EUGENE, Ore. – The No. 7 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team secured two more national spots Friday at the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. The Razorbacks added Brede Raa Ellingsen in the high jump and Rick Elliott in the 3,000-meter steeplechase to its list of qualifiers for the NCAA Championships. The team also advanced two runners to the quarterfinal round of the 200 meters.
"I’m really happy for Brede and Rick," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "(The steeplechase) was a good way to end the day. We also had our two guys in the 200 meters move on to the quarters. I’m just happy for Rick because he’s working really hard. He had a breakthrough at the conference meet, scoring in the steeplechase and 5,000 (meters). It’s nice to see him get to that next level like he did today."
With an NCAA berth on the line in the final event of the day, Elliott turned in a personal-best performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Razorback junior finished fourth in heat one and navigated the barrier-laden track in a time of 8:52.70, nearly a second faster than his previous best. Elliott had the fastest at-large time after heat one and had to wait out the final two races to see how it stood. One runner from each of the next two heats ran a faster at-large time but Elliott held on for the final spot to Des Moines.
The Razorbacks picked up their first national qualifier of the day, and third of the weekend, with Ellingsen in the high jump. Competing to make the top 12, he finished the day with a final clearance of 2.14m (7-0.25). With the field already pared down to the final 12, it was the final height of the competition. After finishing just out of position last year, Ellingsen will be making his debut at the NCAA Championships this season.
In the opening round of the 200 meters, LaShawn Butler and Marek Niit finished sixth and seventh overall, respectively. Running in heats four and five, both Razorback sprinters clocked in with an identical time of 21.06 to ease into the quarterfinal heats; Butler won his heat and Niit finished second in his. Saturday’s quarterfinal heats are scheduled to begin at 2:50 p.m. (PT).
Caleb Cross opened action on the track with a sixth-place place finish in heat five of the 110-meter hurdles. The Razorback sophomore finished in a time of 14.37 to finish 30th overall among the runners in the opening round, but he will not advance to the next round. Cross is scheduled to return to the track Saturday as a leg of Arkansas 4×100-meter relay.
In the quarterfinal round of the 400 meters, Ben Skidmore clocked a time of 47.29 to finish seventh in heat two. He finished 19th overall among the 24 competitors and will not advance to the national meet in the event. Skidmore could return to the track Saturday as part of one of the Razorbacks’ relays.
Saturday’s schedule for the Arkansas men is set to feature the completion of qualifying in the 200 meters, 1,500 meters and 110-meter hurdles. The Razorbacks will also have final qualifying opportunities in the 5,000 meters, 4×100 and 4×400 relays, discus and triple jump. Log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com for continued meet-day coverage, including live results and interactive blog.
NCAA Championship qualifiers (top 12 in each event)High Jump5. Brede Raa Ellingsen, 7-0.25 (2.14m)
Steeplechase12. Rick Elliott, 8:52.70
Long Jump – from Friday3. Tarik Batchelor, 25-4 (7.72m)7. Raymond Higgs, 25-1.25 (7.65m)