Razorbacks Travel to Nashville to Defend SEC O
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The top-ranked Razorbacks will boast a full and balanced roster of 30 athletes when they travel to Nashville, Tenn., and look to defend their Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championship. Arkansas will face challenges from No. 2 Florida and No. 3 LSU for the top prize. If the Hogs are successful it would give them their 12th SEC outdoor title and 21st outdoor league championship. Additionally, it would mark an unprecedented 76th overall conference crown.
This is the first time Vanderbilt has hosted the championship meet since Arkansas joined the league and events will take place from May 12-15, with junior Jimmy Duke in the decathlon starting the weekend on Thursday. Arkansas has an athlete entered in every event except three, the 110-meter hurdles, hammer throw and shot put and many Hogs will double and even triple to help bring home the first-place team trophy. Coach McDonnell will hope to score a majority of points from a deep pool of distance runners and talented sprinters.
“We have good people in just about every event,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “Now it’s just a matter of putting it all into operation. We cannot go down there and get complacent like we have when we lost a couple of conference meets, but I think our guys are fired up and want to take care of business.”
Senior Tyson Gay is the only returning individual champion after he captured the 100 and 200-meter dashes and was a member of the winning 4×100-meter relay. He will see action in those events again this year, but will encounter tough competition from his own teammates, including sophomores Wallace Spearmon, Jr., and Creighton Kiper and freshman Michael Grant. Spearmon has the fastest 200-meter time in the SEC, while Gay will be making his outdoor debut in the open 100.
The 4×100-meter relay will be made up of Grant, Spearmon, Gay and senior Omar Brown. Brown will also run in the 400 meters with senior Terry Gatson and the 400-meter hurdles have juniors Brad Dittoe and David Wittenmyer entered.
If it is necessary a 4×400-meter relay pool of Brown, Gatson, Spearmon and seniors James Hatch and Robbie Stevens will compete in the meet’s final event on Sunday night. It would be Stevens first time to compete since the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The distance events are loaded with Razorback runners. The 800 meters has seniors Said Ahmed and Hatch, junior Harun Iman and sophomore Brian Roe. Hatch was the team’s top finisher last year when he crossed the line in fourth.
Ahmed will also take to the track in the 1,500 meters with junior Seth Summerside and sophomores Peter Kosgei and Adam Perkins. Kosgei is planning on competing in two other events, including the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000 meters. He is leading the SEC in both of those events, while Ahmed is on top in the 1,500 meters.
Eight additional Razorbacks are entered in the 5K, including senior Jason Sandfort, juniors Josphat Boit and Marc Rodrigues, juniors Jose Campos and Summerside, Perkins and freshmen Shawn Forrest and Tyler Hill.
Campos and Hill will also have their try at the steeplechase, while the 10,000 meters has Boit, Forrest, Rodrigues and Sandfort ready to rack up points.
The field events cannot be over-looked as three Razorbacks are on top of the league in their respective events. Junior Eric Brown has his sights set on gold after he earned runner-up honors in the javelin last year. He is considered a favorite and is leading the conference by 16 feet with a throw of 248-05.
Senior Jaanus Uudmae captured the indoor triple jump title and hopes to carry over his success during the outdoor season, with freshman Chessly Johnson joining him in the event. In addition to the triple jump Uudmae will compete in the long jump with sophomore Greg Martin.
The pole vault is being led by senior P.J. Brown with a clearance of 17-0.75 and Duke is at the third position (16-7.25). A pair of Razorbacks, including Martin and senior Cory Oldham are entered in the high jump. Junior Tony Ugoh is the lone Hog in the discus throw.
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