Razorbacks Open Indoor Track Season at Missour
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ legendary head track and field coach John McDonnell has waited for this weekend for almost a year now. For the owner of 36 national championships, this weekend’s Missouri Southern Invitational in Joplin, Mo., is the first opportunity to literally get his team back on track after a disappointing third place finish in last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships.
For most programs a third-place finish would be something to build on, but for the Razorback track program last year’s showing provides added motivation and incentive in the Hogs’ quest to return to their familiar perch atop the collegiate track and field landscape.
“I think we are ready,” McDonnell says. “Last year we lost by two lousy points. That’s not going to happen this year. We are going to be in there. We are young but talented. We have some good young distance runners, a really good young shot putter that came in and a good young high jumper. The jumpers and hurdlers from last year are sophomores. I think we will be a very good team if we stay healthy.”
Arkansas returns a talented fold of athletes including three All-Americans from last year’s track campaign. Junior Daniel Lincoln was three-time All-America selection including a pair of honors in the indoor season. Lincoln will take the track in the mile run on Saturday. Fellow All-American Dirk Heinze will also compete in the mile run. Sophomore Chris Mulvaney was a member of the Hogs’ All-America distance medley relay team last season. The Bolton, England, native will start the 2002 season by lining up in the 800-meter run.
The Hogs once again look to be deep in the middle distance and distance events with the emergence of sophomores Silverus Kimeli, Alistair Cragg and freshman Jason Sandfort. Kimeli will double in the 800 and 3,000-meter races this weekend. Sandfort and Cragg will compete in the 3,000-meter and one-mile events, respectively.
Arkansas boasts young talent in the field events as well. High school All-American Jonathan Reeves will make his Razorback debut in the shot put. Junior Ramon Washington and sophomore Richard Smith will compete in the long jump while sophomore Maurice Robinson will hit the board in the triple jump.
A total of 25 UA competitors are slated to get their feet wet this weekend. While McDonnell is quick to acknowledge that this weekend’s stakes aren’t on par with a national or even a conference championship, a potential title run has to have a starting point.
“It is just getting out of town to see where we are,” McDonnell says. “We want to see how many guys did their workouts and stayed in shape. It is a jumping off point. This is earlier than we have ever started. We have a SEC West meet the following week, so it will give us an idea where to put people. We didn’t want to go cold turkey into the league meet.”
The two-day meet begins on Friday night with four UA entrants in the pole vault and Robinson competing in the triple jump for the Razorbacks. The rest of the Arkansas contingent will be in action on Saturday.
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