FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Alain Bailey and Luke Laird punched their tickets to the NCAA Championships for Arkansas Razorback track and field on day one of the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Fayetteville.
In addition to the two automatic advancements in the long jump and the javelin, James Strang and Tyler Hill are eligible for at-large spots in the 5,000 meters and the Hogs advanced athletes to five of Saturday’s final events
“It was a pretty good day, you always wish you had gotten one or two more guys in, but the guys that are going to score at nationals made it through,” head coach John McDonnell said. “Luke Laird is fantastic. He backed it up with another good performance and he knows he can throw further, but he is going to the big dance.”
“When you are out there, you always work hard to try and get a bid,” McDonnell said. “It’s really like heats and you’ve got to make sure you get into the final. I don’t know why James (Strang) let it go right there at the end, but he’s got to know that his time would have gotten him in anyway. I am not sure if he will run the 5K in nationals, but it is good to have some flexibility there. J-Mee (Samuels) is on top of his game and he looked great. He has some tough competition but all he has to do is make top five and he goes on.”
Laird earned his trip to the NCAAs with a fifth-place finish in the javelin. His best mark of the day was 216-4, slightly shorter than his SEC title-winning throw of 228-4 but it still got the job done.
“I got fifth place and just made it into nationals and that was the goal,” Laird said. “Going into the finals, there were a couple of guys right there and were only about a foot or two of each other. It was just going to take a little for them to take it from me and so I knew I needed to just keep improving just in case.”
Bailey earned a runner-up finish in the long jump. His best leap of the day measured in at 26-0.75, the same distance he jumped to win the SEC title two weeks ago. Bailey took two jumps and then passed his final four in order to conserve energy for Saturday’s 4×100-meter relay finals.
Strang finished sixth and Hill was ninth, with times of 14:15.67 and 14:21.98, respectively, in the 5,000 meters. Both are eligible for at-large bids after finishing in the top 12. Strang also has an automatic-qualifying time in the 10,000 meters for the NCAA Championships.
J-Mee Samuels had another banner day on his home track. He advanced to Saturday’s finals in the 100 meters, the 200 meters and the 4×100-meter relay. He clocked times of 10.09 in the 100 meters and 20.53 in the 200 meters. He won his heat of the 200 meters to automatically advance while his 100-meter performance was good enough to advance on time.
Running with Cedric Zellner, Alain Bailey and Mychael Stewart, Samuels anchored the 4×100-meter relay to a sixth-place finish in the 4×100-meter relay prelims. The quartet clocked a time of 40.29 and advanced on time.
Alex and Andy McClary advanced to Saturday’s final in their respective events, the 800 meters and the 1,500 meters. Alex’s second-place finish in his 800-meter heat automatically advanced him to the finals. He clocked a time of 1:49.52. Andy finished third in his 1,500-meter heat and also automatically advanced. His time clocked in at 3:46.50.
“I didn’t plan to lead like I did, but the first heat was not that fast and I realized that I shouldn’t try to hang back,” Andy McClary said. “I didn’t take out that fast, it was just that the guys didn’t want to pass me so I took control. I kept feeling some guys kicking me from behind and when I would kick back my spike would hit them so I knew that they were right there. I felt like what I really needed to do was stay in that position and once they got past me I was kind of able to see where I was.”
Saturday’s events will begin at 2:45 p.m. with Spencer McCorkel in the pole vault. For complete results of the NCAA Mideast Championships and Arkansas track and field, visit www.hogwired.com.