COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 3 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team opened competition at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships on Friday with a fifth-place finish in the long jump and qualifying a runner for the final of the mile. Tarik Batchelor picked up the team’s first points of the meet with his showing in the long jump and Duncan Phillips advanced to Saturday’s event final in the mile. With six events scored, the Razorbacks have four points and are tied for 21st in the team standings.
"It was disappointing day for us, overall," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "We really expected to get more kids in the finals of the 200 and 400 meters. It was just a rough day for us. We have a very young team and we just haven’t been able to bounce back after an emotional SEC Championships. Our guys in the 400 meters didn’t run that badly. Skidmore was just .06 away from the final and Marek was just .04 out of the 200 final."
Batchelor had a day’s best mark of 26-0.25 in the long jump to collect the second top-five national finish of his career. Batchelor competed in the second flight and entered the finals in fourth place. He was passed in the final round of the event by Bryce Lamb of Texas Tech. In his NCAA Championships debut, Raymond Higgs finished 10th overall with a mark of 25-1.25. Batchelor will return Saturday for the triple jump competition which is set for a start of 4:30 p.m. (CT).
Running in his hometown, Phillips earned the Razorbacks’ first qualifying bid with his preliminary effort in the mile. The College Station, Texas, native finished sixth in the first heat with his time of 4:01.28 and qualified seventh overall for Saturday’s final. Tomorrow’s 10-competitor final is scheduled for a 5:10 p.m. start.
Ben Skidmore was the first runner left out of Saturday’s final with his time of 46.67, the ninth-fastest overall qualifying time and just .06 seconds off a top-eight spot. He finished third in his heat. Neil Braddy turned in a time of 46.81 to finish third in the final heat of the prelims. Both runners were making their individual event debuts at the NCAA Championships.
One of three freshmen in the heptathlon field, Kevin Lazas stands in 11th place after day one with 3,138 points. He began the day in the 60 meters with a clocking of 7.12 (840 points), just .01 off his collegiate-best time. In the long jump, he got out to a day’s best mark of 23-5.25 (847) which moved him into a tie for 11th place after two events. Lazas had a personal-best performance in the shot put with a toss of 43-7 (684) in the shot put. In the final heptathlon event of the day, he posted a mark of 6-5 (767) in the high jump.
Arkansas also had two competitors in the 200 meter preliminary round. Marek Niit was the team’s top performer in the event with a time of 21.03 in heat two. He finished with the ninth-best mark overall but was the first runner left out of Saturday’s final. Running in the fourth heat, LaShawn Butler clocked a time of 21.29, the 13th fastest during the prelims.
In his national meet debut, Dey Tuach posted a time of 1:50.43 running in the second heat of 800 meter preliminary round. He clocked the 11th-fastest time during qualifying but will not move on to tomorrow’s event final. The Razorbacks finished 11th in the distance-medley relay, the final event of day one. The quartet of Bryan Cantero, Travis Southard, Chris Bilbrew and Phillips combined for a time of 9:52.48. Bilbrew was spiked during the exchange leading into his 800-meter leg, hindering his four laps around the track.
In addition to the conclusion of the heptathlon, Arkansas returns to the track Saturday with representation in the finals of the mile, 4×400-meter relay and triple jump.
"We still have some scoring opportunities out there," Bucknam said. "We have the 4×4, Duncan in the mile and Tarik in the triple jump. We’re going to have to battle and keep fighting to bounce back and salvage some of those points."
The 2011 team champion will be crowned Saturday when the NCAA Championships conclude. Competition on the men’s side begins at noon with the final three events of the heptathlon. The final day of the national meet will be carried via stream at NCAA.com and ESPN3.com. For more information, including interactive blog and live results, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Download: NCAA results, Day 1.pdf