FAYETTEVILLE - Though still despising that the NCAA West Preliminary Outdoor meet exists, Arkansas Men’s Track Coach Coach Chris Bucknam and especially Arkansas Women’s Track Coach Lance Harter love the results of last week’s abbreviated meet in Lawrence, Kan.
The NCAA mandates that to advance athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships June 8-11 in Eugene, Ore., teams must advance from a 48-individual field to a top 12 finish at either the 3-day NCAA East Preliminary meet in Jacksonville, Fla. or the 3-day NCAA West Preliminary that Arkansas hosted years ago and this year was hosted by the University of Kansas.
Twenty-four for each event, the top 12 in the East and top 12 in the West, will converge on Eugene. So will the top 24 men’s and women’s teams 4 x100 and 4 x 400 relay teams.
Bucknam and Harter prefer the season’s nationally best performance descending order list formulating the NCAA Outdoor championship field over the regionals money and adrenaline spent overburdening athletes, especially elite ones in an Olympic year.
It became an additional hardship in Lawrence because thunderstorms washed out last Thursday’s opening day. Scheduled to span three afternoons and three nights with prelims in all races through the 1,500 meters, the meet was condensed to two mornings and afternoons of straight finals.
The sense of urgency sparked some peak performances.
Arkansas’ women’s 4 x 400 relay of Damajahaee Birch, Daina Harper, Monisa Dobbins, an Arkansan from Nashville, and SEC Outdoor 400-meter champion Taylor Ellis-Watson anchoring, clocked a best in the world for 2016 3:25.48 holding off Texas Saturday.
“The University of Texas which is the No. 1 team in the nation and had run 3:26 and we ended up beating them and ran 3:25, the fastest time in the world,” Harter said. “ Considering they had the World Relays in April at the Bahamas, we actually ran faster than those countries did.”
Including already NCAA Outdoor qualified heptathletes Taliyah Brooks, Payton Stumbaugh, Alex Gochenour and Leigha Brown, distance running coach Harter has 21 advancing from Lawrence to Eugene.
The contingent includes, with their running event Lawrence rank and performance, 100-meter dash: Kiara Parker, 10th, 100-meter 11.50, 100-meter hurdles: Stumbaugh, seventh, 13.20 and Gochenhour, 11th, 13.28; 400-meter hurdles: Birch, ninth, 57.89: 400-meter dash: Ellis-Watson, third, 51.76 and Harper, eighth, 52.93; 3,000-meters steeplechase: Jessica Kamilos, 10:04.76 and Devin Clark, sixth, 10:08,35; 5,000-meters: Dominique Scott-Efurd, sixth, 16:15.88 and 10,000-meters Scott-Efurd, first, 34:20.35, the aforementioned 4 x 400 relay and the 4 x100 relay of Kelsey Herman of Crossett; Ellis-Watson, Harper and Parker, fifth 44.58
Arkansas’ women’s field events are headed by its pole vaulting Cabot contingent: Freshman twin sisters Lexi Weeks and Tori Weeks, first and fifth after clearing 13-10 then passing, and senior Ariel Voskamp, seventh, 13-6 1-4; and the long jump, Brooks, third, 20-9 1-4, and Herman, fourth 20-5 3-4.
“It couldn’t have gone better except for the weather,” Harter said, noting, “Yeah, I do,” on feeling better about Arkansas’ chances against NCAA Indoor champion Oregon after competing head to head against Oregon in Lawrence.
Bucknam noted NCAA Indoor Men’s champion and NCAA Outdoor host Oregon begins with a given 30 points from anticipated first places from Edward Cheserek 5,000 and 10,000 meters; and Devon Allen, 110-meter hurdles but of his nationally No. 5 SEC champion Razorbacks asserted: “We have Jarrion (Lawson, the NCAA Indoor long jump champion and superb sprinter) and our own guys, too.”
Sprinter Marqueze Washington, injuring a hamstring during the SEC Outdoor, ran improved in Lawrence.
“Our sprint crew ran phenomenally well,” Bucknam said. “Marqueze is back and looking great. Jarrion looked phenomenal, really good. Clive (Pullen, the NCAA Indoor triple jump champion) took one jump and didn’t have to jump again. Kenzo Cotton is 100 percent now. So I think we are hitting our stride.”
Bucknam’s 20 athletes bound for Eugene include in Lawrence event, place and performance: 100-meters dash: Marqueze Washington, first, 10.20; Cotton, fifth, 10.25 and Lawson, eighth, 10.29.
•200-meters: Lawson, second, 20.17; Cotton, third, 20.35 and Marqueze Washington, fourth, 20.54.
•400-meter hurdles: Larry Donald, seventh, 51.17.
•400-meter dash: Obiu Igbokwe, fifth 46.32.
•800-meters: Ryan Thomas, 11th, 1:48.77.
•3,000-meter steeplechase: Frankline Tonui, 11th, 8:49.98
•10,000-meters: Gabe Gonzalez, fourth, 29:52.76.
•4 x 100 relay: Cotton, Lawson, Davon Anderson and Joshua Washington, 39.45.
•4 x 400 relay: Igbokwe, Cotton, Eric Janise and JaMarco Stephens, ninth, 3:05.62.
For field events Bucknam’s men advanced in the long jump, Lawson, first 26-0, Kurt Jenner, sixth, 24-11; and Andreas Trakkvoski, seventh, 24-10.
In the triple jump, Pullen sixth 52-9 1-2 on his lone jump, and high jump: Ken LeGassey, took first 7-1 1-4.
Previously, the Hogs nationally qualified two decathletes.
“We’ve got 20 guys which I am sure will be one of the largest groups,” Bucknam said. “Just a matter of going from there.”
(Nate Allen covers the Razorbacks for the News-Times.)