Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
UA men, women in front
Arkansas senior Caleb Cross clears the final hurdle on his way to a second-place finish ahead of Missouri junior Andy Schuckenbrock in a preliminary heat of the 60-meter hurdles Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, during the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE No. 1 Arkansas piled up points in the men’s 3,000 meters and the heptathlon to take an 18-point lead over Florida on Saturday heading into the final day of the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships.
The second-ranked Arkansas women’s team also leads with 37 points, ahead of Georgia (28), Florida (27.5) and Kentucky (15) with No. 1 LSU still in the hunt with 13.5 points.
Arkansas’ men, who have won six of the past seven SEC indoor titles, have 10 qualifiers for today’s finals as well as two runners in the 5,000 meters, including Stanley Kebenei, who has the top qualifying time.
WHAT: SEC men’s and women’s indoor track and field championships
WHERE: Randal Tyson Track Center, Fayetteville
WHEN: Field events begin at 10 a.m., running events begin at 12:35 p.m.
LAST EVENT: Women’s 1,600-meter relay, 4:40 p.m.
AWARDS: 4:55 P.M.
“That’s a real solid day for us,” Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam said. “You know, it’s always a little topsy-turvy at this meet.We would have liked to have another guy in the 800 - we had planned on that - but for the most part, things have played out pretty much like we thought.”
Florida’s Marquis Dendy turned in the day’s best individual performance with a long jump of 27 feet, 1 inch - the best in the world this season - to help keep the No. 2 Gators in contention.
Dendy responded to a challenge from LSU’s Damar Forbes by jumping his winning distance on his second attempt and he finished with three jumps that surpassed his career best.
“My first jump, I don’t know if it was a foul, but it was huge,” Dendy said. “I’m going to talk about 28 feet huge. I looked at that and said, I have no worries about the competition right now. I just wanted to go out there and get my foot on the board, then just jump far from there.”
Dendy surpassed the SEC meet record held by current Alabama assistant coach Miguel Pate.
Texas A&M’s Deon Lendore powered into the final of the 400 meters with a time of 45.15, easily surpassing his best in the world (45.91) this season.
Arkansas sprinter Regina George broke her own school record in the 400 meters (51.47), the fourth-fastest time in the world this year, to lead all qualifiers into today’s final. The senior also ran a career-best 23.0 in the 200 to qualify third in that event behind LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan (22.71) and Texas A&M’s Ashton Purvis (22.99).
“Today was a great day,” said Lance Harter, Arkansas’ women’s coach. “We lead off with the pole vault and we scored right where we thought we would, and had an opportunity to jump at a winning height with Sandi Morris.
Arkansas’ women’s team has eight qualifiers in today’s finals, plus five runners in the 5,000 meters.
Georgia’s Garrett Scantling, capitalizing on the absence of Arkansas’ Kevin Lazas in the heptathlon, easily won with 5,889 points.
Maicel Uibo of Georgia finished second in the heptathlon (5,693) and teammate Devon Williams (5,494) was fourth.
Arkansas’ Kebenei and Kemoy Campbell finished 2-3 in the 3,000 meters behind Texas A&M’s Henry Lelei, who won the Aggies’ first individual title in the SEC, and the Razorbacks’ Solomon Haile finished seventh. The 16 points by Kebenei (7:58.58), Campbell (8:01.45) and Haile (8:10.87) combined with the Hogs’ 13 heptathlon points to pace Arkansas.
Sophomore Nathanael Franks of Arkansas captured the heptathlon’s 1,000 meters with a 2:35.92 to solidify third place.
“We scored about like we expected, and again, you hope things don’t backfire on you,” Bucknam said. “You know, holding Lazas out, it’s kind of a big deal for us, but we just felt like his best shot would be to rest this weekend and not go through a full seven events.”
SEC Indoors Through 5 events
Arkansas .. 52
Ole Miss .....13
Texas A&M .13
Arkansas .. 37
Florida .... 27.5
LSU ........ 13.5
Sports, Pages 25 on 02/24/2013