EUGENE, Ore. – The No. 7 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team takes 20 student-athletes and its two relays to the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round this weekend with the opportunity to qualify for the national meet. This weekend’s qualifier will be held May 26-28 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. The top 12 in each event per region-the East Prelim is being held in Bloomington, Ind.-will advance to the NCAA Championships.
"It’s like the conference meet in that we have a good group going," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "Now, we just have to see how it all shakes out. The thing that you can’t do is go in there just to qualify. You really have to go in there with the right attitude and you can’t make a mistake."
The Razorback men have 26 entries overall for the NCAA Championships and its qualifying rounds. That total is the third-highest total in the country and second among teams from the SEC. Texas A&M leads the NCAA with 30 entries this weekend. As a conference, the SEC has a total of 191 entries, just two behind the Pac-10 for the national lead. Arkansas is the only SEC team that competes in the West region.
The long jump will mark the first event of the weekend for Arkansas. The team will have two entries in the field with Tarik Batchelor and Raymond Higgs; Batchelor goes into the competition with the top mark in the region. Competition on day one for the Razorbacks will also feature the 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,500 meters, 400-meter hurdles and 10,000 meters. Fernandez can punch his ticket to the national meet Thursday in the one-round 10K.
"We’re going in with the focus of getting as many as we can into the top 12," Bucknam said. "We’ve got some guys that are ranked lower but we’re going in with that single purpose. It’s like the SEC meet where we went in there to get as many guys into scoring position as we could. There are a lot of factors in there, so it’s hard to predict."
With the exception of the steeplechase, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and relays, qualifying for running events will require two rounds of competition. The Razorbacks will have a participant in 15 of the 20 events contested this weekend; Kevin Lazas has already wrapped up his spot at the NCAA Championships in the decathlon with the eighth-best total this season.
In this week’s release of the USTFCCCA national ranking, the Razorbacks maintain their spot at No. 7, the team’s season-high position. The SEC has five teams ranked within the top 25 and is second in the conference index, behind the Big 12. Joining Arkansas in this week’s rankings are second-ranked Florida, No. 4 LSU, No. 18 Ole Miss and No. 20 Georgia.
The top 24 combined finishers from this weekend’s East and West Preliminary Round will advance to the NCAA Championships, held June 8-11 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com for meet-day coverage, including live results and interactive blog. The 2011 SEC Outdoor Championships from earlier this month will be televised Wednesday at 7 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU.
Download: NCAA West Prelim schedule.pdf