Razorbacks Look to Qualify for Nationals at Mi
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Top-ranked Arkansas has excelled the entire season and is coming off an outstanding victory at the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships; however, the Hogs have one final hurdle before they can defend their national outdoor crown. The Razorbacks must turn in qualifying finishes on May 27-28 at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Bloomington, Ind., in order to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
“Basically this is the first round of a national meet,” Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth said. “Regionals have never been a red-letter day on our calendar. We just know we have to go through that to get to the national meet, but if you don’t treat the regional meet with respect it will be your last meet, because there are enough people there that can knock you right out of it. We’ve got a good group of people competing and several people that have a chance to be very successful at nationals.”
Since the regional format was adopted in 2003 Arkansas has won the regional team title every year and this year the UA is sending a record number of athletes to the meet. A total of 26 Razorbacks have earned regional qualifying times or marks during the season and must finish in the top five for the individual events and the top three for relays in order to gain an automatic berth to nationals.
In the past if an athlete did not finish high enough they could rely on their season-best time or mark for an at-large bid, but a change in the rules this year changes all of that. In order to even be considered for the at-large pool individuals must finish in the top eight and relays must finish in the top five. Once in that pool, season-best times and marks will be used for qualification.
Senior Tyson Gay is entering the competition as the defending 100 and 200-meter champion. He was also on the winning 4×100-meter relay team. This year he earned both of his 100 and 200-meter qualifying times of 10.19 and 20.30, respectively, at the SEC Championships. His 100-meter time is second in the region, while his 200-meter clocking is third.
The 100-meter dash also has sophomore Creighton Kiper and freshman Michael Grant qualified with times of 10.41 from the McDonnell Invitational.
Sophomore Wallace Spearmon Jr., got his NCAA-leading 200-meter time of 19.97 early in the season at the Mt. SAC Relays and his 100-meter time of 10.21 was clocked at the McDonnell Invitational.
Senior Omar Brown is also qualified in the 200 meters with a time of 20.53 from the McDonnell Invitational. Brown’s performance has him at fifth in the mideast.
In the 400 meters senior Terry Gatson posted his regional standard of 45.57 at the SEC Championships and it is the third fastest in the region.
Juniors Brad Dittoe (52.28) and David Wittenmyer (52.31) both recently picked up regional qualifications in the 400-meter hurdles with their performances at the SEC Championships.
Three Razorbacks are qualified in the 800 meters including senior James Hatch (1:47.35) and junior Harun Iman (1:48.19). They earned their times at the SEC Championships, while sophomore Brian Roe ran 1:50.17 at the Mt. SAC Relays. Hatch’s time is also third on the region’s descending order list.
In the very competitive 1,500 meters senior Said Ahmed is leading the team with a time of 3:43.54 he recorded at the McDonnell Invitational and sophomore Adam Perkins posted a 3:45.50 at the Mt. SAC Relays.
Sophomore Peter Kosgei posted his region-leading time of 8:35.40 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the McDonnell Invitational and junior Jose Campos improved his standing to 8:59.05 at the SEC Championships.
The 5,000 meters is another event loaded with talented athletes and junior Josphat Boit (13:43.12) and freshman Shawn Forrest (14:13.73) are qualified with their times from the Mt. SAC Relays. Junior Seth Summerside improved his position at the SEC Championships with a clocking of 14:05.61. Boit’s time has him at third in the mideast, while Wisconsin’s Matt Tegenkamp is on the top with a 13:31.98.
Arkansas has its 4×100 and 4×400-meter relays qualified for the region. Grant, Spearmon, Gay and Brown comprise the 4×100 that put up a time of 39.73 at the SEC Championships, while the 4×400 that qualified with a time of 3:04.86 at the Texas Relays was made up of Brown, Gay, Spearmon and Gatson. Seniors Robbie Stevens and Hatch will be used as alternates if the relay is needed.
The field events are very well balanced. In the triple jump two Hogs are entered with their marks from the Texas Relays. Senior Jaanus Uudmae is second in the region with a measurement of 53-7.00 and freshman Chessly Johnson has a mark of 50-8.25. Indiana’s NCAA indoor champion, Aarik Wilson, is holding down the top spot with a 54-5.25.
Junior Eric Brown is leading the region by over 11 feet in the javelin with his throw of 248-05 from the McDonnell Invitational. Another thrower, junior Tony Ugoh, earned a regional qualification in discus with a mark of 172-01 at the Penn Relays.
In the vertical jumps sophomore Greg Martin is carrying a high jump clearance of 7-0.50 from Austin, Texas. Senior P.J. Brown and junior Jimmy Duke will represent Arkansas in the pole vault with their heights of 17-0.75 and 16-7.25, respectively.
The 10,000 meters is not contested at the regional meet, because athletes must earn automatic or provisional times throughout the season. UA boasts three auto qualifiers with Boit (28:07.27), Kosgei (28:08.97) and senior Jason Sandfort (28:55.26).
The NCAA Outdoor Championships will take place at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif., on June 8-11. Arkansas will be vying for its 41st national title and 12th NCAA outdoor crown.
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