SEC track, field: Arkansas men, Lady Vols win; Kentucky finishes seventh in both team events

March 1, 2009

Arkansas won its fifth consecutive men’s title in the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships, finishing the three-day meet Sunday with 130 points, 28 more than runner-up Florida.

The title is the 12th in 13 years and 16th in 18 years for Arkansas, but the first under Coach Chris Bucknam — successor to the legendary John McDonnell.

Tennessee rallied to edge defending champion LSU for the women’s championship, 111-105. Arkansas was third with 97 points.

Kentucky placed seventh in both the men’s (48 points) and women’s (49 1/2) competition.

“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill, and it’s trying to balance the scholarship money across the event areas so that we’re more competitive across the board,” UK Coach Don Weber said. “But for what we had out there today, especially on the men’s side but even on the women’s side, I was really pleased with the way they competed. Their will to win.

“So we’re not where we want to be. We’ve got have more depth, more balance. But the way they competed, I was pretty pleased.”

Mikel Thomas

Mikel Thomas

UK’s top efforts came from Mikel Thomas, runner-up in the 60-meter hurdles, and Jose Acevedo, who was third in the 400, seventh in the 200 and anchored the Wildcats’ third-place 4-by-400 relay.

“Man, there’s nobody that wanted it more than me,” Thomas said after running second to South Carolina’s Jason Richardson. “I got out great. I had it for like three hurdles, smashed that No. 4, but I stayed in there and fought all the way across the line and gave it all I had.”

Richardson clocked 7.72. Thomas, a senior who competed for Trinidad and Tobago at last summer’s Beijing Olympics, was timed in 7.77.

Jose Acevedo

Jose Acevedo

Acevedo won his 400 heat in 46.85, but was upstaged by second-heat winner Robert Simmons of LSU (46.22). Acevedo’s 200 of 21.14 placed him just behind teammate Justin Austin (20.99). Georgia’s Torrin Lawrence won in 20.81.

The 4-by-400 went to Florida (3:05.82), followed by South Carolina (3:06.11) and the Wildcats (3;06.78).

“It was a really good day,” said Acevedo, a senior who ran the 200 for Venzuela at last summer’s Beijing Olympics. “I ran 46 (seconds) twice in the 400. I haven’t run under 47 in like three years, so I was pretty pleased about that. The 200, after running the 400, believe me, I was really tired and I couldn’t give more. But I still ran good, 21.1 indoors.”

Arkansas’ Bucknam credited his assistant coaches and the Razorback seniors who made it all possible.

“They came with a first-year coach with just a short period of time left,” Bucknam said. “I asked them to lead the program and to help us get through this this year. And, of course, they did. With flying colors.

“So my hat’s off to the seniors that stepped it up another level. When there was adversity, when there was a coaching change, they continued to train hard. And this is the end result.”

Dorian Ulrey, who came with Bucknam from Northern Iowa, led a 1-2-4-8 Arkansas finish in the mile. Bucknam finished in 3:59.77. Duncan Phillips came in second (4:01.30), Michael Chinchar took fourth (4:03.52), with Rick Elliott eighth (4:08.33).

“We train all year round for this meet and one other particular indoor meet,” Ulrey said, nodding to the NCAA Championships. “We just ran smooth. We ran relaxed. Our whole plan was to just blanket the finish with Razorbacks, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Arkansas’ other wins Sunday came from Alex McClary in the 800 and in the distance medley relay (Chinchar, Jake Stephens, McClary and Phillips). With the team title in hand, Ulrey opted out of the relay in order to spread the event titles around.

Ulrey tipped his hat to McDonnell, saying he was pleased “to be able to continue that excellent tradition with the new coach and the new athletes, and kind of usher in a new era for Arkansas. And we’ve done a pretty good job this weekend.”

The Razorbacks got a 2-3 finish in the triple jump from Nkosinza Balumbu and Tarek Batchelor. as well as second-place finishes by J-Mee Samuels in the 60, Niit Marek in the 200 and Shawn Forrest in the 5,000. Samuels, who also took fifth in the 200, got things rolling.

“It energized our team when J-Mee busted out that great 60,” Bucknam said. “He’d been struggling all year. To see him come through like he did and hit an auto-qualifier (6.63) against (LSU’s) Trindon Holliday, a world-class sprinter in his own right, that was a big start for us. Then it just built from that point on.”

Florida freshman Christian Taylor, who won the long jump Saturday, added the triple jump Sunday, knocking off defending champion Balumba with a fifth-round distance of 52-10 1/4. Taylor scored 22 1/2 points to win the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Tennessee’s women blanketed the results sheet, scoring in 14 of 17 events.

