ATHENS, Ga. – The No. 11 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team is in first place at the end of day two of the 2011 SEC Outdoor Championships at Spec Towns Track in Athens, Ga. The Razorbacks have collected 26 points though the first three scored events of the weekend. During Friday’s competition, Arkansas picked up 14 points in the decathlon, led by a runner-up performance by Kevin Lazas, and 12 points in the 10,000 meters on the heels of a second-place effort from Eric Fernandez.
Friday’s schedule also featured the first rounds of preliminary heats on the track. The Razorbacks picked up four qualifiers in the 800 meters, two qualifiers in the 200 meters and one qualifier in the 400-meter hurdles. All of those finals will be run Sunday on the final day of the conference meet.
"I was really pleased with how we finished the day," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "There have only been three events scored out of 21 but we’re already about seven points ahead of where we thought we would be at this point. That means something good happened in the decathlon. We got a great effort from our decathletes with all three of them scoring. That really kicked it off for us and then we had a solid effort in the 10K, so we’re off to a good start."
The Razorbacks racked up 14 points toward their team total with a 2-5-7 performance in the decathlon, led by Lazas. He finished second overall in the two-day, 10-event competition with 7,703 points. The point total is both the junior American record and an improvement on his own school mark set earlier this season at the John McDonnell Invitational. Arkansas’ trio was rounded out by Terry Prentice in fifth place with 7,199 points and Matt Kirbos in seventh with 6,887 points. This marks the first time Prentice has eclipsed the 7,000-point barrier and is also a personal-best effort for Kirbos.
Arkansas closed out its day with 12 points in the 10,000 meters with Fernandez in second place at 29:56.21 and Cameron Efurd in fifth with a time of 30:47.16; Efurd was making his debut at the distance. Brett Richardson of Georgia opened an early lead but the chase pack-Fernandez and Efurd included-reeled him in to make the race closer. The Razorbacks were one of three teams to have two scorers in the races but were the highest-scoring duo to push Arkansas into the team lead.
In the preliminary round of the 200 meters, the team qualified both their entries with Marek Niit and LaShawn Butler running the second- and sixth-fastest times, respectively. Both Razorbacks ran to automatic berths by winning their respective heat. Running in heat three, Niit posted a personal best and Estonian national record of 20.44, knocking .02 seconds off his previous best. Butler responded by winning the next heat with a personal-best effort of his own. The Razorback senior won heat four in 20.67.
Arkansas racked up four qualifiers in the first running prelim of the meet. Chris Bilbrew was the third overall performer in the qualifying rounds in the 800 meters. He led the Razorbacks’ foursome that included Leoman Momoh, Dorian Ulrey and Duncan Phillips. Of the four runners, Phillips was the only automatic qualifier with his win in heat three. The rest of the Razorbacks finished second in their respective heats and qualified based on their times.
Andrew Pennington qualified for the first SEC final of his career with a seventh-place overall finish in the prelims of the 400-meter hurdles. The Razorback junior finished third in heat three in a time of 52.86, the last at-large qualifier for Sunday’s final. Travis Southard finished 10th overall during the qualifying rounds. He finished with a time of 54.17 in the second heat but did not advance.
Competition at the SEC Championships gets started Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT) with the long jump. Other conference champions will be named in the steeplechase, javelin and shot put. The Razorbacks’ Tarik Batchelor and Raymond Higgs will contend for the long jump title while Rick Elliott will compete in the steeplechase. The schedule also features a full slate of preliminary action.
For live results and interactive blog, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com. In addition to meet coverage at the Razorbacks’ website, the conference meet will be streamed live at ESPN3.com Saturday from 3-5:30 p.m. (CT) and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. A tape-delay broadcast of the SEC Championships will be aired May 25 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.