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Sweet Redemption for Hogs as UA Claims 12th SE

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Sweet Redemption for Hogs as UA Claims 12th SE

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – No. 1 Arkansas displayed its’ dominance on Sunday afternoon when it reclaimed the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship with 155 points at its own Randal Tyson Track Center. It marked the Razorbacks’ largest point total since 2000 (168). Last year’s winner, Florida, was in a distant second place with 92 points and Tennessee was third with 89.
The victory was the Hogs’ 12th SEC title in 14 years and their 24th indoor crown. Most impressively it was Arkansas head coach John McDonnell’s 75th overall conference championships since 1974.
“I’m really pleased; it was as close to a complete team effort as I’ve seen in years,” McDonnell said. “That team deserves a lot of credit. They came out and competed hard from day one. We had to go on without one of our best athletes, Tyson Gay. We had some heavy hitters step up and get the job done.”
UA’s high point total was made possible when it had five individuals take top honors in six events, including sophomore Peter Kosgei (3,000 and 5,000), junior Said Ahmed (mile), senior Jaanus Uudmae (triple jump), and sophomore Wallace Spearmon, Jr. (200). The DMR also finished first with junior Harun Iman, freshman two-sport athlete Michael Grant, sophomore Brian Roe and Ahmed handling the baton.
Early in the day Ahmed captured his first-career SEC individual championship when he took the tape of the mile race with a blistering time of 4:01.05. His performance also improved his NCAA provisional qualifying time. The three-time All-American became the eighth UA athlete to win the mile.
Three other Razorbacks finished in scoring positions, including junior Seth Summerside in fifth (4:08.73), sophomore Adam Perkins was sixth (4:10.21) and junior Marc Rodrigues came in eighth (4:11.29). Those important points put UA back in the lead over Tennessee (60) with 69 points.
“I’m proud of my teammates,” Ahmed said. “We were still mad that we lost last year. Everyone competed with guts and I loved our fans. After running in five races they really helped me out. I felt like I could have run in more.”
Spearmon also took home his first-career individual league championship after he recorded a world-leading 200-meter time of 20.35, for the second-straight day. In addition to his performance being a school record, it was the sixth-fastest time by an American in the history of indoor track.
“Running 20.35 two days in a row and getting the SEC meet and school record, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. We knew we couldn’t lose at home and after last year we had a bitter taste in our mouth. This year was sweet.”
Spearmon also helped UA’s team cause in the first running event, the 60-meter dash. Despite a poor start he rolled to a time of 6.72 for runner-up honors, adding eight points to Arkansas’ total. Olympian and LSU’s Kelly Willie grabbed first with 6.69. Spearmon’s performance placed him in a tie for third on the school’s all-time indoor top 10 list and gave him a new NCAA provisional qualification.
Uudmae claimed gold in the triple jump, making him the first athlete since UA Olympian Melvin Lister in 2000 to win the title. It was also the Tallinn, Estonia’s first-career league title since rehabbing from knee surgery last year. After fouling on his first attempt in the finals he posted a winning mark of 52-11.00.
“It’s my senior year and I’ve been waiting for a long time for this,” Uudmae said. “I definitely felt like I could win coming in. My long jump performance from yesterday really gave me confidence.”
In his SEC championship meet debut freshman Chessly Johnson turned in 50-3.50 for fifth place honors, allowing the Hogs to gain 14 points and extend their lead to 91 over UT’s 65 through 10 events.
Arkansas cemented its team victory after the 5,000 meters as Hogs crossed the line in 1-3-4-7-8, racking up a whopping 24 points and making UA’s total 115 over the Vols’ 65. Kosgei led the race the entire duration and captured his second title in as many days with a winning time of 13:53.85. He became only the second athlete in SEC history to successfully double in the two events. Former UA star Alistair Cragg accomplished that feat just last year in Lexington, Ky.
Freshman Shawn Forrest garnered third place and bettered his previous NCAA provisional qualification (14:14.45) with a performance of 13:57.49.
Junior Josphat Boit was close behind in fourth with 14:01.99. Junior Matt Gunn turned in a new provisional and career-best time of 14:11.38 for seventh. Senior Jason Sandfort picked up his 16th-career All-SEC accolade with an eighth place showing and new provisional qualification of 14:13.83.
In his first try at the 5,000 meters this year junior Luis Bordes registered 14:48.08 for 16th and junior Jose Campos was 19th (14:50.85).
A pair of Razorbacks garnered eight points in the 400 meters with their performances. Senior Terry Gatson was fourth in his heat and fourth overall with a time of 46.43, while senior Omar Brown came in sixth (46.98).
In the 800 meters four Razorbacks took to the track and tallied 14 points with fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh-place finishes. Senior James Hatch came in fourth (1:50.58), Ahmed was fifth (1:50.67), juniors Brian Roe and Harun Iman crossed the line in sixth (1:50.73) and seventh (1:50.88), respectively.
The relays concluded what was a fantastic day of track and field. Entering the DMR Arkansas had 139 points and for the 10th time in 12 years Arkansas finished first in the event, gaining 10 more points. The Hogs controlled the race from start to finish and cruised to a winning time of 9:46.91. Iman ran the first leg in a split of 3:03 and handed off to Grant who extended the lead with a 400-meter leg of 48.8. Roe took the baton for the third leg and turned in a split of 1:50.9 as he handed off to Ahmed for the anchor duties. In his fifth race for the day he guided the UA team to victory with a 4:04 split.
With the meet title already secured, Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay team put up a third-place finish with a time of 3:07.41. The Razorbacks were running in fifth place for the majority of the race after Brown, Hatch and Gatson were on the first three legs, respectively. Spearmon was placed on the anchor and powered the team to finish in third, adding the final eight points to make the grand total 155.
The NCAA Indoor Championships are next on the schedule on March 11-12. Arkansas will enjoy competing at home and be in search of an unprecedented 40th national title. Even though the Hogs are ranked No. 1 in the country they will still be in a battle to reclaim that first-place trophy.
“Nationals will be much tougher,” McDonnell said. “The points are harder to come by, especially if Tyson is not back by then. It will be a fight for the title.”





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