Razorbacks Claim NCAA 4×100-Meter Relay Crown;
BY ANDRES FOCIL
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The top-ranked Razorbacks came out on the third day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships hitting on all cylinders and showed why they are the team to beat in front of a crowd of 7,043. In a matter of 35 minutes the Hogs racked up 32 points, propelling them into the lead, and claimed the school’s first 4×100-meter relay national title in a school record time of 38.49.
Florida sits in second place with 23 points, while Virginia Tech is in third with 21 points. Boise State and Florida State rounded out the top five in a tie with 18 points each.
“That’s what we had to do today, because we had important people running today,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “I knew we had to win that relay,” McDonnell said. “Those four kids are super. To win that event is amazing, because there are so many variables and things that can go wrong. I’m just happy for those guys.”
The 4×100-meter relay was one of the most anticipated races of the weekend, with the current NCAA leader Arizona State in lane three, Arkansas in lane four and defending national and league champion Florida in lane five.
UA’s team was loaded with talent, including two sub-20 200-meter runners, and they were ready to prove they deserved to be the best. Freshman two-sport athlete Michael Grant ran a solid opening leg before he handed off to sophomore Wallace Spearmon Jr. Spearmon sped down the straight-away, staying on pace with the Gators.
Senior Tyson Gay took the third leg and ran superbly around the turn, while making up ground on Florida. When Gay passed the stick to senior Omar Brown for the anchor he was one step ahead of Gator Kyle Farmer. That one step proved crucial as Brown held off world indoor 400-meter record holder Kerron Clement for the victory. Florida’s second-place time was 38.54, while Tennessee was third with 38.83.
“We deserved to win this,” Brown said. “We’ve had some injury problems, but everyone is healthy and we got the win. It’s a great feeling to come up here and break a record. I could feel Kerron Clement on me at the end, but I kept my composure and just ran.”
“I felt confident we were going to win,” Gay said. “I was running for my life, because it looked like Florida was winning and I started to tighten up. I relaxed and tried to get Omar the stick. Once he had it I knew he’d get the win.”
The Razorbacks’ final school-record time of 38.49 was the ninth-fastest collegiate time ever and was a Hornet Stadium record. The former venue record of 38.65 was recorded by LSU at the 2003 NCAA meet, while the previous UA school record (38.81) had stood for 20 years, before this same group broke it with a 38.75 at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships.
The win also marked the first time since Clyde Scott won the 110-meter hurdles in 1948 that a football player has won a national event title in track.
“I’m pretty excited, I almost speechless,” Arkansas sprints coach Lance Brauman said. “The exchanges weren’t perfect, but we got it around the track. We’re setting things up and got 10 points for the team. They wanted to win real badly.”
The 3,000-meter steeplechase was the next scoring opportunity for Arkansas and sophomore Peter Kosgei was preparing to run in his third race in three days. On Thursday night he finished third in the 10,000 meters and was entering the steeplechase with the fastest preliminary time of 8:32.97 from Wednesday night.
Kosgei ran in the third position for most of the race, but surged on the final straight-away to take second place with a career-best time of 8:29.13. Third place went to North Carolina State’s Andy Smith (8:29.66), while UTEP’s Mircea Bogdan won with a time of 8:27.29. Kosgei is now third on UA’s all-time top 10 list and has a total of four All-America honors to his name.
“I was hoping Peter would get at least third place, because he said his legs were tired this morning and that had me worried,” McDonnell said. “Every time he runs I admire him more. He’s quite a runner to come back after that 10K last night and he’s only a sophomore.”
Five additional points were gained by junior Eric Brown in the javelin when he registered a fourth-place showing for his second-career All-America honor. Brown’s best throw of 232-02 came on his sixth and final attempt, but was not enough to move him into third.
At last year’s national meet Brown recorded a then personal best throw of 246-03 on his last attempt to move from eighth to third. Dartmouth’s Sean Furey was third with a mark of 242-03, while Gabriel Wallin took top honors with his first throw of 258-05.
In the pole vault senior P.J. Brown was hoping to finish in scoring position for a first-career All-America honor, but tied for 10th place after he missed his first attempt at the opening height of 16-10.75.
In preliminary action two UA athletes will have their chance to compete in the finals thanks to their quality performance on Friday night. Senior Jaanus Uudmae was fourth in his heat of the triple jump with a mark of 53-0.25 and was seventh overall. The finals are scheduled for Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Senior Terry Gatson put up a career-best time of 44.93 in the semifinals of the 400 meters to automatically advance to the finals on Saturday at 6 p.m. The school indoor record holder is now second on UA’s all-time outdoor top 10 list. Gatson finished second in his heat behind Olympic gold medalist Darold Williamson (44.27) of Baylor.
Saturday is the final day of competition at the NCAA Championships and it is shaping up well for Arkansas. Seven Razorbacks will be vying for points in hopes of claiming the program’s 12th national outdoor crown and 41st NCAA title. The 400 meters is the first running event at 6 p.m. and the 1,500 meters with sophomore Adam Perkins will follow at 6:20 p.m. The triple jump is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. A trio of Hog sprinters, including Brown, Gay and Spearmon will grace the 200-meter dash at 7:15 p.m. and the 5,000 meters will wrap up the meet at 8:05 p.m. with junior Josphat Boit.
* – All times are listed for the pacific time zone.
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