Mowatt takes aim at UA's last hurdle

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, June 4, 2018
Arkansas' Kemar Mowatt competes in the 4x400-meter relay Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, during the Tyson Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Kemar Mowatt competes in the 4x400-meter relay Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, during the Tyson Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Clyde "Smackover" Scott became the first Arkansas Razorback to win an individual title at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships when he ran the 110-meter hurdles in 13.7 seconds at the 1948 meet in Minneapolis.

Seventy years later the Razorbacks have won every individual race at the NCAA Outdoor Championships -- 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,500, 5,000, 10,000 and 3,000 steeplechase, along with the 100 hurdles -- except one.

At a glance

Kemar Mowatt

COLLEGE Arkansas

CLASS Senior

HOMETOWN St. Elizabeth, Jamaica

EVENTS 400-meter hurdles, 400 and 1,600 relays

NOTEWORTHY Ran Arkansas school record 48.49 seconds to take third in the 400 hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last year. … Finished fourth in the 400 hurdles at the World Championships in August. … Won 400 hurdles at SEC meet in 2017 and 2018. … Five-time All-American, including relays. … Transferred to Arkansas after his freshman year at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

NCAA OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS

WHEN Wednesday through Saturday

WHERE Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS Men: Florida. Women: Oregon

FORMAT Men’s events Wednesday and Friday, women’s events Thursday and Saturday. Decathlon will be Wednesday and Thursday, and heptathlon Friday and Saturday.

Senior Kemar Mowatt, a five-time All-American, will try to complete the cycle on the track for the Razorbacks by winning the 400 hurdles at the 2018 NCAA Outdoors.

"That would be really cool to be the first Razorback to win the 400 hurdles," Mowatt said. "I already have the school record, so winning the NCAA title would be a nice bonus."

Mowatt is from St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, but he knows about Scott, who also earned a sliver medal at the 1948 Olympics and played football for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and in the NFL.

"I've heard the coaches talk about Clyde Scott," Mowatt said. "I know he's a Razorback great."

Mowatt will run in the semifinals of the 400 hurdles -- as well as legs on the 400 and 1,600 relays -- on Wednesday when the NCAA Championships begin in Eugene, Ore.

While Mowatt ranks third in the 400 hurdles (49.32) nationally this season behind USC junior Rai Benjamin (48.46) and North Carolina senior Kenny Selmon (48.98), that doesn't reflect Mowatt's fitness level, said Arkansas assistant coach Doug Case. Mowatt ran his season-best in winning his second consecutive SEC title.

"I don't think Kemar's been pushed yet this year, so he still feels fresh," Case said. "Nobody's taken him to the limit at all. Even at the SEC meet he ran a very comfortable race.

"I think the final in Eugene is going to be an epic battle."

Mowatt took third at the NCAA Outdoors last year in an Arkansas record 48.49 behind Florida senior Eric Futch (48.43) and Benjamin (48.33), a sophomore when he ran for UCLA before transferring to USC. Selmon was fourth at the NCAA meet last year in 48.60.

"I definitely see Benjamin as my main competition," Mowatt said. "I'm looking forward to racing him. When it comes down to championships, that's where I perform at my best."

Mowatt capped his outdoor season last year by running in the World Championships for Jamaica in London and taking fourth in the final.

"That fourth-place finish at the World Championships in August was a pretty big feat," Case said. "That's hard to do coming off a grueling collegiate season where we start training in September."

Mowatt also is facing a grueling week in Eugene, where he hopes to run six races in three days between the semifinals and finals on Friday. All three races will be run within about a three-hour span.

"It's a pretty tight schedule," Mowatt said. "But Coach Case has trained me to compete in all three events."

Mowatt said it's good the 400 relay is the first event, because running his 100 leg is a good warmup for the 400 hurdles -- his next event. Then comes the 1,600 relay.

"The 400 hurdles takes a lot out of you," he said. "But I know after that I'll just have the 4 by 4, so it's me giving whatever I have left."

Mowatt ran all three events at the SEC meet, and Case also has geared his training to handle the heavy workload.

"A lot of times the practices are tougher than the races," Case said. "So the confidence comes from knowing that you did the workouts and you did them the way they were prescribed and you finished them the right way. That's what gives you the ability to run six races in a weekend."

Mowatt transferred to Arkansas as a sophomore after beginning his college career at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. His top time in the 400 hurdles as a freshman was 51.13, so he's improved by nearly three seconds at Arkansas.

"We got a chance to see him run, and I could tell he had a lot of raw talent, but his hurdling needed work," Case said. "He wasn't really being efficient. His steps were kind of messed up. But those were all things that are easier to fix than finding a guy with his 400 speed."

Mowatt has improved significantly by faithfully heeding Case's advice in all things on and off the track.

"Kemar is the ultimate professional," Case said. "He does everything right. He always warms up right, he always practices and races right, he always cools down right. He always sleeps right, always eats right."

Mowatt is on schedule to graduate in December with a geology degree and said he wants to eventually move back to Jamaica and own a business. His immediate plans are to stay in Fayetteville and continue to train under Case with the intent to win an Olympic gold medal.

"I think that's a realistic goal for Kemar," Case said. "You don't count out a guy with his kind of talent and work ethic."

Sports on 06/04/2018

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