Sarah Bowman led the Vols completing a third consecutive trifecta with wins in the mile, 3,000 meters and as anchor of the distance medley relay. That added up to 22 1/2 points and the Commissioner’s Trophy as the high scorer of the meet.

Tennessee also got wins from a pair of former walk-ons: Celriece Law in the 60-meter hurdles and Phoebe Wright in the 800. Law also placed third in the triple jump. Lynne Layne placed second in the 60 and 200, adding an eighth-place finish in the long jump.

Quoteworthy

Christian Taylor, Fla., triple jump winner – “I was happy I came through, … happy to get out on the fifth jump and then just watch. … That (5) is my new number. I’ll take it. I’m blessed with good health and strong training. I’ll carry this to nationals.”

Jason Richardson, S.C., hurdles winner – “It went OK. … I’m blessed that I came out as champion. That’s all I can ask.”

Richardson, on trailing Kentucky’s Thomas out of the blocks – “I usually come on at the end, so I didn’t panic and I didn’t fret. I just stayed confident in my training and I was able to come out on top at the end.”

Trindon Holliday, LSU, 60-meter dash winner – “I didn’t have the start that I wanted to have. I kind of stumbled a little bit, but I was able to maintain what I was doing and finish the race.”

Holliday on having the second-best qualifying time, behind Kentucky’s Rondel Sorrillo, Sunday’s fourth-place finisher – “It wasn’t any cause for concern. It was more motivation than anything. So I just told myself to come out and ‘I’m gonna be ready to go when the gun’s shot.’”

Tennessee Lady Vols Coach J.J. Clark – “We had a couple things go our way and had some youngsters come through. We had some SEC champions come through with big points for us, and that’s what really helped to pull us through. It was a great meet for our Lady Vols, really something to remember.”

Catherine Kalmer, on leading Arkansas’ 1-2-3 finish in the women’s 5,000 – “We’re very excited. We just decided to come out here today and try to get a national (qualifying) mark. Unfortunately we didn’t run as fast as we’d hoped for, but I still think we made a point that Arkansas distance running is something to be reckoned with.”

Earlier coverage from Sunday’s meet

Update: Newspaper duties call, but here are the final team standings. I’ll update this blog once I’m done with my Herald-Leader paper duty!

Men – Arkansas 130; Florida 102; Tennessee 78; South Carolina and Auburn 65; LSU 64; Kentucky 48; Georgia 47; Alabama 35; Ole Miss 29. Commissioner’s Trophy (for points leader): Christian Taylor, Florida.

Women – Tennessee 111; LSU 105; Arkansas 97; Florida 84; South Carolina 57; Auburn 54; Kentucky 49 1/2; Ole Miss 32; Mississippi State 28; Alabama 26 1/2; Georgia 14; Vanderbilt 5. Commissioner’s Trophy: Sarah Bowman, Tennessee.

*With the men’s team championship in hand, Arkansas gave 3,000-meter and mile champion Dorian Ulrey a rest, having him set out the distance medley relay. No matter. The Razorbacks still won in 9:47.31.

Michael Chinchar led off, followed by Jake Stephens, 800-meter champion Alex McClary and Duncan Phillips.

Phillips outkicked Alabama’s Emmanuel Bor on the final straightaway. Bama came in at 9:47.66.

After 16 events, Arkansas has 127 points. Florida has 92, Tennessee 77, Auburn 65, LSU 60 and South Carolina 57. Kentucky and Georgia are tied for seventh with 42 points.

Christine Kalmer, Denise Bargiachi and Catherine White gave Arkansas a 1-2-3 sweep in the women’s 5,000. Kalmer won in 16:20.06, followed by Bargiachi, the defending champion.

Through 13 events, LSU leads Tennessee 92-83 in the women’s standings. Arkansas has 81, Auburn 48. Kentucky is seventh with 31 1/2.

* 200-meter wins go to Georgia’s Torrin Lawrence (20.81) and LSU’s Samantha Henry (23.45). Kentucky’s Justin Austin and Jose Acevedo placed 6-7 in the men’s race.

Through 15 men’s events, Arkansas leads Florida 117-87. Tennessee has 73, LSU 60, Auburn 59. UK is eighth with 40.

Through 12 women’s events, LSU leads Tennessee 92-80. Arkansas is next with 57, then South Carolina with 46, Auburn with 44, Florida 41 and UK 31 1/2.

* Winners at 800 meters were Arkansas’ Alex McClary (1:49.37) for the men and Tennessee’s Phoebe Wright (2:02.31) for the women.

