Razorbacks Ready to Host Tyson Foods Invitatio
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Top-ranked Arkansas will serve as the host for one of the biggest meets on the indoor track and field scene when the Tyson Foods Invitational takes place on Feb. 13-14. Friday’s events will feature top collegiate athletes from around the country, while Saturday’s events will have the world’s best professional athletes competing along with several UA runners.
“For the meet on Friday we have the most awesome number of entrants you’ve ever seen,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We had over 100 people in each event and we’re going to be very unpopular around the country after tomorrow, because we cut it back to 60 per event. That’s amazing. That’s how many people want to come here and run. There will be close to 50 different schools represented. We’re going to have two great meets back to back.”
The pole vault will start the day with senior P.J. Brown and junior Jimmy Duke looking to improve their heights at 11 a.m. In other field events junior Cory Oldham and freshman Greg Martin will see action in the high jump.
The 400-meter dash is next with junior transfer Terry Gatson and Chason Pompey representing Arkansas in the race. Sophomore transfer and UA record holder Tyson Gay and freshman Creighton Kiper will line up in the 60-meter dash, with senior All-American Michael Thomas in the 60-meter hurdles. Kiper will also compete in the 200-meter dash with junior transfer Omar Brown.
The 5,000 meters will be full of Razorbacks hoping to earn an NCAA qualifying time, including junior All-American Jason Sandfort, sophomore Luis Bordes, sophomore transfers Eric Gross and Matt Gunn and freshmen Josh Harper and Mike Poe. Freshman Adam Perkins will be the lone Hog in the 3,000 meters.
In the middle distances juniors Said Ahmed and James Hatch are set to run in the 800 meters, while sophomore Brad Dittoe and David Wittenmyer will compete in the unseeded section of the event. Freshmen Ryan Botha and Sam Vazquez are entered in the mile run.
The 4×400-meter relay team of Dittoe, Kiper, Pompey and Wittenmyer will conclude the evening at 10 p.m.
There is no doubt that the Tyson Foods Invitational will serve as exceptional qualifying grounds and one McDonnell feels his Razorbacks need to capitalize on with the SEC Championships just two weeks away. Through three meets they have tallied two automatic and seven provisional NCAA qualifications and are hoping to gain even more.
“This is a big weekend for track fans, but it’s also a big weekend for us in preparation of the conference meet,” McDonnell said. “We’ve got two weeks and I told them it’s time for us to stand up and be counted. We’ve had some good performances and we’ve had some lackluster performances. We’re not all on the same page, so I hope this is the weekend that we put all the results on the same page. If we do that we’ll be in a good frame of mind for the conference meet.”
On Saturday several UA athletes will have the opportunity to run against the world’s best when USA Track and Field’s Golden Spike Tour takes over. The collegiate distance medley relay will take to the track at 1:15 p.m., with senior Maurice Bridges, junior Michael Taylor, sophomore Mark Fountain and freshman Sam Vazquez looking to give the Hog fans a victory.
In the 3,000 meters senior All-American Alistair Cragg will look to reclaim his collegiate record that he set last year at the Boston Indoor Games. The record was recently broken on Jan. 31, at the 2004 Boston Indoor Games by Michigan’s Nick Willis. Cragg will see competition from a familiar face in former Razorback, Daniel Lincoln who posted a new personal best 3K time in Boston.
The 60-meter hurdles are not to be missed with Thomas having his chance to compete against Larry Wade and Allen Johnson, one of the world’s most decorated athletes. Johnson has an Olympic gold medal and four world championships to his name. He is also the defending World 60-meter hurdles champion.
Sophomore transfer Tyson Gay will see a challenge from a very talented field in the 200-meter dash, including Shawn Crawford. Crawford is one of the fastest men in the world after he captured the 2001 World Indoor 200 crown.
The same 4×400-meter relay team that earned a provisional qualification at the Meyo Invitational last weekend has hopes of improving their time in front of a hometown crowd. Bridges, Brown, Hatch and Gatston will see quality competition from TCU, Florida and Arizona State.
The highly anticipated mile run will wrap up the event at 2:50 p.m., with senior All-American and NCAA mile champion Chris Mulvaney. Mulvaney will go head to head with the second-ranked miler in the world, Paul Korir, two-time defending Tyson Foods Invitational mile champion, Laban Rotich, the 2003 World Junior 800-meter champion, Alex Kipchirchir and Alan Webb.
Friday’s meet will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The finals for most events will start at 6:50 p.m. Tickets are available through the Razorback Ticket Office at 1-800-982-4647. Admission is $5 and free for children and UA students with an I.D.
Saturday’s meet will run from 1-3 p.m. Tickets have to be purchased through the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-766-4626. Reserved seats are $20, general admission is $10 and children under 10 years old and UA students with an I.D. are $5.
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