FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Thirteen Arkansas Razorbacks will travel to Ames, Iowa, this weekend to compete in the 2006 Iowa State Indoor Track and Field Qualifier. The Hogs are hoping to gain additional NCAA entrants to help bolster their chances at defending their national championship at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships set for the Randal Tyson Track Center on March 10-11.
Arkansas, ranked No. 1 in both national polls this week, boasts seven automatic and 16 provisional qualifiers heading into the weekend. With several last-chance meets being staged around the nation, some of the Razorbacks’ provisional qualifiers will have to sweat it out to see if they will make the NCAA start list.
In terms of the team race, last-chance qualifiers and athletes barely making the NCAA championships cut often make a difference in determining the national champion. Last year, James Hatch and Terry Gatson squeezed into the NCAA meet as one of the final qualifiers in the 800 and the 400 meters, respectively.
Hatch’s surprise runner-up finish in the 800 vaulted Arkansas up the team standings. Gatson followed with a phenomenal second-place showing in the 400 meters finishing second only to Florida’s Kerron Clement who set a world record in the process. Gatson’s time was the third-fastest in NCAA history and gave the Razorbacks the team lead for good. Arkansas went on to win its 40th national championship in large part due to the heroics of Hatch and Gatson. While both of those athletes no longer compete for the Hogs, Arkansas head coach John McDonnell is looking for some of his current Razorbacks to step up and fit the bill starting this weekend.
“The only thing we are looking for this weekend is qualifiers,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “With the NCAA meet, all you have to do is get in and then anything can happen. We had some guys with the 16th best times in the nation get in last year and they finished second. They won the meet for us. Once you get into the NCAA meet the playing field is level.”
Some of the leading Razorback contenders to break-through this weekend are juniors Adam Perkins and Brian Roe. Perkins has provisional qualifying times in both the mile and the 3,000, but would likely concentrate on the mile run at the national meet. Roe will also be looking to bolster his 800-meter run qualifying time with a solid performance on Saturday.
“Adam placed last year in the 3,000 meters for us,” McDonnell said. “We have enough guys in that race, so we switched him to the mile. It would be valuable if he could get in. Brian has a provisional in the 800, but it might not get in. He didn’t have a particularly good SEC meet so we wanted to get him some confidence. He will already run the DMR at nationals, but it would be a bonus to have him in the 800.”
Freshman sprinter J-Mee Samuels will try and come up big in his last attempt to make the NCAA meet. Samuels has struggled this season after coming to Arkansas after a prolific high school career. His provisional time of 6.71 ranks 23rd in the nation, but he would likely have to improve that clip to earn a spot in the NCAA field. He will also attempt to meet the NCAA standard in the 200 meters.
“J-Mee has been in a deep slumber,” McDonnell said. “The good news is that if we wakes up he could qualify for the NCAA meet. It is just a matter of when he can break through. Hopefully he will do it this weekend.”
Junior Greg Martin and sophomore Chessly Johnson also have the potential to make a run at qualifying marks in the triple jump. Martin recorded a season-best mark of 50-9 ½ last weekend at the SEC Championships. Johnson also netted a season-best of 50-7 ½ at the conference meet.
“Both Greg and Chessly could put up a big jump in the triple (jump),” McDonnell said. “They have the talent and have shown signs of what they can do. If they can put it all together, they might have a shot at qualifying.”
Martin will join sophomore Mychael Stewart in the long jump competition. Stewart will also take to the track in the 200 meters.
A slew of Razorback freshmen will try and cap their rookie indoor campaign with a qualifying performance. Jeremy Dodson will compete alongside Samuels and sophomore Michael Grant in the 200-meter run. Collin Costello competed for the first time in a Razorback uniform last weekend at the SEC Championships. This weekend, Costello will line up in the 800 meters.
Freshman Chris Barnicle will run alongside Perkins and senior Eric Gross in the mile run. Fellow Razorback rookie Kenny Cormier and senior Seth Summerside will compete in the 3,000-meter run.
Action at the Iowa State Qualifier begins with field events at 9:30 a.m. The final event of the day is schedule for 4:20 p.m. Live results from the meet can be accessed on www.hogwired.com by clicking live stats on the home page.
— HOGS —