Arkansas leads the men’s standings 105-87 over Florida. Tennessee has 72, LSU 60. Kentucky is seventh with 35.

With a 2-4-5 finish in the 800, LSU has taken a 76-72 lead over the Tennessee women. Arkansas has 55, South Carolina 46. UK is seventh with 31 1/2.

* More winners include Dorian Ulrey of Arkansas in the mile (3:59.77), Robert Simmons of LSU in the 400 (46.22) and Tyson David of Alabama in the 5,000.

Through 13 events, the Arkansas men hold a 95-77 lead over Florida. Tennessee is third (64), followed by LSU and South Carolina (57 each), Auburn 48 and Kentucky 35.

Auburn’s Joanna Atkins prevailed in the women’s 400 (52.61).

Through 10 women’s events, Tennessee and LSU remain tied with 59 points. Arkansas has 53, South Carolina 46. Kentucky is seventh with 31 1/2.

* Quick update: Through nine events, Tennessee and LSU are tied to the women’s lead with 59 points. Then it’s Arkansas (48), Florida (35), South Carolina (33) and Kenutcky (31 1/2).

LSU’s Samantha Henry took the 60 meters (7.21) over Tennessee’s Lynne Layne (7.22).

Tennessee’s Sarah Bowman, winner of Saturday’s 3K, won the mile in 4:41.35. She is the first woman ever to sweep the SEC mile and 3K three years in a row.

* South Carolina’s Jason Richardson just edged Kentucky’s Mikel Thomas in the men’s 60-meter hurdles, 7.72 seconds to 7.77.

Results are rolling in now. My duty as a newspaper reporter call first, so updates will be less frequent. However, results are availalbe very quickly online at ukathletics.com.

A 23-point bonanza in the pole vault has put Tennessee on top of the men’s standings.

The Vols jump from third place to first, leading Arkansas 62-51. Florida is third with 45, followed by South Carolina’s 37 and LSU’s 32. Kentucky is 10th with 13 points.

Tennessee went 1-2 in the vault, Joe Berry and Brad Holtz each topping 17-3. Michael Ayers, winner of the heptathlon, cleared 17-0 for fourth place.

Taylor gets his second win for Gators

Florida freshman Christian Taylor picked up his second win, taking the men’s triple jump just the way he won Saturday’s long jump.

Christian Taylor

Christian Taylor

David Banks

David Banks

Defending champion Nkosinza Balumbu of Arkansas led through four rounds.

But Taylor, just as happened Saturday, came up with a winning effort on his fifth attempt, 52 feet, 10 1/4 inches.

Balumbu, jumping last, finished with a 52-footer in the fifth round and 52-1 1/4 on his last try. Teammate Tarek Batchelor finished third at 50-2 3/4.

Kentucky’s David Banks, seeded 11th, popped a season-best 49-8 1/4 to place fifth.

Arkansas leads the men’s points race with 51 points. Florida has 43, Tennessee 39, South Carolina 27. UK is 10th with 13 points.

Auburn senior Raevan Harris took top honors in the women’s high jump at 6-0 3/4. LSU’s Brittani Carter was runner-up at 5-11 1/2.

For UK, pentathletes Ashley Newby and Precious Nwokey finished seventh (5-5 1/4) and 15th (5-3 1/4). Natalie Wise no-heighted.

Arkansas leads the women’s standings with 45 points. LSU has 40, Kentucky 29 1/2 and Tennessee 25.

LSU’s Henning dominates in weight throw

The first title to be won Sunday, the final day of the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships, goes to LSU’s Walter Henning.

Walter Henning

Walter Henning

The sophomore from Kings Park, N.Y., dominated the men’s 35-pound weight throw with a winning distance of 75-feet, 5 1/2 inches at the University of Kentucky’s Nutter Field House.

Henning, who transferred from North Carolina, where his junior world record of 72-3 earned him third place in the NCAA Indoor Champs.

Saturday, he had four throws beyond 22 meters. No other thrower reached 21 meters.

South Carolina sophomore Mike Zajac was second at 20.67 meters — 68 feet, 1 1/2 inches.

Kentucky’s Rashaud Scott slipped from fourth place in flight competition to sixth in the finals. His best mark, 63-11 3/4, came in the third round. He fouled all three attempts in the finals.

Through six men’s events, Arkansas leads Tennessee 37-34. Florida has 33, South Carolina 27, and LSU is tied with Auburn at 25. Kentucky is 10th with nine points.

Sarah Bowman, Tenn., on her unprecedented three-peat sweep of the mile, 3K and distance medley relay: “Each year you have to go in with your right, and you can’t expect to be handed anything. You have to work for everything. So I came in ready to work.”