Razorbacks Look Forward to Tradition-Rich Penn
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – No. 1 ranked Arkansas will be making its’ 21st appearance this weekend at the 111th running of the Penn Relays. The Hogs first began competing at the historic event in 1983, but missed 2001 when they went to the Drake Relays.
When the Razorbacks travel to Philadelphia, Pa., they hope to bring back some of the coveted wagon wheels that are presented to the winning relays teams and add to their collection of 41. After three victories (Sprint Medley, Distance Medley and 4xmile) last year, Arkansas passed Michigan and moved into third on the all-time list of men’s relay victories. Villanova is first with 88 and Penn is second with 54.5.
“This is a great meet for our team,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “The Penn Relays has the best fans and they have adopted Arkansas as their own. The atmosphere is just electric and it motivates the guys to run well, because it’s so easy to get excited there.”
The meet will begin for Arkansas on Thursday night when six of its’ distance runners take to the track for the 5,000 meters. Those entered in the race will go for new or improved regional qualifying times and include senior Jason Sandfort, juniors Abdi Dubed, Josh Robles and Seth Summerside, and redshirt freshmen Tyler Hill and Jonathan Norris.
On Friday Arkansas will look to successfully defend its’ DMR title with a veteran All-American squad comprised of sophomore Adam Perkins and seniors Terry Gatson, James Hatch and Said Ahmed. If the Hogs win it would mark their 16th DMR championship in 22 years.
The 100-meter dash and 400-meter hurdles are also scheduled for Friday. Sophomore Creighton Kiper will line up with hopes of bettering his regional 100-meter time of 10.41, while juniors Brad Dittoe and David Wittenmyer are set to fill their spots in the 400 hurdles.
Field events set to take place on Friday include the high jump with senior Cory Oldham and sophomore Greg Martin and junior two-sport athlete Tony Ugoh in the discus.
On Saturday the sprinters will have a chance to showcase their talents as Arkansas has one of the top 4×200-meter relay teams in the nation. The team includes SEC relay champion Michael Grant, two-time NCAA 200-meter champion Wallace Spearmon Jr., NCAA 100-meter champion Tyson Gay and two-time All-American Omar Brown. The last time UA claimed the 4×200-meter relay title was in 1985. Wallace Spearmon Sr., was a part of the foursome that recorded a time of 1:20.9.
The 4xmile and 4×800 will also take place on Saturday. The Razorbacks will be gunning for their fourth-straight 4xmile title with Ahmed as the only returnee from last year’s winning team. Joining the Boston, Mass., native is junior Josphat Boit, sophomore Peter Kosgei and Perkins. Arkansas has been known for its dominance in the event as the Hogs have claimed 18 first-place finishes in the past 21 years.
Last year Arkansas’ 4×800-meter relay finished in third place as it experienced a shortness of depth among middle distance runners at the end of the meet. This year a new set of Hogs including Wittenmyer, junior Harun Iman, sophomore Brian Roe and Hatch will aim for UA’s third title in 22 years.
Field events contested on Saturday include the triple jump with senior Jaanus Uudmae and the javelin with junior Eric Brown.
Besides the Penn Relays junior Marc Rodrigues and freshman Shawn Forrest are traveling to the west coast for the Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif. The distance duo will run in the 10,000 meters on May 1. Forrest is provisionally qualified in the event with a 28:55.26, but needs an automatic time in order to guarantee himself a spot at the national championships. Rodrigues will be running in the 10K for the first time this season.
The Penn Relays and Cardinal Invitational are the final regular season meets before Arkansas competes at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Nashville, Tenn., on May 11-14.
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