Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Last year the Arkansas Razorbacks women won only graduated pentathlete Taliyah Brooks’ individual SEC championship while still easily amassing the points to win the team championship at the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships.
With three individual champions already in Friday’s first day of the meet concluding today, his nationally No. 1 Razorbacks run “ahead of schedule,” Arkansas Women’s Coach Lance Harter said Friday night as the University of Arkansas women’s and men’s teams host the SEC Indoor Championships at their Randal Tyson Indoor Track.
Arkansas’ women stood second with 30 team points to Alabama’s 35 Friday. The Razorbacks should run away with it today given their success in Friday’s prelims plus today’s pole vault headed by Razorbacks All-Americans Lexi Jacobus, Tori Hoggard and Desiree Freier.
Arkansas Men’s Coach Chris Bucknam’s Razorbacks rank third with 26 points, two points ahead of favored Florida. Defending men’s champion Alabama leads with 38 followed by LSU’s 36.
For Harter’s women, senior pentathlete Kelsey Herman of Crossett (4,330 pentathlon points) junior Taylor Werner, 16:18.39 in the 5,000 meters, and the distance medley relay 11:21.98 anchored by miler Carina Viljoen breaking away with two laps to go, all won Friday.
Meanwhile for Bucknam’s men, Gilbert Boit with an incredible kick, (“I believe he sprinted a 25-second last 200,” Bucknam said, won Friday night’s 5,000 meters in 14:09.84 overcoming Alabama runner-up, Gilbert Kigen. 14:09.87.
“He showed his SEC Cross Country championship was no fluke,” Bucknam said.
And Bucknam’s defending SEC champion distance medley relay, anchored by Cameron Griffith on the mile with Griffith already running a mile prelim Friday and set to run the mile and 3,000-meters today, added eight second-place points to Boit’s first-place 10 while previously injured long jumper Laquan Nairn leaped 25-2 1-2 for three sixth-place points.
“We had a great win in the 5K (plus sixth and seventh 5K scoring places by Austen Dalquist and Matt Young) and eight solid points here,” Bucknam said after Friday’s DMR.
After clocking a personal best 8.29 in the pentathlon 60-meter hurdles and staying 5-8, 40-4 3-4, 20-0 1-4 competitive in the pentathlon high jump, shot put and long jump, Herman held a 31-points pentathlon lead over runner-up Alijah Whisby of Georgia in the pentathlon capping 800-meter run.
Under the pentathlon scoring formula, Herman, redshirted indoors and outdoors in 2018 because of stress fractures in her shins, assumed she needed to stay within two seconds of Whisby in the 800, not Herman’s best event.
Herman sucked it up to run an indoor personal record 800-meter best 2:20.81 right behind Whisby’s 2:20.33 and “pocketed” her first ever SEC championship in her SEC Indoor finale.
“It was tough, I felt a little burn, but all I could think about was staying in her pocket,” Herman, exhausted, said after finally catching her breath. “If I’m not within two seconds of her, she’ll beat me. Don’t let that happen. Stay in her pocket. You have to give it your all.”
As Herman recovered, Friday’s magnitude struck all the way from her Crossett home to Fayetteville.
“ I’ve been waiting on this day since my freshman year competing with Taliyah and some of the best athletes in the SEC,” Herman said. “And now being able to have my chance to do it, it’s so good.”
Her pentathlete co-coaches, Chris Johnson and Bryan Compton, and Harter were elated.
“It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid that paid her dues,” Harter said. “Last year her legs were so damaged from all the work she has done in years past, doctor advised us ‘Let ’s give her a year to cool her out,’’ and she came back like she never missed a beat.”
Werner, who will come back in today’s 3,000 meters, “took advantage when the Florida girl didn’t want to lead and had deliberately slowed it down,” Harter said. “That was nice for her.”
In Friday women’s prelims, Razorbacks Lauren Gregory, 4:46.87, Viljoen 4:49.22 and Maddy Reed, 4:49.24 ran the first, third and fourth fastest heats to advance to today’s final of the women’s mile.
Razorbacks Kiara Parker, 7.24, Janeek Brown, 7.27 and Jada Baylark, 7.28, advanced second, fifth and sixth overall in Friday’s 60-meter dash qualifying for today’s 8-runners final.
After teammate and defending NCAA Indoor champion Payton Chadwick clocked a season’s, best 7.99 to win her 60-meters prelim heat, Brown won her heat in 8.00 joining Chadwick in today’s 60-meter final.
Chadwick, winning her heat in 23.03 and second overall, and Parker, fifth overall in 23.11, advanced in Friday’s 200-meter dash prelims into today’s final.
Razorbacks Kethlin Campbell, 52.82, Morgan Burks Magee, 53.11, and Sydney Hammitt, 53.15 nabbed the final sixth, seventh and eighth qualifying spots for today’s 400-meter dash final.
In the men’s Friday prelims, Razorbacks Cameron Griffith 4:12.77 and Ethan Moehn, 4:13.19, advanced 10th and 12th into today’s mile final.
Jalen Brown, 46.73, nabbed the eighth and final spot for today’s 400-meter dash final and Roy Ejiakuekwu advanced in the 200-meter prelim.
Florida Gators men’s superstar Grant Holloway set a meet record 7.48 winning his 60-meter hurdles prelim heat and ran the fastest 60-meter dash prelim, 6.57.
Nate Allen Sports