FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay team of Marek Niit, Akheem Gauntlett, Ben Skidmore and Neil Braddy earned collective Southeastern Conference Men’s Runner of the Week honors Tuesday as announced by the league office. The Razorback relay combined to run a time of 3:03.76 to win the event Saturday at the Tyson Invitational.
Arkansas’ performance represents the fastest time in the world this year, the second-fastest time in NCAA history and the No. 11 time ever run by a 4×400-meter relay team. The foursome finished just .25 off the collegiate record of 3:03.51 set by Florida in 2005. On the all-time list, the Razorbacks moved past the 2004 Baylor team that included Olympic gold medalists Jeremy Wariner and Darold Williamson.
"What those guys did is significant when you’re talking about running the second-fastest (collegiate) time ever," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "One of the more impressive things about that race is how comfortable each guy looked and how their legs didn’t look tired after a long weekend. It all comes back to (sprints coach) Doug Case who is doing a great job with that group."
With the win, Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay extended its national lead in the event and secured its second NCAA automatic-qualifying mark of season. The weekly award is the second for Gauntlett who was recognized individually as the SEC Runner of the Week (Jan. 31) following the Razorback Invitational.
In the Feb. 14 release of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national poll, Arkansas holds on to the No. 1 spot. The Razorbacks have been the nation’s top team for the past four weeks. The SEC continues to lead all conferences in the nation with seven ranked teams, including four positioned inside the top 10.
Arkansas owns 10 national top-10 event rankings. In addition to the 4×400-meter relay, Gunnar Nixon has the No. 1 point total in the heptathlon this season with his 6,022-point effort at the Razorback Invitational. Kevin Lazas is fourth in the multi-event competition. Gauntlett is ranked second at both 200 meter and 400 meters, while Niit is ninth and third in those events, respectively.
Braddy is tied with Niit for the third-best time at 400 meters this season. In the pole vault, Andrew Irwin has the No. 4 clearance in the country, dating back to his school-record effort at the Arkansas-Texas Dual. The Razorbacks’ distance-medley relay is currently the seventh-fastest in the NCAA.
The Razorbacks now turn their attention to the championship portion of their indoor schedule. The 2012 SEC Indoor Championships will be held Feb. 24-26 at the Nutter Field House in Lexington, Ky. Following the conference meet, Arkansas will host its Last Chance meet March 2 before heading to the NCAA Indoor Championships (March 9-10) in Boise, Idaho.
For more information regarding Razorback track and field or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
National Top-10 Event Rankings200 Meters2. Akheem Gauntlett – 20.829. Marek Niit – 21.03
400 Meters2. Akheem Gauntlett – 46.233. Marek Niit – 46.283. Neil Braddy – 46.28
4×400-Meter Relay1. Niit-Gauntlett-Skidmore-Braddy – 3:03.76*
Distance-Medley Relay7. Rono-Southard-Momoh-Phillips – 9:39.41
Pole Vault4. Andrew Irwin – 5.50m/18-0.5*
Heptathlon1. Gunnar Nixon – 6,022 points*4. Kevin Lazas – 5,920 points*
* – NCAA automatic qualifier
Download: Notes 5_SEC Championships.pdf