FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Top-ranked Arkansas capped its weekend at the Razorback Invitational with a world junior record in the heptathlon by Gunnar Nixon. Competing in his first collegiate multi-event, the Razorback freshman scored 6,022 points to surpass the previous mark of 5,953 points set by Michael Kohnle of West Germany in 1989.
Overall, the Razorbacks finished the weekend with three NCAA automatic-qualifying marks. Arkansas will be represented at the national meet by Nixon and teammate Kevin Lazas, who finished second in the heptathlon with 5,920 points. The team also collected an NCAA qualifying performance from its 4×400-meter relay team of Marek Niit, Akheem Gauntleet, Ben Skidmore and Neil Braddy.
In addition to his world junior record, Nixon became the fifth collegian to eclipse the 6,000-point mark in the heptathlon. His mark also represents a 2012 world leader, American junior record, top mark in the NCAA this year and school record. Nixon is the only junior competitor-aged 20 and under-to score more than 6,000 points in a heptathlon.
“I was pretty pumped with where I was with 200 [meters[ to go [in the 1,000 meters],” Nixon said. “I actually didn’t know what the record was coming in. I just knew the 6,000-point barrier would be something awesome to achieve in my first-ever heptathlon so that’s what I was going for.”
Lazas, the former American junior record, finished second in the heptathlon with 5,920 points. With his effort, he is the ninth-best collegiate performer in the event. Entering the weekend, Lazas had a best of 5,674 points which he scored last season at the SEC Championships during his freshman year. Overall, the Razorbacks’ six competitors in the heptathlon all finished inside the top 15 and scored more than 5,100 points.
Arkansas collected its first NCAA automatic-qualifying mark of the season when its 4×400-meter relay team finished in a time of 3:06.03, dipping below the 3:06.50 standard. The foursome of Marek Niit (46.75), Akheem Gauntlett (46.72), Ben Skidmore (46.49) and Neil Braddy (46.09) combined to run the fastest time in the country this season. The Razorbacks are one of two teams, along with race runner-up LSU, to secure a spot at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
The Razorbacks placed four inside the top 10 of the 400 meters with Skidmore and Gauntlett finishing second and third, respectively. Skidmore crossed the finish in a season-best time of 46.57 and Gauntlett was right behind with a time of 46.73. Braddy ran to a time of 47.29 to win his heat and place fifth overall. Niit rounded out Arkansas’ top-10 finishes with an eighth-place result in 47.63, a season-best time.
In the invitational section of the 800 meters, Patrick Rono crossed the finish line in second place having run a personal-best time of 1:48.75. He was one of three Razorbacks to finish in the top five of the event, along with Duncan Phillips, in his season debut, and Anthony Lieghio. Phillips finished third with a time of 1:48.79, the second fastest of his career, while Lieghio clocked in at 1:49.01 for a fifth-place finish.
After qualifying earlier in the day, Caleb Cross finished in fourth place in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.91. He was the third-fastest qualifier with a time of 7.92 during the preliminary round. In the consolation final, Andrew Pennington had a personal-best performance of 8.14 to finish second in the event.
Scott Gillespie finished in second place and was the top collegiate performer in the open mile. He crossed the line in a season-best time of 4:07.76, the second-fastest effort of his career. Over the next two heats, Aaron ran a personal-best 4:21.12 and David Flynn made his debut in a Razorback jersey. Earlier in the day, Cameron Efurd established a personal best of 8:37.98 in the open 3,000 meters.