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Arkansas Men's Indoor Track and Field Team Wins National Championship

Back where we belong.

FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 1 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships in front of its home fans Saturday evening at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. The win gives the Razorbacks their 20th NCAA indoor team title and 41st national crown overall. Saturday’s victory is Arkansas’ first NCAA win since 2006, and the program’s first under head coach Chris Bucknam.

Arkansas’ winning total of 74 points is the most by any team since the Razorbacks scored 94 points on their way to the 1994 title. The Razorbacks have now won five of their 20 NCAA indoor titles in Fayetteville. Arkansas previously hoisted the first-place trophy in their home facility at the 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006 national meets.

The Razorbacks won two national event titles Saturday, including a collegiate-record performance by the team’s 4x400-meter relay and a school-record effort from Kevin Lazas in the heptathlon. Over the course of the two-day NCAA meet, Arkansas collected three titles with Andrew Irwin’s victory in the pole vault Friday evening. In addition to increasing the program’s team-title haul, the Razorbacks now have 58 NCAA event titles.

“To get this done, you need a special group of athletes,” Bucknam said. “The coaching staff had everything in place. I’m really proud of how these guys got it together. We followed the plan, and we came in here and got it done. We just hope our alumni are proud. We look at all the national championship banners in the ceiling, and our number one goal was to make them proud and show them that we were back. With the 4x400-meter relay, we just wanted to finish it off right, and we got that collegiate record this time.”

In the final event of the weekend, the Razorbacks’ 4x400-meter relay team of Neil Braddy, Caleb Cross, Akheem Gauntlett and Marek Niit combined for an NCAA-record time of 3:03.50, just dipping below the old mark of 3:03.51 set in 2005 by a Florida team that included world-record holder Kerron Clement. Last year, the team of Braddy, Gauntlett, Niit and Ben Skidmore ran the second-fastest—now No. 3—time by a collegiate relay team.

For the second time this weekend, the Razorbacks successfully defended an NCAA title. Arkansas was the reigning national event champion with its performance last season in Nampa, Idaho. With Saturday’s result, the program now has two NCAA titles in the 4x400-meter relay.

The Razorbacks entered the relay event with the team title already clinched by way of a runner-up finish from junior transfer Kemoy Campbell at 3,000 meters. The long-distance standout put on a late push to post a time of 7:46.95. Originally award third place, Campbell’s finish was elevated to runner-up status when the runner that finish just ahead of him, Eric Jenkins of Northeastern, was later DQ’d.

The 3K performance added eight points to the team’s overall total and gave the Razorbacks an insurmountable 13-point lead heading into the 4x400-meter relay. Campbell began the week as the No. 17 national entry at 3,000 meters and only competed in the race because two runners ahead of him on the qualifying list scratched. In Saturday’s field of 16, the Manchester, Jamaica, native entered with the 15th-fastest time but far surpassed his seeding.

The team’s first points of the day came from the win by Lazas in the heptathlon. With Saturday’s performance, Lazas improved upon his own school record which he first established earlier this year at the Razorback Team Invitational. His score of 6,175 makes Lazas the No. 3 scorer in collegiate history and represents the No. 4 all-time collegiate score. Lazas, who entered the weekend with a lifetime best of 6,042, set personal bests in four of seven events this weekend.

“I gave it all that I had,” Lazas said. “If I didn’t win I would have been mad, but there’s nothing I could have done. I didn’t have anything left, I gave it my all. I ran every step of the race; I even fell at the finish line. I was hurting so when the scores came up, I got a spark of energy and cheered for a little bit then just laid back down. I gave it my all and would have been a little upset if I didn’t win, but overall I am really satisfied.”

Lazas began day two of the heptathlon with a personal-best performance in the 60-meter hurdles. Running in the second of four sections, the Razorback junior clocked in at 8.27 to add 915 points to his overall total. The Brentwood, Tenn., native extended his lead with a final clearance of 5.40m/17-8.5 in the pole vault and took a 50-point lead over Japheth Cato of Wisconsin.

His lead equated a lead of approximately 4.5 seconds in the 1,000 meters. Lazas gutted out a time of 2:49.00, within the allowable cushion behind Cato who finished in 2:45.26. When the scores flashed on the scoreboard, Lazas had clinched his first NCAA event title by 10 points, the smallest margin of victory in the event since it was introduced to NCAA competition in 2004.

Just before the final of the 3,000 meters, senior Tarik Batchelor collected six points with a third-place finish in the triple jump. Having posted a pair of fouls on his first two attempts, Batchelor responded with a qualifying mark on his third pass down the runway to advance to the final. He finished with a best measure of 16.44m/53-11.25. Arkansas picked up another field point from an eighth-place finish by Anthony May II in the high jump where he equaled his lifetime best with a final clearance of 2.23m/7-3.75.

Arkansas first points of the day on the track came from Anton Kokorin at 400 meters. The Razorback senior finished sixth overall in the two-section final with a personal-best time of 46.14, good for three points toward the team title. Kokorin entered the weekend as the 12th-fastest qualifier in the field of 16. The Razorbacks also picked up five points from its pair of runners at 800 meters. In his NCAA final debut, Tomas Squella was the team’s top performer with a sixth-place finish in 1:49.20. Patrick Rono followed in seventh at 1:50.84.

This weekend marks the 11th national indoor hosting duties for Arkansas. The program first welcomed the NCAA meet in 2000 and remained the host through the 2008 season. Prior to this year, the last time the Razorbacks hosted was 2010. A tape-delay broadcast of the national meet will air March 17 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. Keep up with Arkansas cross country and track and field with the team’s RazorbackTF Facebook and Twitter pages.

Saturday Results

Team Standings (top 10)
1. ARKANSAS – 74 points
2. Florida – 59
3. Wisconsin – 33
4. Texas A&M – 30
5. Texas Tech – 28
6. Oregon – 22
6. Arizona – 22
8. Oklahoma State – 20
9. Three tied with 19

Individual Events
400 Meters
5. Anton Kokorin – 46.09 (PR – prev: 46.14) [4 points]

800 Meters
6. Tomas Squella – 1:49.20 [3 points]
7. Patrick Rono – 1:50.84 [2]

3,000 Meters
2. Kemoy Campbell – 7:46.95 [8 points]

4x400m Relay
1. Niit/Braddy/Cross/Gauntlett – 3:03.50 (CR – prev: 3:03.51, Florida, 2005) [10 points]

High Jump
8. Anthony May II – 2.23m/7-3.75 (t-PR) [1 point]

Triple Jump
3. Tarik Batchelor – 16.44m/53-11.25 [6 points]
15. Anthony May II – 15.43m/50-7.5

Heptathlon (Final)
1. Kevin Lazas – 6,175 points (SR – prev: 6,042) [10 points]
7. 60m Hurdles – 8.27 (PR – prev: 8.35) [915 points]
1. Pole Vault – 5.40m/17-8.5 [1,035]
10. 1,000 Meters – 2:49.00 [776]

CR – collegiate record; SR – school record