GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Senior Jimmy Duke sits in ninth place after the first day of heptathlon competition at the 2006 Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Duke tallied 2,737 points in four events on Friday and trails eighth-place Kayne Dakoski (2,739) of Florida by only two points. Tennessee’s Chris Helwick leads the heptathlon after the first day with 3,239 points.
The competition began with the 55-meter dash while the remainder of the day consisted of field events with the long jump, shot put and high jump. Duke was the only athlete to compete for Arkansas on Friday.
“Jimmy had a good, but not a great day,” Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth said. “We came down here with the idea of trying to get a personal best in each event or at the end of the day have a personal best. He was doing OK. In the high jump, anytime Jimmy jumps 6-0 that is not a bad thing. We really thought 6-2 was it. His jump at 6-0 would have made 6-2. He is a great competitor. When he competes, he will miss twice and make it, miss twice and make it. He will fight to the end.”
Duke is attempting to improve on his eighth-place finish in last year’s SEC Championships. He is also attempting to improve his NCAA provisional qualifying total of 5,273 points. Duke says that it will most likely take 5,350 points to make the national meet. The Ballwin, Mo., product had hoped to pick up few more points in the high jump, but came up short at 6-2.
“I wish you got credit for how high you jumped and not how high the bar is,” Duke said. “I pulled out a big jump on a jump I really needed at 6-0. I wish I could have executed on the next bar. Overall, I’m a little behind where I thought I would be, but one height in the pole vault will fix it all. The time I’m looking at for the hurdles is doable. Hopefully I can get under that and get back on track before the pole vault. I will have to fight to get into the (national) meet now.”
Duke finished seventh in the 55-meter dash in a time of 6.82 earning 778 points. He garnered fourth place and 736 points in the long jump with a leap of 21-10 3/4. Duke struggled in the shot put finishing 11th and earning 553 points with a throw of 36-05 3/4. He finished the day with an eighth-place finish among 12 competitors in the high jump clearing a top height of 6-0 3/4. He tallied 670 points in the high jump.
Duke will resume his quest for points and an NCAA qualifying total on Saturday in the 55-meter hurdles, the pole vault and the 1,000-meter run. The final two events of the heptathlon are Duke’s strongest events and could help him move up in the overall standings.
The senior says he relishes the opportunity to be the first Razorback competitor to dent the scoreboard in the conference meet.
“I like that pressure,” Duke said. “I know a lot of the guys look to me to open up the meet and put up some points starting off. I like that pressure. It’s a good pressure and I perform pretty well under it. We will have to see what happens tomorrow, because that is my stronger day.”
The conference meet begins in earnest for the rest of the Hogs on Saturday with the field events getting underway at 10 a.m. and the heptathlon slated to continue at 11 a.m. Arkansas senior Tony Ugoh will compete in the weight throw, while senior Jaanus Uudmae, junior Greg Martin and freshmen Mychael Stewart and Daniel Quinn will take the runway in the long jump.
Preliminary heats in the running events begin at 12:20 p.m. The only final slated for Saturday will come in the 3,000-meter run at 5:35 p.m. Arkansas will look to rack up big points in that event with seven competitors entered in the race. The Hogs will be led by junior Peter Kosgei and seniors Josphat Boit and Marc Rodrigues. Both Razorbacks have already earned automatic qualifying times in the 3,000. Kosgei owns the fourth-best time (7:53.48) in the nation while Boit (7:53.84) and Rodrigues (7:54.78) have garnered the fifth- and sixth-best times in the country this year.
In addition to the Hogs’ top trio, Arkansas will also send senior Eric Gross, junior Adam Perkins, sophomore Shawn Forrest and freshman Chris Barnicle to the starting line.
Arkansas is seeking to defend its SEC indoor crown this weekend and capture its 78th conference title overall in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. The Razorbacks have won 12 of 14 SEC indoor championships since entering the league in 1992 including five such titles in championship meets held in Gainesville.