Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Top Hogs start strong outdoors
Dwayne Golbek of Arkansas competes in the high jump at the Texas Relays at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Friday, March 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner)
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas track & field coach Chris Bucknam couldn't have asked for a better open to the outdoor season.
The No. 1 Razorbacks returned home from the Texas Relays with positive results against a field that included defending co-national champions Florida and Texas A&M, and host school Texas. Arkansas had wins in the 4x800 relay, the sprint medley relay and went 1-2-5 in the high jump.
Just two weeks removed from a national runner-up finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, the Razorbacks made the tough adjustment outdoors look routine.
"I thought it was one of our better opening track meets we've had the last few years," Bucknam said. "We had some big success there with a couple of relays. We weren't at full strength but we got a body of work done.
"That first meet on spring break is always a transition period, especially after an emotional indoor season. When you've had a really good year indoors, the transition is always a little bit harder because you put a lot of time, effort and emotion into the indoor season."
Arkansas' best individual results came in the high jump, where Noah Kittelson and Dwayne Golbek finished first and second, respectively, while Ken LeGassey finished fifth. Golbek was a late addition to the field of 21 participants in the event.
"I was entered late as the 21st competitor and came out with a second-place finish. It felt good," Golbek said. "You never know what to expect with the first meet of the season. It was great to be able to come out to compete today and give it my all. Coach (Travis) Geopfert tells us to focus on the process, that's what I did, everything just came together."
In the sprint medley relay, anchor Tomas Squella passed LSU's Blair Henderson in the final 100 meters for the win. Squella was also part of the winning 4x800 relay team.
"I was way behind the guy from LSU, like 50 meters behind, so I wasn't sure if I'd catch him," Squella said. "But I just did my job and when I saw he started slowing down in the final 200 meters, I picked it up."
Kevin Lazas finished second to BYU's Chase Dalton in the decathlon. Lazas was in ninth-place after the first day of the event, but won the pole vault and placed third in the javelin throw to finish with 7,592 points, a strong qualifying mark for the national meet later this year.
"That's just a sign of experience and maturity when you can come off a poor first day and being pretty ragged, to come back and have a personal-best second day in points," Bucknam said. "That shows he is doing a pretty good job of compartmentalizing each event and not dragging any kind of disappointment from those 10 events to the next day or next event. I saw the guy grow up this weekend even more."
Omar McLeod, who won the 60 meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoors, pulled up in the final leg of the 4x100 relay with a quad strain. Bucknam said McLeod will likely be held out of this weekend's Arkansas Spring Invitational as a precaution.
Saturday's meet at John McDonnell Field also includes Drake, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and Missouri State.