FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 12 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team picked up its fourth NCAA automatic qualifier Saturday afternoon by way of Duncan Phillips in the mile at the Flotrack Husky Classic at Dempsey Indoor in Seattle, Wash. The Razorbacks have now secured spots at the NCAA Championships in the mile, long jump, triple jump and distance-medley relay.
Running in the final and fastest heat of the event, Phillips crossed in a personal-best time of 3:58.82 to finish sixth overall. His performance also marks the first sub-4:00 mile of his Razorback career. Phillips was one of four collegiate competitors in the race to collect the qualifying time. Entering the day, the NCAA mark of 3:59 had only been reached by five athletes.
In other distance action, Eric Fernandez shaved nearly 12 seconds off his personal best in the 5,000 meters to finish 14th overall. He posted a time of 13:53.48, improving upon his previous best of 14:05.45 set last season at the SEC Championships. The effort by Fernandez projects to a top-20 national spot in the event. Entering the weekend, only four runners had reached the automatic qualifier of 13:47.
Phillips joins Tarik Batchelor as the two Razorbacks with clinched placement in two events at the NCAA Championships to be held March 11-12 in College Station, Texas. Phillips ran the anchor leg for Arkansas’ distance-medley relay that had a time 9:30.85 at the Razorback Invitational two weekends ago. He also has a top-10 time in the 800 meters this season. With his early season results, Batchelor will advance to the national meet in the long jump and triple jump.
In Fayetteville, the team concluded competition at the Tyson Invitational Saturday evening at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. In the process, Arkansas improved its NCAA standing in several events. The Razorbacks will now transition into the championship section of the 2011 indoor season.
"Overall, this weekend I think we improved as a team," assistant coach Doug Case said. "Our sprinters made some big moves this weekend in the 200 and 400 meters. We ran a really good 4×400 with one of our kids being sick. We’re going to get better in that event. That will be a strong point for us once we get that rolling. Sam (Ewing) also had a good day in the pole vault. The jumps were good for us, as usual, so we had a good overall weekend."
In the first event of the day, Marek Niit and LaShawn Butler ran to top-10 finishes in the 200 meters. Niit was seventh overall with a time of 21.02, while Butler clocked a time of 21.18, good for 10th place. Coupled with his showing in the 400 meters Friday, Niit finishes the weekend with two top-10 individual performances. Cobi Hamilton finished 23rd overall with a time of 21.50.
Sam Ewing had a big breakthrough during the college section of the pole vault. The Glenwood, Ark., native finished second on jumps with a collegiate personal-best clearance of 16-6.75. He had a previous best of 15-1. Ewing and Cody Klein of Illinois both cleared the mark but Klein had two fewer misses. Multi-event specialists Kevin Lazas and Terry Prentice finished ninth and 11th, respectively, with Prentice posting a personal-best mark of 14-7.25.
Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay quartet of Ben Skidmore, Neill Braddy, Chris Bilbrew and Niit put together a time of 3:08.68, a season-best clocking for the Razorbacks. The team’s previous best mark came last weekend at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational when the same group had a time of 3:09.08.
In his season debut at home, Brede Raa Ellingsen cleared the first two heights in two attempts during the college section of the high jump. He shut it down after the second clearance, passing on all further attempts and finishing with a mark of 6-6.75 in seventh place. Dwayne Golbek followed in eighth place with an identical clearance.
In the first relay action of the weekend, the Razorbacks had a third-place showing in the distance-medley relay. The foursome of Rick Elliott, Leoman Momoh, Omar Abdi and Scott Gillespie combined for a time of 9:54.39. Arkansas already owns an NCAA automatic qualifier in the event with Bryan Cantero, Bilbrew, Dey Tuach and Phillips running 9:30.85 two weekends ago at the Razorback Invitational.
Cameron Efurd had a ninth-place finish in the college section of the 3,000 meters. He crossed in a time of 8:47.29. Layne Nixon was 10th in the invitational section of the 3,000 meters with his clocking of 8:25.15.
In competition at the Walker Pavilion, Marlon Dwyer was Arkansas’ top performer in the shot put. He had a day’s best toss of 43-1, good for 11th place. Also competing in the event, Lazas (12th), Prentice (16th) and Matt Kirbos (15th) continued their preparation for multi-event duties. Raymond Higgs had a 13th-place result in the invitational section of the high jump. The freshman posted a 6-10.75 clearance.
During the meet, the newly resurfaced track at the Randal Tyson Track Center was recognized as "The Home to the Fastest Indoor Track in the World" in a ceremony with University of Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long, Mondo representative Kirk Sandifer and members of the Razorback track and field coaching staffs.
This weekend’s competition is the final preparation for the Arkansas prior to the 2011 SEC Championships which will be held Feb. 25-27 at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. For more details and continued coverage, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Download: Tyson Results, Compiled.pdf