Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year three times.
Arkansas teams trail going into final day of NCAA championships
Arkansas' Krissy Gear runs in the distance medley relay during the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday, March 12, 2021, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The No. 1-ranked University of Arkansas women’s distance-medley relay team turned in a second-place finish to cap Day 2 at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center on Friday.
The much-needed eight points capped an up-and-down day for the SEC champion Razorbacks, who will enter the final day with 10 points, tied with five other teams in ninth place, 16 points behind leader Texas A&M.
SEC teams hold the top-five positions, with LSU and Georgia tied for second with 23 points. Auburn and Florida are tied for fourth with 14 points apiece.
“It’s a little bit of give and take, and in our situation, I think we’re still on the sunny side of the equation, but we’re in a battle with Texas A&M and their superstars are cashing in so far,” Arkansas women’s Coach Lance Harter said. “I think we have to be somewhat realistic at this level. We had three of our four milers make it to the final, our hurdler made it to the final, we had two quarter-milers make the final, our 1,600-meter girl made the final, our 800-meter girl made the final.”
The 5,000 meters turned against the Razorbacks when Katie Izzo, who had the second-fastest qualifying time entering the meet, finished ninth in 15:58.38 and failed to score.
Izzo pushed to the lead about two-thirds of the way through the race for a few laps, but Auburn’s Joyce Kimeli, the SEC champion, accelerated with her. Eventually Izzo settled back, and the rest of the pack moved ahead.
Kimeli took the SEC-NCAA double with a 15:48.98, just ahead of Minnesota’s Bethany Hasz (15:49.62).
“The 5,000, that was a race that just is not her style,” Harter said. “She’s used to being out and pounding and making everybody pay, and it became more of an on-off type race. That’s just not her style. That was a blow.”
One of the top highlights of the day came in the long jump, where Texas junior Tara Davis, a transfer from Georgia, wowed the crowd with a collegiate record of 22-9 in the finals, winning the event by more than 9 inches.
Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens, with 20 points on the board already with wins in the high jump and the pentathlon, was in second place at 21-11 before Florida’s Claire Bryant soared to 21-11 3/4 to edge her out for second place. Gittens has scored all 26 points for the Aggies.
The Razorbacks sent three into the finals of the mile run in the two contrasting heats.
Krissy Gear led all the way in the first heat, which was run at a slower pace, and got through with a 4:40.92. Senior Kennedy Thomson (4:38.88) and junior Gracie Hyde (4:39.04) also qualified in a fast second heat.
Arkansas sophomore Daszay Freeman used a strong finish over the final two hurdles to win her meet in the 60 hurdles in 8.05, the second-fastest qualifying time behind Texas senior Chanel Brissett (8.04).
The Razorbacks and Texas A&M both pushed two runners into the eight-woman final in the 400, which could play into the final team result today.
The Aggies had the top two qualifiers in freshman Athing Mu (51.02) and Cherokee Young (51.64), while Arkansas sophomore Rosey Effiong (51.82) posted the third-best time and junior Tiana Wilson (52.34) had the eighth.
In the women’s 60, Arkansas senior Jada Baylark had the fourth-fastest time at 7.15 to make the final.
Arkansas also has a chance for good points in the 800 today, as senior Shafiqua Maloney came in third in heat two with a 2:04.50, which was also the third-best qualifying time.
The Razorbacks had hoped to get two scorers in the pole vault, but managed just one point with Bailee McCorkle’s eighth-place finish.
The Arkansas men are tied for 16th with six points through seven of 17 events.
The Razorbacks scored their points Friday with a pair of sixth-place finishes from Ryan Brown in the long jump (25-8 1/2), and the distance medley relay team of Reese Walters, James Milholen, Jadon Bartholomew and Andrew Kibet (9:33.65).
“We were ranked 11th or 12th coming into the DMR, so our guys ran really well,” Razorbacks Coach Chris Bucknam said. “We got a nice anchor from Kibet. He ran a 3:59 mile.”
Arkansas senior Amon Kemboi was among the favorites in the 5,000, but he faded to finish in 13th in 13:50.10 after challenging Iowa State junior Wesley Kiptoo, who won in an NCAA meet record 13:23.77. Kiptoo broke the previous mark of 13:25.11 run by Arizona’s Lawi LaLang in 2012.
“We felt like we had a good race plan for Amon, and it just blew up on us,” Bucknam said. “Our goal with Amon was to try to win the race or be in the top two, but the Kiptoo kid went out extremely fast and Amon went with him, and he paid the price.”
Jacob McLeod was Arkansas’ highest finisher in the 5,000, taking 10th in a personal-best 13:39.00. Gilbert Boit finished 12th in 13:46.48. Matt Young did not finish.
LSU is tied with Georgia for the team lead with 20 points.
MEN'S TEAM SCORES
(Top 10 with 7 of 17 events scored)
T1 LSU 20
T1 Georgia 20
3 Florida State 17
4 USC 16
5 North Dakota State 15
6 Oregon 13
T7 North Carolina 10
T7 Arizona State 10
T7 Iowa State 10
T16 Arkansas 6
WOMEN'S TEAM SCORES
(Top 10 with 7 of 17 events scored)
1 Texas A&M 26
T2 LSU 23
T2 Georgia 23
4 Florida 15
5 Auburn 14
6 Notre Dame 13
T7 Ole Miss 12
T7 Texas 12
T9 Arkansas 10
T9 Louisville 10
T9 Ohio State 10
T9 Virginia Tech 10
T9 Arizona 10
T9 BYU 10
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