EUGENE, Ore. – The No. 7 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team picked up six national qualifiers Saturday at the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. The Razorbacks end the weekend with a list of 10 qualifiers; the team will have 11 entries at the NCAA Championships with the addition of Kevin Lazas in the decathlon. On the final day of competition, Arkansas picked up two qualifiers each in the 200 meters and 1,500 meters and had both relays secure a spot at the national meet.
"I give a lot of credit to our guys under some tough conditions this week with the rain and cold" head coach Chris Bucknam said. "Coming off a big win at the SEC Championships, there might have been some reason to not give full effort but we got an A-plus effort across the board. I think we’ve really matured as a team. We had a couple of little glitches here and there, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort."
In the first event on the track, Arkansas earned its first national qualifier of the day with the 4×100-meter relay. The foursome of Caleb Cross, Neil Braddy, LaShawn Butler and Marek Niit passed the baton around the track in a time of 39.65, good for second place in heat two and fourth overall among the 12 teams to advance.
Duncan Phillips and Dorian Ulrey secured their places in Des Moines with a pair of automatic performances in their respective heats. Phillips finished fourth in his heat, and fourth overall, with a time of 3:44.84. Running in the second heat, Ulrey eased into a second-place result in a time of 3:46.63, good for the 10th-fastest qualifying time and a spot at the national meet.
Niit and Butler returned to the track following their duties with the relay to earn another pair of qualifiers for Arkansas, this time in the 200 meters. The Razorback duo ran to a 1-2 finish, respectively, in heat three of the quarterfinal round. Niit crossed in a time of 20.99, the fifth-fastest time of the round, while Butler posted a time of 21.06, good for the No. 8 overall time.
In the final event of the day, the 4×400-meter relay team combined to earn one last spot at the national meet for the Razorbacks. The team of Ben Skidmore (46.89), Niit (46.25), Chris Bilbrew (47.21) and Travis Southard (46.55) turned in a time of 3:07.28 to finish second in heat one, and fifth overall among the 12 team moving on to Des Moines.
With a second chance of the weekend to advance to the NCAA Championships, Eric Fernandez took the track in heat one of the 5,000 meters. The Razorback sophomore finished in 12th place in the heat, and 25th overall, with a time of 14:02.95. Justin Holmes also competed on the final day in the discus, posting a day’s best throw of 149-6 in flight one. Neither will move on to the national meet.
In addition to the list of qualifiers for the team this weekend, Arkansas will also have Lazas competing at the national meet in the decathlon. The Razorback freshman has the No. 8 point total in the country with his 7,703-point performance at the SEC Championships.
"We have a good, solid group going on to the final rounds," Bucknam said. "Now, we get back home, warm up a little bit and try to get ready for this final push. I’m very pleased with our effort. We had a really good, productive meet."
The Razorbacks return to action June 8-11 to close out the season at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. The top 24 competitors in each event-both regions combined-will compete at the national meet for individual and team honors. For more information and continued coverage, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
NCAA Championship qualifiers (top 12 in each event)4×100-Meter Relay4. Caleb Cross-Neil Braddy-LaShawn Butler-Marek Niit, 39.65
1,500 Meters4. Duncan Phillips, 3:44.8410. Dorian Ulrey, 3:46.63
200 Meters5. Marek Niit, 20.998. LaShawn Butler, 21.06
4×400-Meter Relay5. Ben Skidmore-Marek Niit-Chris Bilbrew-Travis Southard, 3:07.28
High Jump – from Friday5. Brede Raa Ellingsen, 7-0.25 (2.14m)
Steeplechase – from Friday12. Rick Elliott, 8:52.70
Long Jump – from Thursday3. Tarik Batchelor, 25-4 (7.72m)7. Raymond Higgs, 25-1.25 (7.65m)
Decathlon8. Kevin Lazas, 7,703 points