Kevin Lazas has never failed to make the finish line in the distance race that ends a multi-event finale.
But Lazas came close when he locked up in the final 50 meters of the heptathlon 1,000 Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
The Arkansas junior didn't have anything left when he started the final event, the 1,000 meters. Lazas needed to stay within four seconds of Wisoconsin's Japheth Cato to get first place in the heptahlon and 10 points for Arkansas to open their battle to unseat three-time NCAA Indoor champ Florida. The Hogs won it with 74 points. Florida was next with 59.
"I locked up in those last 50," he said. "He was pulling away and I locked up bad. I was just trying to stay up. I've never not made it. That was as close as it's ever been."
It was all Lazas could do to keep his legs moving as they cramped in the final few steps. He crashed to the track at the finish line as Tyson Track Center crowd cheered nervously. They didn't know -- nor did Lazas -- if he had run close enough to Cato to hold him off for the event triumph.
"I just looked at the scoreboard," Lazas said. "I really didn't know. All I could think then, I did as much as I could. I didn't have a thing left."
It took less than one minute for the scoreboard to flash the standings, with Lazas at the top, 10 points better than Cato. Lazas scored 6,175, a little over 200 points better than his indoor personal record. He has set PRs in four of the seven events, with an indoor PR in the pole vault. He brushed the bar at an overall PR at his last height.
"I almost got my second attempt at 18-0," he said. "I was close enough that I think I'll get it outdoors. I thought I had it today."
That's all Lazas was trying to do throughout the two-day competition, set PRs.
"I took the SEC off so I had an extra two weeks to train," Lazas said. "I try not to think about what place, just numbers. I was just trying to let the numbers come both days and hit PRs.
"You do that, it takes care of itself. I just wanted to compete with Japheth. He's a great guy. We were both hitting PRs. I think he had his high score, too. He's an awesome guy and we just wanted to compete."
Cato led Lazas wire-to-wire in the 1,000, but neither was with the group leader. Lazas stayed close by on the first three laps, but Cato gained about a two-second lead midway through the fourth lap. In the final lap, Lazas could not respond when Cato kicked.
"I just wanted to stay with him as long as possible," he said. "I didn't have anything after six events. I just tried to stay relaxed as best I could in the 1,000. But I didn't have anything left.
"I think the home crowd pulled me through in the 1,000. It was the Arkansas fans. I was expecting that. We had a good night last night with our team and I had to keep it going and get those 10 points. We are going to need every point we can get because it's going to be tight with Florida."
UA assistant Travis Geopfert thought it would be a tight finish in the 1,000.
"It's a challenge when you are jumping (vaulting) like him and Cato at such high bars with all that energy and all that adrenaline and then turn around 30 minutes later and run the 1,000," Geopfert said. "Both the Wisconsin coach and I thought they would probably run a little bit faster but we knew it was going to be in that four seconds zone.
"Kevin has got a lot of heart. I thought he stumbled going around that curve but he kept it together and got it down to the last inch. It doesn't get any closer. It was absolutely as close as it could possibly be. In fact when they crossed the line I thought Kevin lost it by half a point but the time flashed up and I realized I was off by a half a second.
"He does things right, eats right, trains right, sleeps right, works his tail off in the class room and he stepped up and got it done."
Lazas 'Locks Up' Heptathlon Win
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