Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
'It’s never easy': UA men secure NCAA spot
Arkansas juniors Patrick Kiprop and Kirami Yego are shown Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, running in the NCAA South Central Regional at Agri Park in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — For most of the 10,000-meter race at Friday’s NCAA South Central Regional, Texas runners held the top two spots.
But in the end Arkansas juniors Patrick Kiprop and Kirami Yego finished 1-2.
Kiprop ran 28:38.8 to win his second consecutive South Central Regional title. Yego, a transfer from South Alabama, finished second in 28:43.0.
The top two teams automatically advanced to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 18 in Charlottesville, Va., so Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam wasn’t upset with a second-place finish.
Texas, led by Devin Hart in third, Rodger Rivera in fourth and Isaac Alonzo in fifth, won the meet with 34 points. No. 7 Arkansas was second with 52 points and Tulane third with 77.
“It’s like a preliminary race,” Bucknam said. “All that matters is that we advanced.
“But it’s never easy. I’m glad we got it done.”
Kiprop said he and Yego were talking during the race, waiting for the right time to pass the Longhorns.
“We didn’t push too hard, then we went for it the last mile,” Kiprop said. “It was an easy fast.
“We wanted to conserve our energy and be ready for next week. This race was a warm-up.”
With the NCAA Championships a week away, Bucknam held out four of the Razorbacks’ top runners: sophomore Ben Shearer, junior Elias Schreml, redshirt freshman Reuben Reina and senior Myles Richter.
“Those guys are more middle distance runners, and it’s a tough game to play if they have to run two 10Ks in eight days at regionals and nationals,” Bucknam said. “So we just figured we’d roll the dice a little bit and try to give those guys a rest.
“We’ll know if it paid off next week, but I feel good about what we did.”
Arkansas State, led by juniors Dawson Mayberry (16th in 30:05.5) and Jacob Pyeatt (22nd in 30:23.7), finished tied for fourth with Incarnate Word with 157 points.
Other scorers for Arkansas were junior Lexington Hilton (14th in 30:0:24), senior Jacob McLeod (15th in 30:05.4) and junior Tommy Romanow (20th in 30:19.8).
“Tommy ran what I call a gritty race,” Bucknam said. “He did a great job and caught a lot of people the last mile and secured our second-place finish.”
Bucknam said as fast as Kiprop and Yego ran, they should be ready for the NCAA Championships.
“Patrick and Kirami, they just run at a higher RPM than other people,” Bucknam said. “I think they ran under control. They just idle at a higher speed and they need to stretch their legs and run.
“They ran very fast today, but I think that’s how they feel good and keep their rhythm going into the next meet.”
Bucknam compared what he did with resting some of his top runners to how Arkansas Coach Dave Horn manages his pitching staff.
“I’ll use Coach Van Horn talk,” Bucknam said. “You don’t want to use your weekend pitchers on Wednesday.
“Some of our runners are like their pitchers. We’re trying to limit their workload.”
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