Patrick Rono wanted to give the home crowd something to remember. Omar McLeod just wanted to forget Thursday. The senior-freshman tandem did both to help the Arkansas track men bounce back on the second day of the NCAA West Regional meet at John McDonnell Track.
Rono won his heat in the 800 to go through to Eugene for the NCAA Championships in the 800 while McLeod advanced to the final round Saturday in the 110 hurdles to give himself a chance to also advance to Oregon.
The Hogs also got a qualifier to Eugene from Stanley Kebani with what amounted to a wire-to-wire win in his heat of the 3,000 steeplechase, holding off an Oregon rival at the finish.
"We had a good day," Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam said. "We got a couple in the high jump we weren't counting on and that's what it's all about. We know we are held to high standards here at Arkansas. We embrace it and we ran to it today."
On the women's side, Arkansas put Tamara Myers through in the triple jump with 42-8.5. Myer had qualified in the long jump Thursday.
Grace Heymsfield was an easy qualifier in the steeplechase, winning her heat by 200 meters. The Elkins senior dazzled in front of her parents and large fan group from her church. Teammate Jessica Kamilos also moved forward with a third-place finish in an earlier heat. Taylor Ellis-Watson advanced in the 400.
Bucknam was especially pleased with the ease with which Kebani ran the steeple with a 8:42.61 clocking that could have been faster.
"He was in control and relaxed," Bucknam said. "He's got the 5k tomorrow and I think he saved himself for that."
Indeed, Kebani said it was with the 5k in mind that he conserved a little despite leading.
"That was the most relaxed I've ever felt in the steeple," he said. "I went to coach and asked to double with the 5k and I'll see how it goes tomorrow and then decide about Eugene if I double. But I like how I feel right now."
McLeod ran a clean 110 hurdle race Friday and is through to the next round Saturday. McLeod had the fifth best time at 13.70. McLeod did not advance Thursday in the 400 hurdles.
McLeod said it was a relief after hitting a hurdle early in his 400 race Thursday. He said it helped to move out to lane three after hitting a hurdle in lane two on Thursday.
"I was more comfortable there, but honestly, I expected to (hit a hurdle) on Thursday," McLeod said. "I just haven't been able to train in the 400 hurdles. It was my race in high school, but I've worked more on the lows in college. I haven't trained because of injuries in the 400 so I didn't have the conditioning."
Bucknam was pleased with the way McLeod responded after a mistake with an early hurdle Thursday.
"He looked smooth," Bucknam said. "Again, that's what you get with freshmen. He was a little bit unaware of where he was yesterday in that long hurdle race in lane two and today he bounced back. that's what's great about these young kids. they can put it behind them faster than the coaches can. he had a good, solid run there and he is going to move on. get in a rhythm, get a couple of races behind him. just one of those things.
"He runs another round tomorrow and of course you could see him on the 4 x100 and 4 x 400 as well. He didn't hit any hurdles. The shorter races the conditioning doesn't play as much into the mix as the longer race. He is into his element. He looks comfortable and hopefully we can get him through the rounds."
Rono set the pace, got passed with 200 to go, then kicked in the final 60 to win in 1:48.98, the third best time among the three heats. Tomas Squella will get through, too. He was fourth in Rono's heat, but his 1:49.10 held up for the 12th and final spot. The top three advance and the next three best times for the top 12.
Edward Kemboi from Iowa State got the fastest time in the 800 in the second heat at 1:47.40.
"I'm happy with it," Rono said. "It was a good pace. The first 400 was 52 and I liked it. I was ready for someone to take it but no one did so I went with it.
"I wanted to win it and not worry about the time. I wanted to win and point to the home crowd since this is the last time I'll run in front of them. I wanted to go out and get the win, so I'm pleased."
Rono said there was a team meeting Friday to discuss the team's situation after McLeod (400 hurdles) and Jarrion Lawson (long jump) didn't qualify on Thursday.
"We lost some big points yesterday," Rono said. "We've got to pick it up and find some points somewhere."
McLeod said Lawson, a sophomore, helped him work through the disappointment from Thursday. They took turns pumping each other up for a comeback, perhaps teaming in the relays later.
"Yeah, he's like my best friend here," McLeod said. "I talked to him and he is a pretty humble dude.
"He's a fighter and knows how to bounce back. That didn't affect him at all surprisingly. And he bounced back. Minor setbacks are greater comebacks. So we can't complain. I am happy it went well.
"My coach said, 'Go through, remain smooth, try not to hit no hurdles,' and I did that. I am really happy I went through safe. They were looking at me to make it to Nationals in the 110 so I felt I couldn't disappoint because you know what that situation is."
The Hogs gained two more qualifiers in the high jump with freshman Ken LeGassey and senior Noah Kittleson. LeGassey was one of 11 to clear 7-1. Kittlesen got the 12th and final spot with a clearance of 6-11.5.
Kittleson hit three straight heights with no misses. Six others cleared 6-11.5, including UA's Anthony May. But they didn't advance because of earlier misses.
"We didn't expect Ken to do so well," Bucknam said. "He's been battling mono and now he has two more weeks to get stronger. Kittlesen did so well, too. We picked up something with those two that we might have lost yesterday."
Women's coach Lance Harter was excited watching his steeplechasers run strong.
"The plan with Grace was for her to get clear and settle in," Harter said. "You like it when you are a full barrier ahead of the next one and you can just worry about some technical things. She was so smooth.
"We are having a good meet. It couldn't be more perfect so far. We still have some work to do with the relays tomorrow, but so far, so good. We are going to be well represented in Eugene."
Hogs Bounce Back Friday
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