The national championship can't be won on the first day of the NCAA West Regional Track & Field Meet at John McDonnell Track, but Arkansas put itself behind the eight ball Thursday in the long jump when defending champ Jarrion Lawson failed to qualify.
Lawson scratched on his first two runs in the three jump prelims, then hit far short of the board on his final run and was only 23rd with a mark of 23-10 3/4.
"That's a tough one," Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam said. "Just tough. We have got to make up some points now. Somebody is going to have to step up and we are going to have to fill that void. Where that comes from I don't know."
It won't come from the 400 hurdles. Omar McLeod, the SEC's freshman of the year, also did not advance. The top 12 from the two regionals advance to the NCAA Championships in two weeks in Eugene, Oregon.
The No. 4 Razorbacks did have some good news. Pole vaulter Andrew Irwin, off his peak for much of the season with injuries, was smooth and advanced with a mark of 17-7 where the competition halted with 12 through. The No. 8 Arkansas women advanced four in the pole vault, led by Sandi Morris, who entered with the best mark of the meet. The vaulting on the women's side stopped at 13-7.
Men's vault coach Doug Case said it's the nature of the regional qualifying that you don't decide a champion. When only 12 are left, they take the bar down.
"This is a very strange meet because you are vaulting for 12th place," Case said. "My brain doesn't work like this. You are trying to figure out are we in 12th place and how many jumps do we need to take? It's as weird for the athletes as it is for the coaches but he did what he had to do."
Case loved what he saw from Irwin, two-time indoor NCAA champ, but just fourth two weeks ago at the SEC meet.
"He had a good day," Case said. "He finally looks like he is back in shape to me. He finally looks like Andrew Irwin pole vaulting again. I really didn't see it until the SEC meet where he actually looked like he was vaulting like he used to vault. Of course he had the injury bug, too, but now he looks like he's back and getting stronger every meet."
The men did advance two in the long jump with Anthony Higgs landing an early mark of 25-6, then watching the rest of the night. Anthony May just barely made it through -- not once, but twice. May was the 18th and in the final spot before the last three spots, then popped a decent jump in the finals at 24-8 1/2 to make it into the 12th and final spot to go nationals.
Lawson still has two relays that he could get him to Eugene. He was in disbelief after the long jump.
"I fouled twice and jumped way behind the board on that third run," Lawson said. "There is a fine line and I made a mistake. It's very tough for my team. I was thinking six to 10 points at nationals. Now I just have to take care of business in the relays. I got to give some extra now."
Bucknam said there is the urge to try to put down a big jump early and step aside, as Heggs did.
"But then when you foul, the pressure hits," Bucknam said. "You put pressure on yourself. He fouled again, so we moved him back. But you want to make your normal run and if you don't, you start well back of the board. That's exactly what happened. You have to continue to make your normal run and he didn't.
"That's the very tough part about this meet. Now we just have to have someone step up and fill that void. We needed a good start and we didn't get it today. We have two more days and we need to see if we can have some people step up."
The women had a pleasant surprise when Amethyst Boyd went over her career best in the javelin by 10 feet and qualified for nationals. She took the seventh spot Thursday.
The meet continues Friday and Saturday.
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