FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Head coach John McDonnell couldn’t be happier after watching his Hogs dig down and take the 2008 SEC Indoor Championship title. Arkansas’ 83rd conference title, 45th SEC title, it took 124 points for the Razorbacks to come away with the victory.
“Absolutely, I am so proud of this team,” McDonnell said. “That performance, I can’t even explain it. Some many people came through. Not just one or two, athlete after athlete came through with big performances and we needed big performances to win.”
McDonnell’s 27th indoor conference title and 15th SEC indoor title, 17 of the 25 Arkansas competitors scored points in their respective events, a true testament to the teamwork that took place at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center.
“Our depth was amazing,” McDonnell said. “Everybody contributed. It was a very deep performance but we also had some setbacks. Alex McClary has been sick as a dog for the last three days. He missed making the finals in the 800 meters but ran great on the distance medley. He came out of his sick bed to help us win.”
The Razorbacks ended the championship weekend with three event titles (long jump, triple jump and distance medley relay), seven All-SEC honors and a bevy of personal and season bests.
LSU was second in the team standings with 108 points. Tennessee rounded out the top three with 99.5 points.
“That 5,000 meters, in my wildest dreams, I never thought we would score 23 points,” McDonnell said. “This weekend, these performances say a lot about our captain, Nkosinza Balumbu. He rallied our guys and got them to believe in themselves. We had to make things happen and make our own luck.”
The DMR glory days came back to Fayetteville this weekend as Daniel LaCava, Chris Bilbrew, Alex McClary and Micky Cobrin took the title in a time of 9:45.71. Taking the lead and never looking back, the Hogs commanded the race and put on a show for their final event of the day. Georgia’s anchor, Ian Burrell, was gaining ground on Arkansas’ anchor, Cobrin, during the final lap but Cobrin stayed strong and took the tape easily.
At the SEC Championships, UA has won 11 of 15 DMRs contested since the event was added to the conference meet in 1994.
“To anchor the winning relay that won the meet for the team, it was a lot of fun,” Cobrin said. “Especially with all of the fans and the team cheering us on. I had a lot left after the mile finals earlier today but it was hard with no one running next to me. Alex (McClary) did really well in the 800 and gave me eight victory laps.”
As the DMR was coming to the final lap, triple jumpers Nkosinza Balumbu, the 2008 team captain, and Daniel Quinn padded Arkansas’ growing lead with a 1-2 finish. Balumbu, winning his fourth SEC title, hopped, skipped and jumped his way to a gold medal with a winning leap of 53-5.75, his second automatic-qualifying mark of the season. The mark is an indoor PR, ranks third in the NCAA and earned him his fifth All-SEC honor.
“I feel great,” Balumbu said. “Daniel Quinn and I did it. We wanted to go 1-2 coming in to the meet. I’m so happy for DQ. He got a good mark that will hopefully get him into Nationals. I’m so happy for the team. We took the title and that’s what it’s all about. The marks might not show it but I saw a lot of heart today. A lot of people dug down, especially in the 3K and the 5K. I’m really excited going into the nationals.”
Quinn’s performance was one for ages. Sitting in second throughout the triple jump competition with a leap of 51-7.25, Jamaal Parker of Georgia passed Quinn with his final jump of 51-8.25. With his teammates cheering him on from the infield and the stands, Quinn exploded down the runway to mark a 52-5.5. His jump, ranking ninth nationally, is a personal best by more than two feet and earned him his first All-SEC honor.
“Going in to my last jump I knew I had to hit 52 feet to have a chance at NCAAs and also to secure second place behind Nkosinza (Balumbu),” Quinn said. “I was getting ready and Jamaal Parker from Georgia went out there and beat me by three centimeters. I had that motivation for my last jump to go out there and get second place back. I gave it everything I had and we just needed to score points for the team.”
Prior to the running of the DMR, the 5,000 meters propelled Arkansas to the lead in the team standings. After the 200 meters, the Hogs sat in third place with 73 points. McDonnell’s harriers quickly changed that and racked up 23 points during the 14-minute race to take 10.5-point lead over second place Tennessee.
James Strang was the top finisher for the Razorbacks with a silver finish and an NCAA provisional time of 13:53.06. His time is an 18-second personal best, ranks seventh nationally and earned him his first All-SEC honor.
“We came into this meet knowing we could pull it off,” Strang said. “We had a great showing last night. The team came out and did a great job. Today’s mindset was to go out, press the pace and make it a difficult race for everyone else to hang on. We were really excited before the race knowing we were competing in front of our home crowd. Throughout the entire race, it just seemed to get louder and louder. The noise and the crowd really helped bring all of us through.”
Chris Barnicle earned a bronze finish, his second third-place finish of the weekend, with his time of 13:56.43, also a provisional qualifier. His 5K clocking is also a personal best and ranks eighth nationally.
Tyler Hill, with his second top-five finish of the weekend, was the fourth-place runner with a provisional time of 13:58.30. Shawn Forrest clocked a 14:14.63, good for a fifth-place finish.
Andy McClary, in his SEC Championships debut, earned a silver finish in the mile with a clocking of 4:00.38. His time is a season best, his first NCAA provisional-qualifying time and ranks 15th nationally.
“I’m definitely pleased with my run today,” McClary said. “I was going for the win. That would have been nice. We were going for 17 points and we got 15, so we were close. It was a good race, an honest pace and a pretty good time. I was pleased with the time and pretty pleased with the performance.”
A tight race from the start, McClary, with teammates Micky Cobrin, Michael Chinchar and Duncan Phillips, battled in the lead pack with John Kosgei of LSU and Emmanuel Bor of Alabama. Chinchar took it out and paced three of his teammates to scoring spots. Cobrin earned a bronze finish, his highest at an SEC Championship event, with a provisional time of 4:01.14.
Phillips was the final Hog finisher in eighth-place with a time of 4:09.62. The milers scored 15 points and gave the Hogs a 17-point lead in the team scoring.
J-Mee Samuels finished fifth in the 60-meter finals with a time of 6.69. He earned four points in the team scoring. Mychael Stewart chipped in one point with an eighth-place finish and a time of 6.83. Samuels’ mark is a provisional-qualifying time but doesn’t improve his season best.
Less than two hours later, Samuels came back to run for a sixth-place finish in the 200-meter finals. His time of 21.19 is a season best, matches his personal best and is his first NCAA provisional-qualifying time in the event this season.
In his SEC Championships debut, Bryant, Ark. native Spencer McCorkel cleared 16-10.75 to earn a fifth-place finish. He added four points to the team total.
For complete details and results of the SEC Championships, visit www.hogwired.com.
Arkansas’ Point Scorers (top eight):
60 meters – J-Mee Samuels (5th), Mychael Stewart (8th)
200 meters – J-Mee Samuels (6th)
Mile – Andy McClary (2nd), Micky Cobrin (3rd), Duncan Phillips (8th)
3,000 meters – Tyler Hill (2nd), Chris Barnicle (3rd), James Strang (6th), Daniel LaCava, (7th)
5,000 meters – James Strang (2nd), Chris Barnicle (3rd), Tyler Hill (4th), Shawn Forrest (5th)
DMR – Daniel LaCava, Chris Bilbrew, Alex McClary, Micky Cobrin (1st)
High Jump – Alain Bailey (3rd), Brent Rosson (5th)
Long Jump – Alain Bailey (1st), Mychael Stewart (5th), Daniel Quinn (6th)
Triple Jump – Nkosinza Balumbu (1st), Daniel Quinn (2nd)
Pole Vault – Spencer McCorkel (5th)
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