Top-ranked Arkansas wins six events and breaks record at home invite
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- On the final day of competition at the Razorback Team Invitational, No. 1 Arkansas posted a school record and five event wins on its way to finishing first in the team standings. The Razorbacks finished the two-day invitational with 124 points and six total wins, including Friday’s win by Andrew Irwin in the pole vault.
“First and foremost, we won the meet,” head coach Chris Bucknam said. “We put a lot of points up on the board. I think it shows a bit about the amount of talent we have on the team and the depth we have. This was a great group of programs here so to put that many points on the board, I’m very pleased with that especially at the end of a tough three-week run for us to start the season. I’m happy with the total result.”
Arkansas’ wins on Saturday came from Akheem Gauntlett at 400 meters, Patrick Rono at 800 meters, Caleb Cross in the 60-meter hurdles, Tarik Batchelor in the triple jump and Kevin Lazas in the heptathlon. Lazas also broke the school record with his two-day performance.
Entering the day with a 192-point lead against the rest of the field, Lazas extended his lead throughout the day and finished the two-day, seven-event competition with a school-record 6,042 points. His score also represents the best mark in the NCAA this season. Lazas surpassed the school record of 6,022 points set last year at this meet by teammate Gunnar Nixon. With his performance, Lazas became just the eighth collegiate heptathlete to top 6,000 points and is now No. 6 on the all-time collegiate performer list.
“I’m definitely happy,” Lazas said. “For this to be the first [heptathlon] of the year, there’s nothing more you can ask for. I wanted to get a score that would get me into the national meet. I did that and the school record came with it so overall, I’m really happy. I know there is more in the tank to save for bigger scores in the bigger meets.”
The Razorbacks placed four inside the top 11 of the 400 meters, led by event winner Gauntlett. Running in the final section, he raced out to a time of 46.44, which is the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season based on times entering the weekend. He was joined in the top 11 by Neil Braddy (47.39) in eighth place, Eric Janise (47.39) in ninth and Anton Kokorin (47.46) in 11th.
Cross was the third overall qualifier during the semifinal round of the 60 meter hurdles. He finished second in his heat with a time of 7.83 to advance to the championship race. In the event final, he out-leaned Eddie Lovett of Florida to win the event with a season-best time of 7.69, just .01 ahead of his SEC counterpart. Cross’ time is now the third-best effort in the NCAA this year.
The middle-distance crew was led by a first-place performance from Rono in the invitational section of the 800 meters. His winning time of 1:48.98 is a season best and he is currently ranked fourth in the country. Rono was one of three scorers in the event for Arkansas to go along with Ryan Thomas at 1:49.48 in third place and Tomas Squella at 1:50.77 in eighth.
In his second triple jump competition of the season, Batchelor posted a win Saturday with a winning mark of 16.37m/53-8.5. Having safely qualified for the final round of jumps, he posted his first-place measurement in his fifth jump of the day. Batchelor had the two best jumps in the field as his last jump of the day—16.32m/53-6.5—would have placed second overall.
The Razorbacks capped their weekend with a second-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay. The foursome of Braddy, Gauntlett, Kokorin and Travis Southard combined for a season-best time of 3:06.26, the fifth-fastest relay showing in program history. Arkansas’ time is also the fourth fastest in the NCAA this season. The top three times in the country all reside within the SEC.