FAYETTEVILLE – In its final home indoor meet of the season, the No. 3 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team posted a handful of season-best marks at the Arkansas Last Chance meet at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The Razorbacks picked up three event wins Friday evening in the 800 meters, 3,000 meters and long jump.
"I think we’re in good shape (heading into NCAA Championships)," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "We saw bright spots all across the board. Overall, we had a good meet today. Our guys are encouraged about next week and the opportunity to go compete for a national championship."
Raymond Higgs posted a winning mark of 25-3.5 to come away with the top spot in the long jump. The distance is the second-best mark of the season for the Razorback freshman. Nii Ayi finished sixth in the competition with a jump of 23-4.75, a season-best measurement. Higgs is currently No. 14 in the NCAA in the long jump with his mark of 25-6 earlier this season at the Tyson Invitational.
Higgs returned later in the meet to finish second in the high jump. He cleared a season-best height of 7-1, matching the effort of Marcus Jackson of Mississippi State but with more misses during the competition, he was the runner-up. Higgs had jumped 7-0.5 on two previous occasions this season, most recently at the SEC Championships.
Scott Gillespie turned in a personal-best performance in the mile. The sophomore distance runner finished second in the event with a time of 4:01.33, knocking more than eight seconds off his previous best. At last year’s Arkansas-Texas Dual, Gillespie ran 4:09.42. With his result Friday, Gillespie would move into the mile’s top 30 nationally based on times entering the weekend.
"I’m really proud of Scott’s effort today," Bucknam said. "He didn’t back down from German Fernandez (of Oklahoma State) and he got in a zone. It’s tough in these last chance meets because there’s not a lot of atmosphere but he got in the mix and ran a huge PR so I’m really happy for him."
Running a season-best time in the 3,000 meters, Solomon Haile won the event ahead of teammate Lane Boyer. Haile finished the race in a time of 8:01.86, improving on his previous season best of 8:02.35 run at the UW Husky Classic in February. Boyer crossed in second place with a time of 8:18.31.
In the prelims of the 60-meter hurdles, Caleb Cross was one of three Arkansas runners to qualify for the final. He finished as the second overall qualifier with teammates Andrew Pennington and Matt Kirbos coming in at fifth and eighth, respectively. In the finals, Cross ran to a third-place finish in a time of 7.91, a season-best showing. Pennington had a time of 8.18 in the finals, good for fourth place. Multi-event specialist Kirbos had a time of 8.68 and a seventh-place result.
Chris Bilbrew led a loaded field of Razorbacks in the 800 meters. He crossed in a time of 1:49.11, a season-best. Bilbrew was followed by Leoman Momoh (third, 1:50.38), Bryan Cantero (fourth, 1:50.47), Omar Abdi (fifth, 1:50.82), Tom Cattin-Masson (sixth, 1:51.62) and Jordan Bryant (ninth, 1:55.64). Based on times entering the weekend, Bilbrew would move into the nation’s top 25 in the event with his effort Friday. Momoh and Bryant both had season-best performances.
"I was proud of Solomon’s performance," Bucknam said. "He was right on 7:54 pace with 600 meters left but he was running by himself and that’s a tough thing. Bilbrew looked good in the 800 meters. We saw what we thought would happen at the SEC meet before he fell. Caleb Cross ran a season best and he is a couple weeks behind because of an injury and that’s all it takes. He’s really battled back and we’re going to count on him outdoors. It’s nice to see him starting to run fast again."
Cory Kocurek was the team’s lone representative in the 400 meters and crossed in a season-best time of 50.02, good for 11th place overall. In the pole vault, Sam Ewing and Kevin Lazas finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Both cleared 16-2.5 with Ewing taking the higher position on fewer misses throughout the competition. In his signature event, Lazas is tied for 14th nationally in the heptathlon with his total of 5,674 points at the SEC Championships.
In the final event of the night, the foursome of Cross, Momoh, Hunter Bourke and Pennington combined for a second-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay. The Razorbacks crossed in a time of 3:14.20.
The Razorbacks return to action March 11-12 at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas. Arkansas enters next weekend with 10 automatic qualifiers spread among six student-athletes and two relays. The accepted entries list for the national meet will be announced Monday evening. For more information and continued coverage, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Download: Arkansas Last Chance results_03.04.pdf