UA men finish in unfamiliar territory

By: DAVID CAMPBELL Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Published: Sunday, March 11, 2018
Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam watches Saturday, April 22, 2017, during the John McDonnell Invitational at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam watches Saturday, April 22, 2017, during the John McDonnell Invitational at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Arkansas Razorbacks got a closing flourish from Obi Igbokwe at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Igbokwe's hard-fought anchor leg on the 1,600-meter relay pushed his team to a victory in its heat, concluding the race in 3:05.14. Igbokwe ran his leg in 45.16.

The heat win allowed the Razorbacks to take fourth place in the race behind the collegiate record 3:00.77 run by Southern Cal in the final lap.

Both the race and the meet required Razorback comebacks. The Arkansas men placed 13th in the team standings with 16 points. Florida's 40 points won Saturday at Texas A&M's Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.

"It's been a tough row to hoe here for the last two days," Coach Chris Bucknam said. "Just some bad luck and some injuries and some real frustration, but it wasn't the fact that our kids weren't dialed in. We just had some unfortunate things happen."

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville senior Kenzo Cotton was seventh in the 200, and sophomore Cameron Griffith placed third in the 3,000 meters, leading into the relay race.

"I think it's the first time in six or seven years we haven't been in the top five," Bucknam said. "We just go back to the drawing board here, get stronger and get ready for the outdoor season."

Griffith angled outside on the final turn and ran an 8:05.91 in a tactical race that was close most of the way.

"I was in second and a few guys had gone by me, and I had to go around again just to get in the front to try to get into an attacking position," Griffith said. "I didn't quite get there, but I can't be disappointed with third."

Earlier moves just before the final lap by Northern Arizona's Andy Trouard (8:04.94) and Justyn Knight of Syracuse (8:05.76) relegated Griffith to third, but he was no guarantee to get that until he surged on the embanked portion of the track for a stronger finish.

"With the amount of depth in the field, everyone can run an 8:10 or 8:15 pace all day," Griffith said. "Everyone's got that speed at the end, so it's just who's fresh enough to use it."

Gabe Moore also earned first-team All-American honors with his sixth-place finish in the heptathlon, scoring 5,874 points.

Moore concluded the competition with his best-ever time in the 1,000 with a 2:44.01. His previous best was 2:44.58.

"I didn't run what I wanted to in the K, but I can't be upset with a [personal record]," Moore said. "I p.r.'d in the 1,000, which I haven't done in over a year, so it feels really good. In total points, I think I p.r.'d by close to 100 points."

Very close. Before Saturday, the best total he had accumulated was 5,777, which he racked up at the Razorback Invitational.

Kentucky senior Tim Duckworth won the heptathlon with 6,188 points, the fourth-best collegiate total all-time.

Moore was in third after the 60 hurdles, getting a clean run of 8.11. The 954 points that he picked up in the hurdles proved the best total of any of his seven events.

In the pole vault, Moore exited after clearing 14-7½ and dropping back to sixth through six events of the heptathlon. The top six competitors, and nine of the top 10, set personal bests.

"As a multi, it's hard not to think about totals," said Moore, who set a pre-NCAA championship goal of 5,900 points. "I try to put that in the back of my mind and just focus on one event at a time, which is what I did throughout the whole competition. At the end, OK, you need to run this to score X amount of points."

He fell short of his goal by roughly two-and-a-half seconds.

Moore is looking forward to the outdoor season and competing in the decathlon.

"I'm really pumped up," Moore said. "Once you add in the javelin and the discus and the 400, and that 1,000 becomes 1,500, it's a little different event. That's my specialty."

Cotton ran 20.85 in the 200, getting a long look at the American record of 20.02 clocked by Houston's Elijah Hall. In the second heat of the finals, Hall shot in front to pick up a double victory. He also won the 60 with a personal best 6.52.

Hall's record-setting 200 bettered the previous collegiate mark of 20.10, held by Arkansas' Wallace Spearmon since 2005.

The overall fast meet included a world indoor record in the 400, when Southern Cal sophomore Michael Norman raced to a 44.52.

Sports on 03/11/2018

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