UA hopes relays in for a long run

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, April 30, 2018
Roy Ejiakuekwu (from left) of Arkansas, Mustaqeem Williams of Tennessee, Kenzo Cotton of Arkansas and Ryan Clark of Florida run through the finish in the final heat of the men's 100 meter dash Friday, April 27, 2018, during the National Relay Championships at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Roy Ejiakuekwu (from left) of Arkansas, Mustaqeem Williams of Tennessee, Kenzo Cotton of Arkansas and Ryan Clark of Florida run through the finish in the final heat of the men's 100 meter dash Friday, April 27, 2018, during the National Relay Championships at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The first National Relays Championships won't be the last.

The new meet hosted by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville at John McDonnell Field is here to stay, Razorbacks men's Coach Chris Bucknam said.

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NATIONAL RELAYS CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM SCORES

Seven relays events were scored at the National Relays Championship held in Fayetteville. Here are the top-five team scores from among the 16 teams competing:

MEN

  1. Arkansas 52

  2. Florida 43

  3. Kentucky 26

  4. Virginia Tech 17

  5. Texas 15

WOMEN

  1. Kentucky 42

  2. Arkansas 28

  3. Baylor 26

tie 4. Oklahoma State 19

tie 4. Texas 19

"A lot of the coaches told us to send them contracts in the mail because they want to come back," Bucknam said. "So we're going to keep hosting this meet.

"I'm real optimistic about having this meet continue to get better. I think this thing can grow."

The meet featured a full schedule of individual track and field events Friday and Saturday, but it was centered around seven relays -- two Friday and five Saturday -- that were scored with 16 teams representing all of the Power 5 conferences from Miami to Palo Alto, Calif.

SEC teams along with Arkansas were Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. The field also included Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech from the Atlantic Coast Conference; Texas, Baylor, TCU, Kansas and Oklahoma State from the Big 12; Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin from the Big Ten; and Stanford from the Pac-12.

The Arkansas men won the team relays title with 52 points. Florida was second with 43, followed by Kentucky (26), Virginia Tech (17) and Texas (15).

Kentucky won the women's relays title with 42 points. Arkansas was second with 28 with Baylor (26) taking third. Oklahoma State and Texas tied for fourth (19).

The SEC Network had a live telecast of Saturday night's relays.

"We had a two-hour format," Bucknam said. "That's what we were selling. You could come and watch unbelievable performances in two hours. "That's our goal going forward is to keep selling this. It was an important step to hold this meet for the first time, and it went great.

"Everybody in track and field watched this meet on TV, and I think they saw that our facility produces phenomenal performances. I'm just glad our kids got center stage."

The National Relays were modeled after the World Championship Relays, which have been held in the Bahamas since 2014 in non-Olympic years and bring together international teams for competition.

"I think the meet in general was a big success," Arkansas women's Coach Lance Harter said. "Everybody that we've talked to that's visiting has been absolutely elated. Now there's a lot of momentum for it."

The National Relays were held on the same weekend as the Drake and Penn Relays, but Arkansas still was able to attract a strong field.

"I love relay meets. I love Penn. I love Drake," said Dave Smith, coach of Oklahoma State's men's and women's teams. "This is a new event entering into the arena, and I think it's gone really well.

"The meet has been run very efficiently. Sometimes at some of the bigger relay meets, there are schedule problems. The infrastructure is just so crowded it makes it tough. There can be a lot of congestion. This meet runs a lot cleaner, a lot smoother. Everything has been precisely on time."

Michigan men's Coach Jerry Clayton liked the meet's full schedule and the fact all of the events were in two days.

"Penn and Drake are great meets, but they're spread out over so many days," Clayton said. "I just really like the concept here because we can bring our whole team here, it's really competitive in all the events, and we can get in and get back home."

Visiting coaches also raved about Arkansas event officials.

"The officials here do an amazing job," Smith said. "Arkansas is lucky to have this crew here. They're excellent."

Arkansas' men's team won the 400 relay -- and ran the nation's fastest time this season in 38.59 -- and 800 relay Saturday night, and also took second in the 1,600 relay and third in the sprint medley. The Razorbacks also won the 6,000 relay Friday night.

"It was a great weekend, and let us know how tough our team is and how they compete," Bucknam said. "I just couldn't be prouder of our guys."

The Arkansas women's team ran in four of the seven relays. Taliyah Brooks, a heptathlete who can contribute on relays, was unavailable because of a heel injury she suffered in Friday's long jump.

With a limited roster, the Razorbacks took second in the 400 and 6,000 relays and sprint medley.

"The secret to winning this meet is you've got to have bodies," Harter said. "Lots and lots of bodies. Next year we'll try to prep for that."

The men's team received a crystal trophy for winning the relays title. Runners on each winning relay were awarded watches.

"We proudly display our Drake and Penn Relays awards, and we always will," Bucknam said. "But in this day and age, we feel this meet is something that can work."

Sports on 04/30/2018

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