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 four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
NCAA West Prelims: Wilson helps record relay
Arkansas' Britton Wilson runs during the 400 hurdles during the NCAA West Preliminaries on Saturday, May 28, 2022, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Britton Wilson got the baton on the anchor for the University of Arkansas’ women’s 1,600-meter relay team so far in front that she probably could have run backward and still crossed the finish line in first.
But with the Razorbacks leading by about 15 meters when Jada Baylark handed off to her, Wilson didn’t take it easy.
Instead, Wilson ran her 400-meter leg in 49.72 seconds as the Razorbacks won the relay in 3 minutes, 25.16 seconds to cap the NCAA Track and Field West Preliminaries on Saturday night.
It was the fastest relay time ever run at the NCAA Prelims — East or West — and set a John McDonnell Field record, breaking the mark of 3:27.07 set by Kentucky in 2018.
Wilson’s leg was the fastest split of the 92 relay runners at the West Prelims.
“Britton makes sub-50 be almost like, ‘What’s the big deal?’ ” Arkansas women’s Coach Lance Harter said. “I’m sure glad she wears our jersey.”
Wilson extended Arkansas’ lead on her leg to about 40 meters by the finish with the Razorbacks winning their heat by nearly five seconds over second-place Southern California, which ran 3:30.03.
“I’m not sure what my split was, I just knew I had to give my best effort for the team,” Wilson said. “Even if you’re in front, there’s always someone that can come up behind you if you’re not executing.
“I just want to execute, no matter how big our lead is when I get the baton.”
Nine Razorbacks combined to advance to the NCAA Championships in eight events Saturday night by finishing among the top 12.
Wilson, a sophomore transfer from Tennessee, also advanced in the 400-meter hurdles, where she ran the top time of 54.87 seconds.
“It’s beautiful to watch her run,” said Arkansas junior Lauren Gregory, who advanced in the 5,000 on Saturday night along with sophomore teammate Isabel Van Camp.
Van Camp and Gregory ran together and took second and third. Van Camp finished in 16:02.66 and Gregory in 16:03.71.
“They tag-teamed their way through the race,” Harter said.
Gregory also ran the 10,000 on Thursday night and advanced to the NCAA meet, which will be held June 8-11 in Eugene, Ore.
“That was a phenomenal double by Lauren,” Harter said. “She’s such a special talent, and she’s so poised in competition.”
Gregory credited Van Camp with helping her come back strong in the 5,000 after the 10,000.
“It was definitely difficult,” Gregory said. “They don’t mess around when they put those two races on the schedule.
“But having a teammate to get me thorough the 5,000 was the best thing I could have asked for. It’s just nice to have someone out there when you need help. It was a team effort.”
Van Camp also credited Gregory.
“it’s so helpful and calming to have your training partner to work with in the race,” Van Camp said.
Senior Krissy Gear ran 4:18.97 in the 1,500 to advance to the NCAA Championships in the Razorbacks’ first event Saturday night.
“Krissy showed she can finish with anybody,” Harter said. “And that was a great start to the day.”
Senior Logan Jolly advanced in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:47.43.
Razorbacks junior Yoveinny Mota ran a personal-best 12.78 to advance in the 100-meter hurdles. The time improved on her Venezuelan national record and ranks fourth on Arkansas’ all-the list.
Two Razorbacks advanced in the 400 with freshman Rosey Effiong running 51.73 and senior Morgan Burks-Magee running a personal-best 51.53.
Baylark, a senior from Little Rock Parkview, ran a wind-aided 11.04 in the 100 to advance.
Burks Magee and Effiong then ran on the 1,600 relay along with Baylark and Wilson.
The Razorbacks led at each exchange with splits of 52.40 by Burks-Magee, 50.50 by Effiong and 52.50 by Baylark before she handed off to Wilson.
“Morgan is really start to show her maturity and poise as a racer,” Harter said. “She came out of the blocks and got us in front, and then we were basically were running by ourselves after that.”
“There were times we used to pray to run 3:25. The coaching staff would bedoing backwards hand springs.
“Now the 4 by 4 as always takes care of business.”
Baylark’s speciality is the 100, but she said she’s glad to be on the 1,600 relay.
“I’ve been doing the 4 by 4 ever since I’ve been here,” Baylark said. “I train with my teammates, so I’m always ready.”
While Wilson easily won the 400 hurdles, she said she wasn’t feeling well earlier in the day.
“My race wasn’t great,” Wilson said. “I’ve still got some things to touch up technique-wise, but it felt good.
“I felt better than I thought I would. I had a migraine headache, but I just tried to have a positive mindset and give it my best.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.