FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas men’s track and field team wrapped the season-opening Arkansas Invitational with a victory in the 4×400-meter relay, one of five event victories for the Razorbacks. Including the relay result, the team also picked up first-place performances from Travis Southard in the 400 meters, Omar Abdi in the 600 meters, Caleb Cross in the 60-meter hurdles and Justin Holmes in the weight throw.
"First of all, we came out injury-free which is very important in these early meets," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "It shows the maturity of our team that they’ve done a good job of staying fit over the break. I think it helped us to come back in a week earlier than normal. The kids have shown a lot of progress from this time last year. We take a look at those seasonal bests and I think we got quite a few of those today."
Southard notched Arkansas’ first win of the day with a first-place performance of 47.67 in the first of two timed heat in the 400 meters. The time for Southard comes in as the fifth fastest in the country through the early stages of the 2012 season. Teammate Hunter Bourke ran to a time of 49.49 to finish fourth in her heat and sixth place overall.
The next win for Arkansas came on the legs of Abdi who crossed first in the 600 meters. He finished with a time of 1:21.20, just ahead of teammate Drew Butler who finished in second place overall with a time of 1:21.41. In the 1,000 meters, Rick Elliott (2:27.77) and Scott Gillespie (2:30.48) both posted personal bests in third- and fifth-place results, respectively.
As the top qualifier from the preliminary heats, Cross led a sweep of the top-four places in the finals of the 60-meter hurdles. He cruised to a victory in a finals time of 7.87, the fourth-fastest mark in the country so far this season. Cross was followed, in order, by Gunnar Nixon (8.14), Kyle Dunn (8.22) and Andrew Pennington (8.25).
Making his collegiate debut in the pole vault and jumping on short approach, Andrew Irwin finished as the runner-up in the event with a final clearance of 5.30m (17-4.5), making him the fifth-best performer in school history. The competition also featured the Razorback debut for Josh Morgan who finished tied for ninth place with a clearance of 4.30m (14-1.25).
In the final field event of the day, Noah Kittelson made his indoor debut with a runner-up finish in the high jump. He finished day with a 2.15m (7-0.5) clearance. Dwayne Golbek was third in the high jump with a personal-best 2.12m (6-11.5) clearance.
The 4×400-meter relay foursome of Cross, Ben Skidmore, Akheem Gauntlett and Nathanael Franks combined for a time of 3:12.08 to win the final event on the track. The time marks the fourth best in the country this season through the early weeks of the season. They were followed closely by another Razorback team made up of Marek Niit, Southard, Neil Braddy and Dunn that crossed the finish line in 3:12.49.
In the first event of the season for the Razorbacks, Marlon Dwyer posted a personal-best mark of 14.92m (48-11.5) to finish third in the shot put. He returned for a silver finish in the weight throw with a day’s best toss of 16.61m (54-6). Holmes won the weight throw with a mark of 16.72m (54-10.25), the second-best throw of his career.
Arkansas’ multi-event competitors got work in various events throughout the day in preparation for future pentathlons during the indoor season. Kevin Lazas (14.03m, 46-0.5) and Terry Prentice (12.53m, 41-1.5) notched personal bests in the shot put.
Running up from their normal 400-meter distance, Braddy and Skidmore finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 800 meters. Braddy crossed the finish in a time of 1:56.67 while Skidmore posted a time of 1:57.43, nearly eight seconds faster than his previous best in the event run at last year’s Arkansas Invitational.
In the longest distance of the day, placed fifth in the mile. The Razorback senior crossed in a time of 4:18.00 to finish ahead of teammates Layne Nixon in seventh place and Aaron Hamilton in ninth place overall.Lane Boyer
Arkansas returns to the track next Friday to continue its dual-meet series with the University of Texas. For more information regarding Razorback track and field or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.