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Men’s track wins SEC Championship

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Men’s track wins SEC Championship

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Propelled by four individual and relay titles, Arkansas Razorback men’s track and field won the 2009 SEC Indoor Championship in Lexington, Ky. on Sunday.

The championship win is Arkansas’ 92nd overall (cross country, indoor and outdoor), 28th conference (SWC and SEC) indoor title and 16th SEC indoor title. Arkansas took the title with 130 points. Florida finished second with 102 points and Tennessee was third with 78 points.

"What an incredible win for this team," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "I couldn’t be more proud. We had guys pull through today and it was incredible to see everyone step to the line and get the job done. J-Mee Samuels really got us started today with his runner-up finish in the 60. Alex McClary had a great meet and he really took this team on his back. He won the 800 meters and had a great 800-meter leg on the DMR. I can’t say enough good things about these guys right now."

Arkansas’ day started when J-Mee Samuels hit the line for the 60-meter finals. He had a near-perfect start and wowed the crowd with a runner-up finish and got the ball rolling for his teammates. His time of 6.63 replaces his previous school record and automatically qualifies him for the NCAA Championships.

Arkansas’ next event, the mile run, stunned again when the Hogs took first, second, fourth and eighth, good for 24 points. Junior Dorian Ulrey won his second SEC title of the weekend with a winning time of 3:59.77. Ulrey’s mile win is the 10th SEC mile title for Arkansas.

Sophomore Duncan Phillips earned a runner-up finish and his first All-SEC honor with a time of 4:01.30. Sophomore Michael Chinchar finished fourth (4:03.52) and freshman Rick Elliott was eighth (4:08.33). Phillips, Chinchar and Elliott clocked personal bests while Phillips and Chinchar also hit NCAA provisional times.

The 5,000 meters produced 12 points for Arkansas as seniors Shawn Forrest and James Strang finished second and fifth, respectively. Forrest, earning his second All-SEC honor of the weekend and the seventh of his career, clocked a time of 13:46.26. Strang ran a time of 14:05.04, good for an NCAA provisional mark.

Alex McClary ran his first great race of the weekend in the 800-meter finals. Jockeying for good position, McClary made his move just before the final turn and out-kicked the pack to take the tape. He clocked a time of 1:49.37 to win Arkansas’ fifth SEC 800-meter title.

"It was a little bit nerve-wracking going into the race but I knew I needed to step up for the team because not everything always goes perfectly," McClary said. "I don’t know if I was supposed to win but I knew I needed to do the best for my team. I stayed at the front and brought it home in the end."

The 200 meters produced 12 points as freshman Marek Niit and Samuels finished second and fifth, respectively. Niit clocked a time of 20.90 and Samuels a 20.98. Both improved their NCAA times and Niit’s time is the sixth-fastest in school history.

After a runner-up finish in the mile, Phillips anchored the distance medley relay to a triumphant win. Chinchar (1,200 meters, 3:01), freshman Jake Stephens (400 meters, 47.7), McClary (800 meters, 1:50.5) and Phillips (mile, 4:08) combined for a time of 9:47.31. The quartet earned 10 points and gave the Hogs a 127-92 lead over Florida going into the final event of the day, the 4×400-meter relay.

Arkansas ended on a high note as the mile relay picked up a sixth-place finish. Freshman Ben Skidmore (47.68), freshman Travis Nollsch (48.19), Niit (47.19) and sophomore Chris Bilbrew (46.72) combined for a time of 3:10.18.

The triple jump was the one disappointing event of the day for Arkansas. Most schools would be thrilled with a second- and third-place finishes but senior Nkosinza Balumbu lost his first SEC triple jump title since the 2006 SEC Indoor Championships when he also finished second. His best mark of the day, 52-1.25, earned his seventh All-SEC honor and a runner-up finish. Freshman Tarik Batchelor finished third in the event with a jump of 50-2.75.

The Razorbacks have won a combined 92 conference crowns (41 cross country, 28 indoor and 23 outdoor). Since the Hogs joined the SEC in time for the 1991-92 season, Arkansas has won 47 of 53 league championships in the three sports. The Hogs have captured 17 of 18 cross country titles, 16 of 18 indoor crowns and 14 of 17 outdoor championships in that time span. The Razorbacks have won the last five SEC Indoor team titles and 12 of the last 13 including a seven-season streak (1997-2003).

Since joining the SEC for the 1992 championships, Arkansas has won 14 of 18 5,000-meter races, 11 of 18 3,000-meter runs, nine of 18 mile runs and 10 of 18 triple jump competitions. Additionally, the Hogs have brought home 12 of 16 distance medley relays contested since the event was added to the conference meet in 1994.

For complete results, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com. The 2009 SEC Indoor Championships show will air on FSN on Sun., March 8 at 2:30 p.m. (CST).



Sports Category : Track & Field (M)