Cragg Reclaims Collegiate 3K Record at Tyson I
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Razorbacks took advantage of the world-class competition at the Golden Spike Tour portion of the Tyson Foods Invitational on Saturday as they came away with a new collegiate record, a world-leading time and two broken UA records.
After losing his collegiate record two weeks ago senior All-American Alistair Cragg reclaimed the NCAA 3,000-meter record in front of a hometown crowd when he posted a blazing time of 7:38.59 in a loaded field of professional runners. Cragg’s previous record of 7:45.22 was broken on Jan. 31, at the Boston Indoor Games when Michigan’s Nick Willis clocked a 7:44.90. Cragg was originally supposed to be in that race, so breaking the new record by six seconds added an exclamation point to his performance. His time was also the fourth fastest run in the world this year.
“Alistair’s performance was phenomenal,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “For a guy who has run on only two relays, it was just tremendous. Four weeks from now at nationals he’ll be five seconds faster. We haven’t even started our speed work yet. If he’s healthy at NCAA’s he’ll be pretty tough to beat. Beating a record by six seconds is quite a feat.”
David Lelei of Kenya served as the pacesetter for the event and Cragg rode comfortably behind the leader. After Lelei stepped off the track Cragg took the lead, with Boaz Cheboiywo and former Razorback Daniel Lincoln trailing close behind. Cheboiywo took the lead with two laps left and took the tape (7:38.30), while Cragg garnered runner-up honors.
“I tried to move up to keep the pace up,” Cragg said. “It’s hard to run a race like this with former arch rivals and not wanting to win, but running for time. There was a good energy out there and it was fun. I was glad to have guys that fast to run with.”
For the second day in a row sophomore Tyson Gay broke his own UA record as he clocked a world-leading time of 20.64 in the 200-meter dash. He registered his previous record of 20.73 at the Razorback Invitational on Jan. 23. Besides running a world-leading time Gay beat a very impressive field that included defending NCAA champion Leo Bookman, 2001 World 200-meter Champion Shawn Crawford and 2001 USA Champion Coby Miller.
“I was a little winded at the end,” Gay said. “The start felt good. I just ran as hard as I could. I was aware of the competition, but Coach Brauman just told me to run, so I don’t let it get into my mind.”
The highly anticipated mile run capped off the day as Razorback fans had the opportunity to see senior All-American and NCAA mile champion Chris Mulvaney go head to head against a world-class field. Mulvaney earned an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 3:59.72 to take fifth place, while second world-ranked Paul Korir of Kenya captured the title with a Randal Tyson Track Center record of 3:53.26.
Senior All-American Michael Thomas took to the track once more in the 60-meter hurdles and grabbed seventh place with a provisional time of 7.75. Thomas had already gained an automatic qualification of 7.69 in the prelims of the event on Friday night.
The distance medley relay was one of the first events of the day for Arkansas with freshman Sam Vazquez, senior Maurice Bridges, freshman Ryan Botha and junior Michael Taylor running for the Hogs. Vazquez turned in a split of 2:55.70 in the first leg and handed off to Bridges for the 400-meter portion. Bridges ran a split time of 47.1 and as he passed the baton to Botha Arkansas was in fourth place. Botha maintained position in the 1,200 leg with a time of 1:49.7. Taylor anchored the team with a 3:59.80 and brought them up to second place for a final automatic time of 9:32.90.
Junior James Hatch had a second chance to earn an auto time in the 800 meters after he was unable to finish the race on Friday night, but ended up finishing eighth (1:50.58).
With six automatic and nine provisional qualifications under their belts the Razorbacks will enjoy a week off as they prepare for the Southeastern Conference Championships on Feb. 27-29, in Lexington, Ky. They will be in search of their 12th SEC indoor crown and 24th conference title since 1979.
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