SEC INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS:

UA women join men in revelry

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Arkansas sprinters, from left, Regina George, Sparkle McKnight, Gwendolyn Flowers and Chrishuna Williams celebrate a win in the 4x400-meter relay that gave the Razorbacks a conference title Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, during the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas sprinters, from left, Regina George, Sparkle McKnight, Gwendolyn Flowers and Chrishuna Williams celebrate a win in the 4x400-meter relay that gave the Razorbacks a conference title Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, during the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas women’s coach Lance Harter, freshly splashed with a cooler of water, lugged a big circular SEC logo to Razorbacks’ ace sprinter Regina George shortly after the SEC Indoor Track and Field championships on Sunday.

George, who had just run the anchor leg on Arkansas’ winning 1,600-meter relay team, lifted the SEC logo high as the Arkansas women celebrated their first SEC indoor title in 10 years at the Randal Tyson Track Center after a heated four-team race with LSU, Texas A&M and Florida.

“I think we kept the people in the stands and kept it exciting,” said Arkansas women’s Coach Lance Harter, after a five-point victory over No. 1-ranked LSU.

The top-ranked Arkansas men drained the drama from their competition with 152.5 points, well ahead of second place Florida (117), despite having their 1,600-meter relay team disqualified for impeding a competitor.

The Arkansas men won the SEC indoors for the 19th time in 22 seasons.

“I guess you could say it’s in our DNA to perform well on this particular weekend,” Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam said. “It’s always good to come through for the home crowd and for our alums that built this great legacy.

“We hope they’re happy with what we’re doing and we’re going to try to get them a national title.”

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Arkansas athletes celebrate after the men's and women's teams won conference titles Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, during the Southea... + Enlarge

The Arkansas women led LSU by one point heading into the 1,600-meter relay,the meet’s final event, and needed to finish ahead of LSU to win.

Razorbacks quarter milers Chrishuna Williams, Sparkle McKnight and Gwendolyn Flowers brought the baton around in first place to George, who was hand-timed by Arkansas sprints coach Chris Johnson in 51.1 as she pulled away for the event title and team victory.

“I knew we had to keep LSU to our back, but then again, for our own goals, we wanted to win it all,” said George, who won the 400 meters (51.4) and scored 17.5 points. “We actually did it, and a school record came with it, so I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

The Razorbacks and Tigers pushed back and forth down the stretch for the women’s title. LSU took a 1-point lead after the triple jump, when the Tigers’ Keri Emanuel and Lynnika Pitts combined for 13 points to offset the four points earned by Arkansas’ Tamara Myers for fifth place.

Arkansas regained the edge, 106.5-105.5, by claiming first place with LSU second in the distance medley relay - after Florida’s disqualification - in the second-to-last event.

“I think we had always said if it was going to come down to the last event it would be perfect for us,” Harter said. “We knew it was going to be a four-team battle, we just didn’t know who was going to be in what position.”

Makeba Alcide followed her pentathlon victory with a fourth-place showing in the high jump on her 23rd birthday. Another scoring key for the Razorbacks came in the5,000 meters, where Diane Robinson in third (16:24.19), Dominique Scott in fifth (16:35.02), Shannon Klenke in sixth (16:36.57) and Semehar Tesfaye in seventh (16:45.45) combined for 15 points to outscore event winner Laura Carelton of LSU (16:18.20).

“On paper coming in, we figured Arkansas would have a 10-point advantage on us, and as the meet progressed we slowly started reducing that number, and we did finally get it to one point,” LSU women’s Coach Dennis Shaver said.

McKnight overtook LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan, a double winner in the 60 and 200 meters, on the second leg of the 1,600 relay and the Razorbacks never looked back.

“We knew we were good and that we could win it, but just getting the stick around and not having any fumbles is the main thing,” Johnson said. “The team just came together on Makeba and Regina’s backs and really just jelled and got it done.”

The Razorbacks men collected three event titles, capped by the distance medley team of Anthony Lieghio, Nathanael Franks, Cameron Efurd and Patrick Rono. Rono’s kick in the mile put away double-event winner Henry Lelei of Texas A&M and Matt Mizereck of Florida and capped Arkansas’ winning time of 9:50.668.

“Coach told us coming into the meet, ‘Don’t give anybody a chance,’ and everybody got real pumped up,” Rono said. “We all brought our A game from the beginning.”

The Razorbacks scored in every event they were entered in except for the distance medley relay.

“That bodes well for our staff and shows the kind of recruiting they do,” Bucknam said. “It’s relentless, and it shows when you get to these big meets. To be able to dominate a meet like this is all about recruiting.”

Arkansas other event titles went to sophomore Andrew Irwin with a school record 18 feet, 4 1/2 inches in the pole vault and Tarik Batchelor with a 54-2 3/4 in the triple jump.

Irwin, the reigning NCAA Indoor champion, defended his title in what he termed a stressful competition. Irwin cleared none of the heights on his first attempt, but outlasted Tennessee’s Jake Blankenship to win at 18-4 1/2. Irwin missed three tries at the SEC Indoor record of 5.71 meters.

Batchelor, who returned from an injury plagued 2012season, posted his winning jump on his first try.

“That’s always the plan,” he said. “You’re freshest on your first attempt, and when you put a big jump there right away it puts a lot of pressure on your opponents.”

LSU’s Duncan won the 200 meters with a world-best time this season of 22.54. He also won the 60 meters (7.24).

Texas A&M’s Lelei won the 5,000 meters in 13:54.33 to add to his 3,000-meter title (7:57.57) title on Saturday.

Team results

WOMEN

1.Arkansas ...... 114.50

2.LSU ................. 109.50

3.Texas A&M ..............88

4.Florida .............. 87.50

5.Georgia ............ 52.50

6.South Carolina ........50

7.Kentucky ............... 34

8.Tennessee ...............29

9.Missouri ................ 28

10.Alabama .............. 25

11.Miss State .............18

12.Mississippi ............11

13.Auburn ....................9

14.Vanderbilt................5

MEN

1.Arkansas ...... 152.50

2.Florida .................. 117

3.Texas A&M ........ 88.50

4.Georgia.................. 56

5.LSU ...................... 44

6.Auburn ................. 41

7.Alabama ............... 40

8.Missouri..................32

8.Tennessee ...............32

10.Kentucky ...............30

11.Mississippi ............22

12.South Carolina ........7

Sports, Pages 13 on 02/25/2013

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