Cragg Captures 5,000 Crown; Arkansas in First
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The first day of competition at the 2003 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships proved to be a successful one as Arkansas tallied 19 points to put themselves in first place after seven events and made their run for a 37th national title that much closer.
Nebraska is right behind in second with 16 points, Auburn is third with 14, Tennessee is fourth (13) and Stanford rounds out the top five with 12 points.
Junior Alistair Cragg successfully defended his title in the 5,000 meters as he ran away with the race and the crown when he finished with a new UA school record time of 13:28.93. He shattered the previous record of 13:35.93 he set at the Tyson Invitational. Boaz Cheboiywo of Eastern Michigan finished in a close second with a time of 13:29.26.
“The crowd really kept me going,” Cragg said. “On the last lap I knew I could do it. I didn’t do all that work for nothing. But I was disappointed in the run. I feel like I let my team down. I ran too fast and some of those guys aren’t in that kind of shape, but it’s done now and I won it.”
Five Razorbacks competed in the loaded 5,000-meter run. Senior Daniel Lincoln finished behind Cragg in sixth with a time of 13:49.94. Their finishes gave the Razorbacks 13 points to secure the top spot for the day.
Sophomore Jason Sandfort was the next Hog to cross the line in 13th with 14:22.42, juniors Westley Alkin and Silverus Kimeli were 16th (14:50.65) and 18th (15:07.19), respectively.
The Razorback team hoped to cap the day off in style with their distance medley relay team, but were disappointed when the DMR came in ninth with a time of 9:39.69. Sophomore Said Ahmed led the first leg of the relay and handed off to junior Robbie Stevens who brought the team to the front of the race. Stevens passed the baton to sophomore James Hatch who extended Arkansas’ lead in the 800-meter portion. Hatch handed off to sophomore Michael Taylor. Taylor kept the lead, but miscounted the number of laps he had left and fell back to ninth after kicking in too soon.
“We really shot ourselves in the foot today,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We put ourselves in a good position and just didn’t do it. It’s disheartening to throw points away, especially in the DMR. It will be a battle now. Someone has got to stand up. The good thing is that we’re in the lead. Tomorrow we’ve got guys in the triple jump, the 800, the mile and the 3,000.”
In the finals of the 60-meter hurdles junior Michael Thomas crossed the line in fourth, breaking his own UA record, with a time of 7.64. Thomas’ previous school record was a 7.69 he posted at this year’s Tyson Invitational. His finish also garnered Arkansas’ first five points for the meet. Earlier in the day Thomas ran a 7.72 to qualify for the finals.
In the long jump senior Richard Smith was the only Hog to score points in the event. His jump of 25-2.50 and eighth place finish added one point to Arkansas’ total. Senior Ramon Washington came in ninth, just out of scoring range, with a leap of 25-0.75.
In the second heat of the 800-meter run prelims junior Robbie Stevens ran the third fastest time overall, a season-best 1:47.90, to qualify for the finals.
In the prelims of the mile run junior Chris Mulvaney led the first heat to qualify for the finals with a time of 4:05.41.
Sophomore and UA record holder Ahmad Carroll posted a time of 6.73 in the prelims of the 60-meter dash, but was unable to advance to the finals.
Events on Saturday will begin at 2 p.m. with the women’s 20-pound weight throw, while the men’s 1,600-meter relay will cap off the day at 8:10 p.m. The first event Arkansas athletes will be competing in are the finals of the triple jump at 5:45 p.m. with junior Jaanus Uudmae and Smith.
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