FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 15 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team closed out their 2011 home slate Friday evening with the Arkansas Twilight at John McDonnell Field. The Razorbacks collected four event wins during the day, including a top-three national performance by Marek Niit in the 200 meters. Friday’s meet was the team’s final preparation for next week’s conference meet.
"We had an outstanding day," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "The weather was beautiful. The facility, once again, proves its worth and shows how fast it is. I know we talk about having the fastest track indoors but this track (at John McDonnell Field) is phenomenal. We got some things done, and we needed to because we’ve been in a lot of relay events and on the road. It was nice to be able to stay at home and hit some open races. We needed those times because those kids have been running on relays and hadn’t really established themselves in these open events."
The Razorbacks opened action on the track with a victory in the 4×100-meter relay. The sprint foursome of Caleb Cross, Neil Braddy, LaShawn Butler and Niit clocked in with a time of 39.47, a season-best time. The same group ran 39.57 earlier this season at the Arkansas Spring Invitational.
Later in the competition, Niit ran to a win in the 200 meters. He posted a time of 20.46, a personal best, the top time in the SEC and the No. 3 effort this season in the NCAA based on times entering the weekend. LaShawn Butler also posted a career best in the race with a 20.68 performance, a top-20 national time this year.
Arkansas swept the top two spots in the 400 meters with Ben Skidmore and Travis Southard separated by just .03 seconds atop the standings. Skidmore took the tape in a personal-best time of 46.64 while Southard posted a time of 46.67 in the first open 400 meters of his career. Leoman Momoh rounded out the Razorbacks’ efforts with a fifth-place finish in a personal-best time of 47.54.
In the finals of the 110-meter hurdles, Cross surpassed his collegiate best with a 13.78 effort, good for third place. Teammate Andrew Pennington was sixth overall with a time of 14.44. Cross equaled his previous best of 13.90 in the prelims to qualify second, while Pennington ran 14.40 and advanced to the finals with a seventh-place finish in the qualifying heats. Cross’ all-time best time of 13.56 came at the World Junior Championships last summer with the hurdles set at junior height.
The team collected two more personal-best performances by way of Pennington and Hunter Bourke in the 400-meter hurdles. Pennington raced to the win in a time of 52.20, surpassing his previous best of 53.06 set earlier this year at Texas Relays. Bourke finished third and posted a time of 52.32, nearly a second ahead of his previous best run last season at the SEC Championships.
Chris Bilbrew was Arkansas’ top performer in the 800 meters with a fifth-place finish. The Razorback senior crossed in a time of 1:49.82. He was followed by Omar Abdi, who finished seventh in a time of 1:52.15 and Georg Eberhardt, who clocked in at 1:56.50.
In the team’s first result of the day, Justin Holmes turned in a runner-up effort in the discus. During the fifth round of throws, the Razorback junior got the disc out to a 159-9 mark. Arkansas’ trio of decathletes, Kevin Lazas, Terry Prentice and Matt Kirbos, finished sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, beginning a long day in preparation for next week’s conference meet.
Prentice was fourth in the javelin with a throw of 151-9, a personal best. Dwayne Golbek finished second in the high jump. The Razorback freshman had a personal-best clearance of 6-11.
Stuart Sparks finished sixth in the pole vault with a day’s best clearance of 15-3.5, while Prentice returned to the competition arena with a personal-best mark of 14-9.5 and an eighth-place finish.
In the final event of day for the Razorbacks, Patrick Russell ran to fifth place in the 1,500 meters. The Arkansas senior finished in a time of 3:47.93, while teammate Scott Gillespie crossed in 3:55.89, good for 11th place.
"Today was a big boost for us going into SECs next week," Bucknam said. "The weather broke after we’d been fighting it for a while. We proved that we’re a good, well-rounded team. Now we hope to be in contention next week for an SEC title."
The Razorbacks now enter the championship portion of their 2011 outdoor season. The SEC Championships will be held May 12-15 at the Spec Towns Track in Athens, Ga. The remainder of the season also includes the NCAA West Prelims (May 26-28) in Eugene, Ore., and the NCAA Championships (June 8-11) in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information and continued coverage, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Download: Arkansas Twilight Final Results.pdf