Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Lazas puts it all together for UA
Arkansas' Kevin Lazas competes in the pole vault portion of the heptathlon Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, during the Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Kevin Lazas didn’t go out and party Friday night on his 21st birthday.
“I was in bed by 10 o’clock, trying to get good rest and get ready for today,” Lazas said Saturday at the Razorback Invitational indoor track and field meet. “It paid off.”
Lazas had plenty to celebrate the day after his birthday as he won the heptathlon and set an Arkansas school record with 6,042 points while being cheered on by a home crowd at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Lazas also had the ninth-highest score in college history and the top mark this indoor season.
“The first half of the year, there’s nothing more you could ask for,” said Lazas, a junior from Brentwood, Tenn., whose previous high score was 5,930 points at last year’s NCAA Championships. “I’m just trying to come out here and get a score that will get me into the national meet and I think I did it, and the school record came with it.
“Overall, I’m real happy. I know there’s more in the tank. Save the bigger scores for the bigger meets.”
Lazas’ victory helped the No. 1 Razorbacks win the men’s team title in the 11-team field with 124 points at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The top eight included No. 3 Florida (79.5), Nebraska (70), Georgia (63), No. 11 Texas (58.5), No. 6 LSU and Baylor (56 each) and No. 21 Florida State (45).
Arkansas also got victories Saturday from Tarik Batchelor in the triple jump (53 feet, 8 1/2 inches), Caleb Cross in the 60-meter hurdles (7.69 seconds), Akheem Gauntlett in the 400 (46.44) and Patrick Rono in the 800 (1:48.49). Andrew Irwin won Friday night’s pole vault (17-5).
“We put a lot of points up on the board,” Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam said. “I think it shows a little bit about the amount of talent we have on the team, the depth that we have.
“This was a great group of programs here, and to put that many points on the board, I’m very pleased with that, especially after the third week of a real tough run for us opening the season.”
Lazas opened the meet Friday by running the 60 hurdles in a personal-best 6.94 seconds.
“It’s just huge coming out with such a fast start,” he said. “It gets my momentum going for all the other events.”
Lazas also had personal bests Friday in the shot put (48-6 1/2) and high jump (6-7). On Saturday, he ran the 60 hurdles in 8.38, cleared 16-9 1/4 in the pole vault and ran the 1,000 in 2:47.10
“We knew Kevin was ready to put one out,” said Arkansas assistant Travis Geopfert, who coaches themulti-events. “That guy is just a competitor every time he steps on the track.”
The NCAA no longer has automatic qualifying marks for the national meet, instead using a ranking system rewarding the best marks, but Arkansas’ coaches said Lazas score surely will be good enough to put him in the field.
Lazas broke the school record of 6,022 points set last year by Gunnar Nixon, a sophomore who isn’t competing right now because of academic issues, Bucknam said.
“It puts a little more weight on Kevin’s shoulders,” Geopfert said of Nixon’s absence. “But he’s a junior now and he can handle it.”
Batchelor, a fifth-year senior, competed at a home meet for the first time in two years. He redshirted last year after rupturing the patella tendon in his left knee.
“It felt really good to be out here jumping in front of the Arkansas Razorback crowd,” said Batchelor, who began his comeback last week at Texas A&M with a best jump of 51- 1 4/4. “I had to be really patient and just work my way back. It’s just a blessing to be jumping again.”
Bucknam said Batchelor’s return has been a lift for the entire team.
“To see him come back and be on the runway, being as athletic as he is and competing like he’s competing, getting that fear out of his head and getting back to where he needs to be, is a great sight,” Bucknam said.
“He had to see it before it happened, and he did the work to get it done.”
In the women’s competition, Arkansas senior Regina George won the 400 in 52.26, which bettered her national leading time of 53.30 she ran at Texas A&M last week.
George had hoped to anchor Arkansas’ national-leading 1,600 relay to a victory, but the Razorbacks dropped the baton on the first hand off between Megan Paul and Gwendolyn Flowers. They still finished eighth among 12 teams in 3:46.27.
The No. 5 Razorbacks, who finished fourth among 11 teams with 80 points.
No. 7 Florida won the women’s team title with 101 points.
Team scores from the Razorback Track Invitational on Saturday in Fayetteville:
Baylor 56 (tie) LSU 56
Florida St. 45
Oklahoma 37 (tie) Okla. St. 37
Florida State 46
Baylor 30 (tie) Nebraska 30
Sports, Pages 25 on 01/27/2013