Razorbacks dig hole on first day

By: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014
Arkansas' Kevin Lazas throws during the decathlon shot put event at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Arkansas' Kevin Lazas throws during the decathlon shot put event at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

It was a tough start Wednesday for Arkansas' men's team at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

The No. 4 Razorbacks' chances of contending in the team race took some major hits as Andrew Irwin and Kevin Lazas -- both national champions for the Razorbacks when they won the 2013 NCAA Indoor title -- struggled in the pole vault and decathlon.

Irwin, a junior from Mount Ida who has won two NCAA Indoor titles, no-heighted Wednesday. The four-time All-American entered the pole vault competition at 17-8 1/2 and missed on all three of his attempts.

After missing the NCAA Outdoor meet as a freshman, Irwin finished fourth last year. He also was fourth at the NCAA Indoor meet this year.

Lazas, a senior who won the NCAA heptathlon title last year, is 14th in the decathlon after five events with 3,859 points.

Lazas, eighth in the decathlon at last year's NCAA Outdoor meet, ran 11.07 in the 100 meters, went 23-1 1/4 in the long jump, tossed the shot put 45-1, cleared 6-1 1/2 in the high jump and ran 51.71 in the 400.

Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam said Irwin had good height on all of his attempts but that he went so high he had trouble controlling his body and knocked down the bar with his legs.

"He's heart broken," Bucknam said. "He's not talking to anybody.

"He had 10 points scribbled down in his head for the team, and he feels like he let the team town, but he didn't let anybody down. He was in there competing like crazy and it just didn't work out."

Bucknam said Lazas is bothered by a bulging disc in his back, a previously undisclosed injury.

"We didn't make a big deal about it because we didn't want to show our cards," Bucknam said. "He still has a shot at being in the top eight and score points. He's just got to keep battling.

"The trainers are doing a great job with him."

There were mixed results for the Razorbacks in the 800. Junior Patrick Rono advanced to the final with the second-fastest overall time of 1:48.20, but sophomore Tomas Squella failed to advance after finishing 12th in 1:49.52.

Rono finished second in his heat to Mississippi State sophomore Brandon McBride, the NCAA Indoor champion.

"Rono did a great job and ran a smart race," Bucknam said. "He did exactly what we told him to do. We knew McBride would take it out at a torrid pace, and Rono got in behind him to automatically qualify."

The Razorbacks failed to advance in the 400 relay, running 39.69 to finish 17th in the preliminaries.

"We've still got plenty of scoring opportunities," Bucknam said. "We're by no means folding our tent."

Arkansas' women's team advanced senior Grace Heymsfield and junior Jessica Kamilos in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Heymsfield finished second in the second heat, running 1:03.24, to advance. Kamilos finished third in the first heat but advanced on time with a personal-best 1:01.06.

"The steeple couldn't have gone better for us," Arkansas Coach Lance Harter said. "I think Jessica was the 22nd seed coming in, and she followed the race plan perfectly, kept herself in contention and qualified on time."

Arkansas junior Taylor Ellis-Watson ran a personal-bbest 52.48 in the 400 but finished 13th and failed to qualify for the final. Junior Amethyst Boyd finished 20th in the javelin, throwing 151-1.

Arkansas State senior Sharika Nelvis didn't advance in the 100, running 11.34 to finish 13th. Nelvis, the NCAA champion in the 60-meter hurdles indoors, will run in the semifinals of the 100 hurdles tonight.

Arkansas' men's team has several entrants tonight, including seniors Raymond Higgs and Anthony May in the jump final, junior Stanley Kebenei in the 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals and freshman Omar McLeod in the 110-meter hurdle semifinals.

McLeod, the NCAA champion in the 60-meter hurdles indoors, also will run on the Razorbacks' 1,600 relay team today.

Seniors Stephanie Brown (1,500) and Heymsfield (steeplechase) will run semifinals tonight for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas State freshman Roelf Pienaar (long jump) and senior Chris Nicasio (hammer) will compete in finals tonight.

Sports on 06/12/2014