Brooks pushes SEC champ in pentathlon, settles for 2nd

By: Richard Croome Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Published: Saturday, March 11, 2017
Arkansas junior Taliyah Brooks competes in the high jump invitational Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, during the Tyson Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas junior Taliyah Brooks competes in the high jump invitational Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, during the Tyson Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- There was no backing off for Arkansas junior pentathlete Taliyah Brooks at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday.

Brooks had established a personal best in two disciplines and tied it in another when she was staring at no-pointing in her favorite event, the long jump.

"I was really nervous after the second red flag went up but at Arkansas, especially with coach [Chris] Johnson, we don't take safe jumps," Brooks said. "So the third jump I was going for it, going for the whole thing. I did not know [I had a legal jump] until he put the [white] flag. It seemed like a long time, and everything was going in slow motion."

Brooks not only kept from fouling on her final long jump attempt but she also set a personal-best with 21 feet, 1¾-inch leap to move within nine points of SEC champion and three-time defending national champion Kendell Williams of Georgia going into the final event, the 800 meters.

Brooks attempted to stay with Williams early in the 800, but she fell back, running a 2:22.39. Williams finished second in the 800 and won the pentathlon with 4,682 points, 102 ahead of second-place Brooks, who bettered her SEC point total and her personal-best by 130 with a school-record 4,580 points.

Brooks ran an 8.13 in the 60 hurdles, high jumped 6-0½ and threw the shot put 39-3¼ on her first attempt.

"She had Kendell down to nine points," University of Arkansas, Fayetteville women's track and field Coach Lance Harter said. "I think that is as close as anybody has been to her, so we at least made her nervous and have to collect herself for the 800."

Arkansas opened the competition at the Gilliam Indoor Stadium on the campus of Texas A&M with 12 points, thanks to Brooks' second-place finish and Leigha Brown's fifth-place finish.

"Leigha Brown is a young lady that has been ninth a couple of times [at NCAAs], and she's been very determined all year, being a senior, that she was going to cash in," Harter said.

The Arkansas women were in third with those 12 points, 29 behind Georgia and four in back of Alabama.

The Razorbacks fared well during the opening day, getting Therese Haiss (4:38.53) and Nikki Hiltz (4:38.9) through in the mile. Haiss led her heat from start to finish.

Daina Harper won her heat in the 400 with a 52.31 to earn an NCAA final for the first time.

"We had a ... solid day, and I think it was a bonus with the milers [qualifying] and everything else went pretty much true to form, so now we just have to take care of business [today]," Harter said.

Sports on 03/11/2017

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