FAYETTEVILLE – Freshman Kevin Lazas set the school record in the heptathlon Saturday afternoon as the No. 12 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team closed out competition of the Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The Razorbacks finished the two-day event with two more NCAA automatic-qualifying marks.
"We’re really pleased with our weekend against this field of teams," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "We’re entering the midway point of the season and this meet came at the right time. The format of the meet was perfect. Talking with the other coaches, everything came off just right, almost flawlessly, and that produced some good performances."
In the completion of the heptathlon, Lazas turned in a school-record performance to come away with third place. Over the course of two days, he totaled 5,509 points to surpass the previous mark of 5,350 points set by teammate Terry Prentice at last year’s Razorback Invitational. Prentice and Matt Kirbos finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the seven-event competition. Prentice’s point total of 5,484 is also better than the mark he set a season ago. Kirbos established a new personal best with his 5,201-point total.
Marek Niit was the runner-up in the 400 meters with a time of 46.76, the second-fastest time in the nation this season. It was the first collegiate open 400-meter race for the sophomore sprinter. Niit was Arkansas’ top runner in the event with Ben Skidmore coming in at fifth, Travis Southard in 17th, Hunter Bourke in 23rd and Cory Kocurek in 29th place. Skidmore and Southard finished the race with times of 47.37 and 48.81, a personal-best showing. The 4×400-meter relay team of Skidmore, Niit, Chris Bilbrew and Neill Braddy finished third in that event with a 3:09.16, a season-best time.
In the invitational 800 meters, Dey Tuach picked up a second-place result in a time of 1:48.70, the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season. The race marked his Razorback debut in the event. Drew Butler ran to a fifth-place finish in 1:49.87, a personal best, and Bilbrew clocked a 1:49.95 and crossed in sixth position.
Tarik Batchelor notched his second NCAA qualifier in the triple jump on his way to a third-place result. On his final attempt of the day, he went out to 53-4.25 to secure his position in the event. In the only other men’s field event of the day, Justin Holmes placed 12th in the weight throw with a day’s best of 51-0. The event was held at the Walker Pavilion.
In the invitational run of the 3,000 meters, Eric Fernandez was fifth in a time of 7:59.30, one of five competitors to finish under the eight-minute mark. Lane Boyer and Solomon Haile recorded top-15 finishes with clockings of 8:10.54 and 8:11.56, good for ninth and 13th place, respectively. Arkansas’ final runner in the event was Layne Nixon who had a time of 8:37.66.
Bryan Cantero, running his first collegiate mile, was fourth place in the invitational division. He crossed in a time of 4:03.77. Thomas Cattin-Masson had a time of 4:06.57 to finish in seventh. Duncan Phillips (14th, 4:115.49), Rick Elliott (15th, 4:18.12) and Cameron Efurd (16th, 4:23.62) rounded the Razorbacks participants.
The Razorbacks picked up a victory in the open mile by way of Scott Gillespie who posted a time of 4:12.96 to outdistance the competition. In the open division of the 800 meters, Omar Abdi clocked a personal-best 1:51.96, good for a third-place result. Jordan Bryant also had a personal best in the 800 meters, crossing the line in a time of 1:55.65.
In the semifinal round of the 60 meters, LaShawn Butler finished 15th overall in the qualifying heats with a time of 6.90, the second-fastest time of his career. He did not advance to Saturday’s final. Michael Golden finished 11th place in the open race of the 3,000 meters. The sophomore crossed in a time of 8:45.79.
"We’re pleased that the track performed like it did," Bucknam said. "The main thing we wanted to do was make things fair for all the student-athletes, not just ourselves. We wanted to create an environment where all the kids could perform and you saw the results with all the national qualifiers."
With a competition field that featured eight teams ranked in the nation’s top 25, the Razorback Invitational saw several NCAA seasonal bests and qualifying marks. All told, the 11-team field (men’s and women’s) combined to post 23 automatic qualifiers-20 individual and three relays.
The Razorbacks return to action Feb. 4-5 with the New Balance Collegiate Invitational at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York. The two-day completion will mark Arkansas’ first away meet of the season. For more details and continued coverage, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.