EUGENE, Ore. – In the midst of soggy conditions Thursday, the No. 7 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team picked up two national qualifiers in the long jump and had three runners advance to the next round of competition at the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round in Eugene, Ore. Tarik Batchelor and Raymond Higgs move on to the NCAA Championships in the long jump, while the team advanced two runners in the 1,500 meters and one in the 400 meters in front of 6,381 fans at Hayward Field.
"This meet is all about coming in and executing," assistant and jumps coach Travis Geopfert said. "That’s exactly what Tarik and Raymond did today. They knew they needed to take care of business early and that’s what they did. They were able to pass on their final jumps because they jumped well early in the first three jumps."
The Razorbacks earned their first two national qualifiers with Batchelor and Higgs in the long jump. The two entered the three-round final already in position to advance. Competing in flight four, Batchelor posted a day’s best mark of 25-4 to qualify third overall and Higgs got out to a best of 25-1.25, good for seventh in the qualifying rounds. With their positions at the NCAA Championships already secured, the two Arkansas jumpers passed on their final three jumps.
In the 1,500 meters, Duncan Phillips and Dorian Ulrey moved safely into the next round of competition. Phillips finished second in heat two and 19th overall with a time of 3:47.99, while Ulrey finished third, also in heat two, and 20th overall with a time of 3:48.08. The quarterfinal heats of the 1,500 meters are scheduled for Saturday at 1:45 p.m. (PT).
Arkansas picked up a quarterfinalist in the 400 meters with Ben Skidmore. The Razorback junior finished second in heat two with a time of 47.20 to secure an automatic spot in the next round. The quarterfinal rounds will begin Friday at 4:05 p.m. Travis Southard was the tough-luck runner left out. He finished the opening round with the 24th-fastest time but did not advance because of his finishing position in heat one.
Andrew Pennington opened the team’s action on the track with the opening round of the 400-meter hurdles. Competing in heat three, he finished sixth with a time of 53.61, good for 39th overall among the 48 participants. He does not advance to the next round of competition. Pennington closes out his outdoor campaign with a season-best of 52.20, run earlier this month at the Arkansas Twilight.
Neither of the team’s runners in the 800 meters advanced to the next round of the event. Chris Bilbrew finished just outside of an automatic spot with a fourth-place finish in heat two. The Razorback senior crossed in a time of 1:50.73, good for the 21st-fastest time of the round but he did not advance due to slower automatic qualifying times in other heats. Leoman Momoh, the Razorbacks’ other participant in the event, did not finish after a fall during his race.
In the final event of the day, Eric Fernandez finished in 15th place in the 10,000 meters. With a lap to go, the Razorback sophomore was among a packed group of runners but was out-kicked to the finish line. Fernandez finished in a time of 29:29.91 and will not advance to the NCAA Championships. He will return to the track Saturday for the 5,000 meters.
Friday’s schedule for Arkansas’ men is set to feature the conclusion of qualifying in the 400 meters, 800 meters and 400-meter hurdles, in addition to final qualifying in the steeplechase and high jump. Competition is set to begin in the 200 meters and 110-meter hurdles. Log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com for continued meet-day coverage, including live results and interactive blog.
NCAA Championship qualifiers (top 12 in each event)Long Jump3. Tarik Batchelor, 25-4 (7.72m)7. Raymond Higgs, 25-1.25 (7.65m)