Razorbacks Qualify Three on First Day of Iowa
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas continued to fortify its distance arsenal for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday night as the Razorbacks gained three qualifiers in the 5,000-meter run on the first day of the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa.
Sophomore Alistair Cragg not only won the 5K in an NCAA automatic qualifying time, but he also posted the nation’s top time in the event this season at 13:45.51. Cragg easily outdistanced second-place finisher Jason Woolhouse of Oklahoma State who finished nearly 11 seconds behind the UA frontrunner.
“The 5,000 was a good race for us,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “Alistair looked tremendous. He took the lead after the first 1,000 meters and led the whole way. He pulled everybody in that race to a good time. I’m glad to have a guy like that. When he gets in a race with a better field, he will run an even better time.”
Cragg wasn’t the only Razorback to post a qualifying time in Friday night’s 5,000-meter run. Freshman Jason Sandfort crossed the line in fourth with a provisional qualifying time of 13:58.97. Junior Daniel Lincoln finished close behind in fifth and also earned a provisional time of 14:01.91.
“Sandfort posted a great time especially for a true freshman,” McDonnell said. “He had a great cross country season, but I thought he was going to be a year away in track. It certainly hasn’t worked out that way. The one thing he always has going for him is that he is a tough competitor. He does exactly what we tell him to do and he does it well. Both Sandfort and Lincoln should get in with those provisional times.”
Cragg, Sandfort and Lincoln qualified for their second event in as many weeks after the trio earned qualifying times in the 3,000-meter run last weekend at the Tyson Invitational. With Friday night’s additions, Arkansas now boasts four automatic qualifications and 12 provisional qualifiers.
The Razorbacks had hoped to post a good time in the distance medley relay as well, but a dropped baton on the first leg cost the Hogs any hope of finishing in front of the pack. Freshman Said Ahmed got caught up in some traffic and had the baton slip through his hands on the opening 1,200-meter leg.
Arkansas responded with two great performances from senior Sam Glover (46.9) in the 400-meter leg and freshman Michael Taylor (1:49.00) in the 800-meter leg, but the Razorbacks had too much ground to cover. Freshman James Hatch rounded out the relay with a clip of 4:10.00 in the mile as the Razorbacks finished 11th in 9:51.17.
“I really hated to see us drop the baton because those guys wanted to run a fast time,” McDonnell said. “We may not have qualified, but I saw some good things especially from Sam and Michael. I think we can build on that.”
Junior Ramon Washington finished fourth in the long jump with a leap of 24-5.75. Washington just missed on a pair of big jumps after he scratched on the takeoff.
“Ramon had a couple of fouls where he jumped close to 26-0,” McDonnell said. “He had good motion, his timing was just off. I’m always impressed when a guy can get off some good jumps even when he fouls. When I see that, I know that it is only a matter of time until he gets it all together.”
Arkansas will be in action again on Saturday as the Hogs compete in a variety of events. McDonnell will be looking for breakout performances from sophomore Maurice Robinson, junior Richard Smith and Washington in the triple jump. He will also be keeping close tabs on the hurdle events, the sprints and the 400-meter run.
“I think going into Saturday, it is important we get some marks in the triple jump,” McDonnell said. “I think Michael Thomas and Eddie Jackson have a good chance to automatically qualify in the hurdles and our sprinters need to pop something. Finally, I would like to see Sam Glover run a good 400.”
Saturday’s competition will mark the final full team action for the Razorbacks hosting the Southeastern Conference Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center later this month. The Hogs will compete at the league championships on Feb. 22-24 before hosting the NCAA Championships on March 8-9.
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