If we don’t make mistakes, we have lots of people in position to score a lot of points.”
For the second consecutive season, Arkansas captured swept first through third in the 3,000-meter run. Senior Josphat Boit earned an individual SEC title and 10 points after clocking a time of 8:02.23. Boit became the 11th Razorback champion in the SEC 3,000 meters in Arkansas’ 15 years in the league.
“It’s really good to win a title,” Boit said. “I really needed to win this title. We went one, two, three and that is a good bonus.”
Defending SEC 3,000-meter indoor champion Peter Kosgei (8:04.12) tallied eight points for finishing second while senior Marc Rodrigues (8:04.32) earned six points for placing third. Sophomore Shawn Forrest (8:06.30) added three points with a sixth-place finish. Junior Adam Perkins (8:11.85) netted one point after finishing eighth. Freshman Chris Barnicle (8:16.56) finished off the pace in 10th while senior Eric Gross did not finish after setting the early pace for his teammates.
“They did a great job, a super job,” McDonnell said. “A lot of those guys had run the mile earlier and that is a tough double coming back against fresh guys. To take the top three spots for the second consecutive year is a great achievement. There are some good athletes in this league and we handled them. Josphat ran a great race.”
Senior Jaanus Uudmae racked up six points for the Razorbacks with a third-place finish in the long jump. Uudmae, who finished fifth last year in the same event, recorded a jump of 25-4. In the process, the Estonia product improved his NCAA provisional mark for next month’s NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Junior Greg Martin just missed scoring for the Hogs finishing ninth with a jump of 23-10 1/4. Sophomore Mychael Stewart (23-08.00) and freshman Daniel Quinn (22-03 1/2) finished off the pace at 12th and 19th, respectively.
“I thought Jaanus had a great day,” Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth said. “He was extremely consistent. He had no fouls. His worst jump and his best jump were probably five or six inches apart. He was dialed in and giving it a great effort. The other guys jumped really well to beat him. You can’t ever fault a guy jumping his personal best. I think that his mark today is solid and will most likely get him into the NCAA meet.”
Arkansas set the stage for earning big points in the mile run on Saturday advancing all five runners to Sunday’s final. Led by top qualifier and defending SEC indoor champion senior Said Ahmed, the Hogs will boast five of the 10 starters in the championship mile. Ahmed clocked a time of 4:05.79 to take the tape in his heat while Boit earned the third-best time of the semifinals with a time of 4:05.98. Rodrigues (4:06.87) and Perkins (4:06.64) punched their tickets to the final by recording the sixth and seventh best times, respectively. Freshman Colin Costello (4:07.89) made his much anticipated Razorback debut on Saturday and qualified for the mile final after posting the ninth-best semifinal time.
“I was hoping that we would get a least four and we got in an extra one,” McDonnell said. “That was nice to get the fifth guy in. For his first race, Costello was really good. He didn’t even have a race yet. He has just been training so I was impressed with him. He might be a little bit sore tomorrow, but we will worry about that tomorrow.”
The Hogs also picked up two qualifiers in the 800-meter run with Ahmed and junior Brian Roe qualifying for the nine-man final. Ahmed coasted to a win in his 800-meter heat posting a time of 1:51.00. Ahmed’s time was the second-fastest qualifying time second only to two-time SEC 800-meter champion Peter Etoot (1:50.47) from Alabama. Roe finished second in his heat to automatically earn a spot in the final. Roe tallied the fourth-fastest qualifying time of the day crossing the line in 1:51.88. Senior David Wittenmyer failed to advance to the 800-meter final after posting a time of 1:54.24 in the preliminary round.
“Said looked good today,” McDonnell said. “Said is one of the guys we are counting on tomorrow. He is a senior and he has to be one of our leaders like Josphat (Boit). Those two guys will have to lead us.”
Senior Jimmy Duke had a solid second day in the heptathlon earning a fifth-place overall finish in the event with 5,243 points. Duke was in ninth place entering the second heptathlon session, but rallied for a fifth-place finish and four points for the Razorbacks.
Duke started the day with a sixth-place finish in the 55-meter hurdles. He crossed the line in 8.17 seconds to earn 806 points. As expected, Duke made up ground on the field by winning the pole vault with a top height of 16-2. He racked up 889 points for the victory and moved from seventh place to fifth place after his best event. Duke secured his overall fifth-place finish by finishing third (2:48.59) and tallying 780 points in the 1,000-meter run, the final event of the day.
“There was some attrition at the top in the heptathlon, but that is the nature of the multi-events,” Booth said. “By hanging in there and plugging away and doing real close to his personal bests he got us points. The thing about Jimmy is that he is not going to be perfect, but he is always going to be gritty. He will never back away and he will come at you and will give it a go. He doesn’t have to apologize when it is over.”
Senior Tony Ugoh was the first Razorback to dent the scoreboard on Saturday. The Houston, Texas, native finished seventh in the weight throw with a throw of 57-07 3/4 netting two points for the Hogs. It was the second-consecutive seventh-place finish for Ugoh at the SEC Indoor Championships after also finishing seventh as a junior.
Four Razorbacks took to the starting blocks in the 55-meter dash, however, none qualified for Sunday’s final in the event. Freshman J-Mee Samuels (6.33) finished second in a heat that also featured teammates sophomore Michael Grant and freshman Jeremy Dodson. Samuels missed the nine-man final by one-tenth of a second. Grant finished sixth in the heat in 6.41. Dodson was disqualified in the 55-meter dash after a false start. Stewart also missed Sunday’s final finishing third in his heat with a 6.37 clip.
Arkansas also came up empty in the 200-meter dash with three Razorbacks failing to qualify for Sunday’s final. Freshman Jeremy Dodson won his heat, but finished with the 12th-best qualifying time overall in 21.76. Freshman J-Mee Samuels (22.04) and sophomore Michael Grant (22.55) posted the 19th and 29th fastest times, respectively.
Arkansas will try and close out its 78th conference crown on Sunday with finalists in the 800-meter run and mile run. The Razorbacks will also have competitors in the high jump, triple jump and pole vault. The SEC meet will conclude with the Hogs competing in both the distance medley and 4×400-meter relay. The high jump begins at 10:30 a.m. CT with the running event finals slated to start at Noon CT. The final event of the meet, the 4×400-meter relay, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CT.
2006 SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships
Team Standings (After Day 2)
1. Arkansas – 40
2. South Carolina – 27
3. Tennessee – 23
4. Florida – 22
5. LSU – 13
6. Auburn – 12
7. Ole Miss – 11
8. Alabama – 8