Razorbacks Take 4xmile Crown at Penn Relays
BY ANDRES FOCIL
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Arkansas was able to add to its Penn Relays title total when the Razorbacks successfully defended and claimed its third-straight 4xmile title with a time of 16:21.74, in front of a crowd of 49,441 on a picture perfect Saturday afternoon. It marked the Razorbacks’ 18th 4xmile win in 21 years and their third championship for the weekend.
“We’ve had a great meet with three good wins,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We even ran without Chris Mulvaney who got sick after we got here and we didn’t have Michael Taylor either. The guys really took it all on themselves and weren’t scared of anything. Sam (Vazquez) really stood out and he had three great races.”
Junior James Hatch took the first leg with a time of 4:09.7. During the beginning of the race he rode on the leaders from Stanford and Providence, but then he took the lead with 300 meters left to hand off to junior Said Ahmed. Ahmed stayed on the shoulder of the Cardinal runner during a physical race, waiting to take the lead until the last lap with a split time of 4:03.1.
Freshman Sam Vazquez handled the third leg and posted a split of 4:05.5. He extended the lead to 60 meters before he gave the baton to senior Alistair Cragg for the anchor. Cragg cruised to the finish line, continuing to hold off Stanford’s Don Sage with a split of 4:03.4. Stanford turned in a second-place time of 16:26.76.
The Razorback 4×200-meter relay had high hopes of taking home a wagon wheel of its own, but an awkward handoff to the anchor leg prevented Arkansas from taking the tape and the Razorbacks finished in a close second place (1:22.62). Senior Michael Thomas and sophomore Omar Brown ran the first two legs in solid fashion, respectively. Freshman Creighton Kiper handled the third leg, while freshman Wallace Spearmon was the anchor. Before Spearmon received the baton is was neck and neck with UA and Mississippi State, but when he took off too soon without the stick the Bulldogs took advantage for the win (1:22.53). Spearmon made up a good amount of ground and almost brought Arkansas the victory.
The 4×800-meter relay was the last event of the day for Arkansas. The same team that graced the 4xmile relay almost four hours earlier attempted a courageous double in the event, but came up short with a third-place showing. Vazquez was on the opening leg and pulled the Hogs into the lead with 300 meters remaining on a split time of 1:49.4. Vazquez handed off to Ahmed who registered a quality time of 1:47.3. Ahmed kept a slight lead over Georgetown and Kentucky and widened it with 200 meters left.
Cragg ran the third leg and temporarily extended the advantage, but as Georgetown and Kentucky rode on his shoulder they made their move in the final 300 meters to pass the six-time NCAA champion. In his third relay in two days Hatch was given the baton for the anchor and moved UA up to second. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough gas in the tank to finish out the race and Arkansas put together a time of 7:23.15.
On Franklin Field senior Jeremy Scott made his true outdoor debut in the pole vault and earned runner-up honors with an improved regional qualifying mark of 17-4.50. His height placed him at fourth on UA’s all-time outdoor top 10 list. At the McDonnell Invitational Scott registered a regional height of 16-8.75, but the event was forced indoors due to inclement weather. Junior P.J. Brown also represented Arkansas in the pole vault and cleared 16-4.75 to tie for fourth place.
Junior Jaanus Uudmae also made his first appearance during the outdoor season when he competed in the triple jump. Uudmae had spent the indoor and part of the outdoor seasons rehabbing from an injured knee and was more than ready to set a good mark. The Tallinn, Estonia native came in fifth with a leap of 51-8.75.
“The pole vaulters did a good job,” McDonnell said. “I was really happy to see Jaanus back and healthy. We need him competing again for us. All in all it was a good weekend.”
In the 400-meter hurdles senior Maurice Bridges and sophomore Brad Dittoe swept the top two spots in their section, with times of 51.93 and 52.93, respectively. In a field that included 59 competitors Bridges finished sixth overall, while sophomore Brad Dittoe was 19th. The two had already earned regional qualifying times earlier this season.
After Arkansas returns from Philadelphia, Pa., they will send a small group of distance runners to Stanford’s Cardinal Invitational on April 30-May 1, before the Hogs prepare to defend their outdoor league crown in Oxford, Miss., on May 13-16.
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