Cragg to Make Outdoor Season Debut as Arkansas
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – This weekend the top-ranked Razorbacks will making their 20th trip to Philadelphia, Pa., for the Penn Relays and are top contenders in many of the relay events they are entered in. Arkansas will hope to dominate with the help of senior Alistair Cragg who will be making his outdoor season debut. Cragg is set to serve as the anchor legs for the distance medley and 4xmile relay teams.
“The focus this weekend are the relays,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We’re fielding good teams in the distance medley, sprint medley, 4×800 and the 4xmile. We should be pretty competitive in all of them. If we win three I’d be tickled and we’ll be facing good competition with Georgetown, Villanova, Michigan and Stanford. The distance medley relay is the biggest; the fans at the Penn Relays really make a big deal out of it. They have a lot of respect for us up there. We go there to run and make it entertaining. The fans are great.”
The open distance events will kick off the 110th running of the Penn Relays on Thursday night. Five Hogs will be looking for regional qualifying times in the 5,000 meters, including sophomores Luis Bordes, Eric Gross and Matt Gunn and freshmen Josh Harper and Mike Poe. Freshman Adam Perkins is set to make his first attempt at the 3,000-meter steeplechase and try to fill a void with this year’s absence of NCAA champion steeplechaser Daniel Lincoln.
The much anticipated distance medley relay is scheduled for Friday afternoon, with the Razorbacks looking to redeem them selves after finishing in a close second place last year to Michigan. The Wolverines also claimed the DMR title at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships, while the Hogs had to take runner-up honors once more. It is sure to be a close and exciting race and McDonnell will be able to cherry pick from a field of All-Americans including, seniors Chris Mulvaney and Cragg, juniors Said Ahmed, Terry Gatson and James Hatch and freshman Sam Vazquez.
The sprint medley relay is also set to take place on Friday with Gatson, Hatch, sophomore Omar Brown and freshman Wallace Spearmon ready to handle baton duties for a possible Arkansas victory.
For Saturday Arkansas has teams entered in the 4×100, 4×200 and the 4×400-meter relays, but will wait until the team arrives in the city of brotherly love to decide which events it will definitely field a team. UA has the luxury of choosing from several top sprinters making the trip, including seniors Maurice Bridges and Michael Thomas, Brown and freshmen Creighton Kiper and Spearmon.
Besides contributing to the various relay teams Thomas will compete in the 110-meter hurdles and Kiper will line up in the 100-meter dash. Bridges and sophomore Brad Dittoe will see action in the 400-meter hurdles.
The 4xmile relay team will look to successfully defend and capture its 18th title in 22 years with a team comprised of two national champions. Vazquez has been added to the team and will be joining last year’s winners, Ahmed, Cragg and Mulvaney. Ahmed, Mulvaney and Vazquez will also take to the track in the 4×800-meter relay, with Hatch coming on as the fourth participant. UA has only won two 4×800-meter relay crowns in 19 years and wants to establish a new winning streak in the event.
In field events action senior Jeremy Scott will compete in only his second meet during the outdoor season in the pole vault. The Penn Relays will serve as a homecoming for the Norfolk, Neb., native who attended Allegheny College in Pennsylvania during his undergraduate career. Junior P.J. Brown will also represent UA in the pole vault.
After rehabbing from knee surgery during the indoor season, junior Jaanus Uudmae will see competition for the first time since the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the long and triple jumps on Franklin Field. Freshman Greg Martin will also go for good marks in the long and high jumps.
After the Hogs return from the Penn Relays several distance runners will travel to Palo Alto, Calif., for the Cardinal Invitational on April 30-May 1, before taking a week off to rest in order to prepare for the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Oxford, Miss., on May 13-16.
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