Brown Wins Javelin; Relays Settle for Second a
BY ANDRES FOCIL
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The 111th Penn Relays were not what Arkansas had hoped they would be after a dropped handoff and two second-place finishes on Saturday resulted in the Razorbacks failing to bring home a relay title from the historic event for the first time since 1982. Junior Eric Brown provided UA’s only bright spot when he captured the javelin title.
“Between the dropped handoff and the getting second three times, it’s pretty disappointing,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We should have gotten at least one. Overall, I’m not happy with the way we competed. We don’t have a guy stepping up and leading the team and that scares me. The guys have to get tougher if we want to win conference. It’s only two weeks away.”
For the second-straight week junior Eric Brown claimed first place in the javelin. Brown is the first Arkansas athlete in the history of the Penn Relays to capture the javelin title after he threw a distance of 233-05. Brown is having a fantastic season and has been the top collegiate finisher in every meet he has competed in. At the Texas and Mt. SAC Relays he finished third and second, respectively, but it was behind a field of top professionals. He finished first outright at the McDonnell Invitational last week. Brown is also holding the nation’s second-best mark and is only trailing the leader by two centimeters.
“I was very excited,” Brown said. “It is important to have that momentum. The distance wasn’t that great, but it was a tough day and I did get one good throw. The win is what’s important.”
A light, but constant rain plagued most of the relay events on Saturday afternoon and for the first time in 11 years Arkansas did not win the 4xmile relay title. It is an event the Hogs have dominated as they lay claim to 18 championships in the past 21 years. The only years they did not win was when Villanova took first in 1993 and 1984, when Georgetown finished at the top in 1991 and in 2001 when UA competed at the Drake Relays and did not have the chance to vie for the title.
Sophomore Adam Perkins handled the lead-off leg for UA and took the lead with 400 meters remaining. With a split of 4:04.5 he handed off to sophomore Peter Kosgei. Kosgei was challenged by Michigan and Indiana as he slipped to third place in a clocking of 4:04.9. On the third leg junior Josphat Boit brought UA back to second with a time of 4:04.7.
Boit was going up against Michigan’s Nick Willis, who anchored the UM DMR team to victory on Friday. Willis had pulled to a 45 meter lead using a split of 3:56.2 before Boit passed the stick to senior Said Ahmed for the anchor. Ahmed (4:05.4) was matched up against Nate Brannen who ran to a commanding lead to give Michigan the victory and a new collegiate record of 16:04.54, while Arkansas turned in a time of 16:19.50 for runner-up honors.
The previous record was held by Arkansas in 1999 when Sharif Karie, Michael Power, Matt Kerr and Seneca Lassiter put together a time of 16:07.96.
With a loaded 4×200-meter relay qualified for the finals Arkansas had high expectations of capturing its’ first 4×200-meter relay title since 1985. Unfortunately, the Razorbacks were unable to finish the race when senior Terry Gatson fell as he was trying to handoff to senior Omar Brown for the third leg. Senior Tyson Gay was slated to run the anchor, while sophomore Wallace Spearmon Jr., took the first.
“We were really looking forward to running this relay, so we’re disappointed,” Arkansas sprints coach Lance Brauman said. “We’ve been waiting all year to put together a good one at Penn, but unfortunately Terry (Gatson) fell and we weren’t able to finish.”
UA had advanced to the finals with the second-fastest preliminary time of 1:22.33, but had a different order of Brown, Gay, Gatson and Spearmon. In order to concentrate on the 4×200-meter relay the Hogs scratched their entry into the 4×100-meter relay after they qualified to the finals with a season-best time of 40.21.
The 4×800-meter relay was UA’s last opportunity to win a wagon wheel, but the Hogs had to settle for runner-up honors once more as they saw Michigan finish first (7:22.59). Arkansas’ final time was 7:26.43.
Junior David Wittenmyer ran the first leg and posted a split of 1:55.5 after he got boxed in and had to avoid a fallen runner. Junior Harun Iman took the second leg and powered the team back into fourth place with a time of 1:50.5. The third leg responsibilities went to sophomore Brian Roe who also ran solidly and turned in a split of 1:50.1. His performance moved the Razorbacks closer to the leaders in third place when senior James Hatch was given the baton for the anchor. Hatch put UA in its’ final second-place position as he clocked 1:50.4.
Other individuals competing in open events included, freshman Michael Grant who came in eighth (10.62) in the 100-meter dash and senior Jaanus Uudmae who finished second (52-1.00) in the triple jump.
The Razorbacks will have almost two weeks to rest before they travel to Nashville, Tenn., for the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships on May 11-14. It is the first time Vanderbilt has hosted the conference meet and Arkansas will be going for its 12th SEC outdoor title and 76th overall league crown.
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