FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas is atop the team standings and is in position to make a run at conference title No. 79 heading into the final day of the 2006 Southeastern Conference Track and Field Championships at John McDonnell Field. The Razorbacks added another 11 points to their ledger on Saturday and set the table for more tallies with four qualifications in the 1,500-meter run final.
With one day remaining in the conference meet, Arkansas has 47 points and holds an 11-point lead over second-place Florida (30). Tennessee (29) and LSU (26) are in third and fourth, respectively. Both the Volunteers and Tigers have plenty of firepower remaining to make a serious run at the team title.
“I like where we are right now,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We couldn’t have done much more than we have done except for Kenny Cormier falling down in the steeplechase. We have some good people that can score a lot of points (on Sunday). We almost have 50 already. I’m real pleased. I think our guys are going to be up to the challenge. We will hard to beat. But so will LSU they are having a great meet, so is Tennessee. It is going to be tough.”
The Hogs bolstered their standing with impressive performances by a trio of freshmen in the long jump and the steeplechase. Mychael Stewart sailed to a personal-best to capture fourth place and five points in the long jump. Stewart earned his top mark of 24-5 1/2 on his first attempt of the day. The Bentonville, Ark., product eclipsed his previous career best by more than one foot (23-4). Freshman Daniel Quinn netted two points for the cause with a seventh-place finish. Quinn also posted a season-best with a jump of 24-1 3/4. Junior Greg Martin narrowly missed the finals and finished 10th with a jump of 23-7 1/2.
“I am really happy,” Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth said. “I personally thought we could get eight points and we got seven. I’m very happy for Daniel and Mychael. They did a great job. That is what it is about.”
Arkansas anticipated some points out of the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Saturday night, but the Razorback that garnered them was a bit of a surprise. Freshman Scott MacPherson crossed the line in fifth place in his first career steeplechase. MacPherson recorded a time of 8:56.46 to gain All-SEC honors and tally four points.
“Scott MacPherson ran a terrific race for a freshman,” McDonnell said. “He had never run a steeplechase that was his first one. He had a lot of guts.”
Fellow freshman Kenny Cormier, who qualified for the NCAA Mideast Regional in his first steeplechase two weeks ago, led the race early and was in contention until he tripped over a barrier on the far turn. Cormier fell and was unable to regain his position. He finished 11th in a time of 9:14.43.
Arkansas improved its team stock early Saturday evening by racking up four qualifiers for Sunday’s 1,500-meter run final. Senior Josphat Boit cruised to a win in his heat to advance in a time of 3:48.37. Senior Seth Summerside earned a berth in the final by virtue of a second-place finish in his heat. Summerside clocked in at 3:47.26. Freshman Colin Costello also garnered an automatic bid with a third-place showing in his heat. Costello posted a time of 3:49.00.
Junior Adam Perkins punched his ticket to the final with a qualifying time of 3:49.26. Although he finished fourth in his heat, Perkins advanced based on his time. Saturday’s race was the first for Perkins this outdoor season. The Liberty, Mo., native has been hampered by an injury this spring.
Freshman Cedric Zellner was the Razorbacks’ lone competitor in the 100-meter dash. Zellner finished fifth in his heat and failed to advance to Sunday’s final after crossing the finish line in 10.89. Fellow freshman J-Mee Samuels didn’t compete in the event after coming up lame with cramps in the 200-meter dash on Friday night.
The final day of competition at the 2006 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships begins at Noon with the men’s discus. The women’s javelin and men’s triple jump are slated to start at 3 p.m. with the men’s pole vault scheduled for 5 p.m.
A ceremony commemorating the inaugural meet in the new John McDonnell Field will be held at 5:45 p.m. Finals of the running events will commence shortly thereafter at 6 p.m.
Tickets for the final day of the meet are available at the gate for $10 and $5 for fans 18 and under.