Razorbacks Look to Gain 11th Indoor Conference
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – When the top-ranked Arkansas track team travels to Gainesville, Fla., on February 28-March 2, for the 2003 Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships they will be in search of their seventh-consecutive and 11th overall indoor conference crown against several nationally ranked conference foes.
The Razorbacks haven’t lost an SEC indoor title since 1996. Capturing the indoor conference championship would also bring the Arkansas head coach John McDonnell and his Hogs a combined 70 conference titles in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field since he arrived in Fayetteville.
“Tennessee, Florida and LSU will be the competition,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “If we do what we’re capable of doing, don’t get complacent and come out from the very beginning and let them know we mean business, then I think we’ll be ok.
“We have a better team this year than we did last year and I think we have pretty good leadership on this team,” McDonnell said. “Last year we competed above ourselves to beat Tennessee. It will be tough this year.”
Arkansas will look to gain the most points in the middle distance and distance events, with senior All-American Daniel Lincoln and junior All-American Alistair Cragg leading the charge. Each will compete in two events. Lincoln will run in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs, while Cragg, the top contender after setting two UA records and a collegiate record in the 3K, will see action in the mile and 3,000-meter runs.
“The meet’s time schedule has messed us up a little bit, but they’re not going to give us any breaks in the conference, so have to make the best of it,” McDonnell said. “What hurts us is that the 5,000 comes at the beginning of the meet instead of the end, like it usually does. Having it at the end put the fear of God in the other teams, but now we’ll put the fear of God in them in the middle of the meet.
“Now we might have to triple guys that we don’t need to in order to win and that will hurt us at the national meet,” McDonnell said. “The problem is that the conference meet is important to most people, so have to make it important to us. We’ve got to win it and worry about the national meet when that comes.
Joining Lincoln and Cragg in the 3,000-meter run are juniors Westley Alkin and All-American Silverus Kimeli. Alkin and Kimeli will also run in the 5,000 meters with sophomores Phillip Aagaard, All-American Jason Sandfort and freshman Luis Bordes.
Coach McDonnell will send a total of five Razorbacks to the start line in the mile. Senior Chad Grundy, Cragg, junior All-American Chris Mulvaney, Aagaard and sophomore James Hatch will all compete in the event.
“In the 800 meters we have four guys that are good runners, but that’s a real hot event,” McDonnell said. “Kentucky is loaded up with Grade A 800-meter runners and South Carolina has the national champion. We’ve got five guys in the mile and they should provide some big points hopefully and the same thing with the 3,000.”
Four UA athletes will run in the 800 meters, including Mulvaney, junior Robbie Stevens and sophomores Michael Taylor and All-American Said Ahmed. Additionally, they will be looking to gain NCAA automatic qualifying times.
The Arkansas team will also look to the sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers to score critical points at the meet.
“For the first time in a long time we have a chance to score points in the 55 with Ahmad Carroll and then Mike Thomas in the 55 hurdles,” McDonnell said. “I think he’s the best hurdler in the conference. We’ve got to get points in the long and triple jump too. All those jumpers are ranked in the conference.”
Sophomore and UA record holder Ahmad Carroll will be the lone Razorback in the 55-meter dash. Senior Eddie Jackson is set to compete in the 55-meter hurdles after having not competed since the first meet in January, while junior and UA record holder Michael Thomas is the heavy favorite in the event.
Senior All-American Josh Landreth, junior Maurice Bridges and freshman David Wittenmyer will run in the 400-meter dash. Bridges is also slated to run in the distance medley relay with Ahmed, Hatch and Taylor.
Landreth will also run in the 1,600-meter relay with Stevens and Wittenmyer, while the fourth spot still in question.
In the field events each of Arkansas’ jumpers will double in the horizontal jumps. Seniors Richard Smith, All-American Ramon Washington and juniors Jaanus Uudmae and All-American Maurice Robinson will all see action in the long and triple jumps.
Sophomore Jonathan Reeves will throw the shot put, junior P.J. Brown will compete in the pole vault and sophomore Cory Oldham is slated to see action in the high jump.
Junior Tom Crowder will compete in his first conference championship as he represents UA in the pentathlon.
The pentathlon will kick off the meet on Friday February 28, at noon. On Saturday March 1, the field events will start at noon, with the running events at 1 p.m. The meet will conclude on Sunday March 2, with the first field event beginning at 10 a.m., and the finals of the running events at 1 p.m.
After the Razorbacks return from Gainesville, Fla., they will take a week off to prepare to host the 2003 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Nationals will be held on March 14-15 at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark.
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