SEATTLE, Wash. – The Arkansas Razorback men’s distance medley relay set a school record on day one of competition at the UW Invitational on Friday.
The quartet of senior Alex McClary (1,200 meters; 2:55), freshman Ben Skidmore (400 meters; 47.7), sophomore Chris Bilbrew (800 meters; 1:49) and junior Dorian Ulrey (mile, 3:54) combined for a time of 9:28.35 to win the distance medley relay.
The group’s time is an Arkansas school record, a Dempsey Indoor Track record, an NCAA automatic-qualifying mark and the national and SEC leader. The time of 9:28.35 replaces the previous school record of 9:28.78 set by Seneca Lassiter, Jeremy Huffman, Ryan Stanley and Michael Power at the Iowa State Classic in 1998.
"What I was most pleased about tonight’s performance was having to shuffle our lineup right before the race," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "Andy McClary’s ankle has been sore and we decided we need to give it another week’s rest. I was proud of how they reacted to shuffling the lineup. We had to move Alex McClary from the 800 meters to the 1,200 meters. We had to move Chris Bilbrew from the 400 meter to the 800 meters and Ben Skidmore wasn’t supposed to run until Saturday. Those guys had their minds set on different races and we had to make a change at the last minute and they responded well."
"The intent was to get an automatic qualifying time," Bucknam said. "Dorian (Ulrey) and Galen Rupp had a great race. Dorian sat on him for a little bit and ended up running a great split. I’m happy to get a school record and the win and happy for the guys who ran on that team. We fought through some adversity. We had a terrible trip here because of delays and weather and then we had to shuffle the lineup. Our guys really stepped up tonight. It speaks a lot about the character of the guys we have on the team this year. I know it’s early in the season but to put it in perspective, we beat an Oregon team that had two Olympians on it, Andrew Wheating and Galen Rupp."
Alex McClary ran a solid lead leg and led for the first 1,000 meters before being caught as the pack approached the first exchange. McClary passed to Skidmore, running on a flat indoor track for the first time in his career, who kept pace with the 400-meter runner from Washington who took the lead at the exchange. Skidmore passed to Bilbrew who battled runners from UCLA and Wheating of Oregon in the front of the pack.
Bilbrew handed off to Ulrey for the anchor and Ulrey took off about 20 meters behind Rupp, Oregon’s anchor. Rupp held a solid lead for the first 800 meters of the mile anchor but slowed down and Ulrey kept pace, slowly closing the gap. On the bell lap, Ulrey passed Rupp and held the lead to the finish line.
Ulrey’s race against Rupp Friday night was similar to last weekend’s race against German Fernandez of Oklahoma State, with Ulrey this time on the winning end. Friday’s DMR mile split of 3:54 is impressive especially considering he clocked a 3:57.66 last weekend when racing Fernandez.
"I felt really relaxed and smooth," Ulrey said. "I got into a good groove early on and just tried to stay with it. I haven’t done much fine tuning so my biggest strength is my strength, not speed or quick turnover. I’m happy to set a school record and get another automatic time."
"This was a great race atmosphere," Ulrey said. "Coming out here was a little bit of a journey for us but to finally be here competing against teams like Stanford, Oregon and Washington, it really boosted our performance. To chase a guy like Galen Rupp was a big boost for me. I knew I had to do something big today and it translated into a great race."
In the 5,000 meter run, freshman Lane Boyer ran a solid 14:16.48. He finished fourth overall and shed nearly 30 seconds off his personal best time.
"Lane’s race was very encouraging," Bucknam said. "It was a huge PR for him and he got the ball rolling for us. It was great to see him race well against some tough competition and I expect him to keep improving."
Events at the UW Invitational will resume Saturday. For complete results and more information about Arkansas track and field, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.