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.
Razorbacks comfortable in prelims setting
Arkansas' Andrew Kibet competes in the steeplechase on Friday, May 14, 2021, during the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Robert Black, via Arkansas Athletics)
FAYETTEVILLE — Two weeks after the University of Arkansas men’s and women’s track and field teams swept titles at the SEC Outdoor Championships in College Station, Texas, the Razorbacks are back at Texas A&M’s Cushing Stadium for the NCAA West Preliminaries held today through Saturday.
The top-12 finishes in each event advance to the NCAA Championships on June 9-12 in Eugene, Ore., and times and marks from the West Prelims don’t carry over.
NCAA West Preliminaries
WHERE Cushing Stadium, College Station, Texas
WHEN Wednesday through Saturday. Men’s events Wednesday and Friday. Women’s events Thursday and Saturday.
FORMAT Top-12 finishers in each event advance to the NCAA Championships on June 9-12 in Eugene, Ore.
“We just tell the kids we’re running to get that airplane ticket, because we all go to the same place and the slate starts clean again once you do get to Eugene,” Arkansas women’s Coach Lance Harter said.
Men’s events take place today and Friday, with women’s events Thursday and Saturday.
“Absolutely it’s something we’re very familiar with,” Arkansas men’s Coach Chris Bucknam said of competing in College Station. “It’s the same hotel, the same trip basically. We know the routine really well. It’s a comfortable place for us, and that should be one less thing to worry about.”
Harter said the Razorbacks “have a warm, fuzzy feeling” about College Station after winning their latest SEC championship there.
“The format as far as the check-in procedures and administrative aspects of the meet, we have witnessed and gone through,” Harter said. “So it will be very familiar territory for our kids.”
The Arkansas men’s team has 27 entries with 24 athletes competing in 14 events, led by three of the West’s top 10 in the 110-meter hurdles (No. 2 Phillip Lemonious, No. 4 Tre’Bien Gilbert and No. 7 Carl Elliott; Laquan Nairn (No. 3 in the long jump and No. 5 in the triple jump); Roman Turner (No. 7 in the 100); John Baker (No. 8 in the long jump); and the 1,600 relay (No. 8).
Decathletes don’t have to compete at the West Prelims, and the Razorbacks have two entrants for Eugene with Markus Ballengee (No. 5) and Daniel Spejcher (No. 10).
“Obviously the more weapons you have, the better,” Bucknam said. “We’re in 15 of the 21 events. It feels like a conference meet to us. I think that’s an advantage. It’s a good situation to have so many people go down there and have that team atmosphere.”
The Arkansas women have 32 entries with 28 athletes competing in 13 events, including Nastassja Campbell and Lauren Martinez (No. 1-2 in the West in the pole vault); Shafiqua Maloney (No. 2 in the 800); Krissy Gear (No. 2 in the 1,500); the 1,600 relay (No. 2); Jada Baylark (No. 3 in the 100); Daszay Freeman (No. 4 in the 100 hurdles); Tiana Wilson (No. 4 in the 100 and No. 6 in the 200); Kennedy Thomson (No. 6 in the 1,500); and the 400 relay (No. 5).
“We do have a huge contingent,” Harter said. “We’d obviously like to have as many qualified to the final to Eugene as possible if we’re going to try and fight for a position on the podium.”
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