Track Looks To Keep Momentum At Mt. SAC

FAYETTEVILLE -- It has been a memorable week for the Arkansas track programs.

The No. 15 Lady'Backs started it off by having their best weekend ever at the Texas Relays by picking up two team titles for the first time and the No. 1 Hogs kept it going.

First, Arkansas was named the No. 3 team in the world by Page 2 columnist Jeff Merron and on Wednesday coach John McDonnell prepared for his next run of NCAA titles with possibly the best recruiting class he's ever signed loaded with four national prep leaders and five Foot Locker cross country finalists.

"It's been a heck of a week," McDonnell said.

McDonnell, who has guided Arkansas to 40 NCAA and 75 conference titles in 34 years, felt snubbed a few years ago when Sports Illustrated came out with an issue on the top 20 dynasties of all time and left the Razorbacks out.

His 40th NCAA title made great television even on tape delay on ESPN and he did his first live network interview on ESPNews a few days later.

The milestone win for McDonnell and the dramatic fashion in which it came with the Razorbacks coming from 14 points behind in the final four events brought the kind of national attention McDonnell has often hoped for just in Arkansas.

"We're finally getting the recognition that we deserve," McDonnell said. "I was thrilled to hear about that. I was really glad for the kids. They deserve it."

The men's and women's teams will try to keep their momentum going this weekend at the prestigious Mt. San Antonio College Relays in Walnut, Calif., beginning today and lasting through Sunday.

Better known as Mt. SAC, the track carnival takes place over three venues during the three days and draws the best prep, collegiate and professionals from around the nation and world.

The Lady'Backs already have 19 qualifiers for the NCAA Outdoor Championships or the Mideast Regional and will look to add to that number and lower some of their season-best times in the invitational and Olympic Development events.

The Razorbacks got a bit of a later start on their NCAA qualifying but already have three automatic qualifiers in the 10,000 meters with Josphat Boit, Peter Kosgei and Jason Sandfort.

They added Chessly Johnson and Jaanus Uudmae in the triple jump at Texas along with Greg Martin in the high jump, Eric Brown in the javelin, Jose Campos in the steeplechase and the 4x400-meter relay team of Omar Brown, Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon Jr. and Terry Gatson.

The 5,000, 800 and 400 will be key events for Arkansas this weekend to add more qualifiers.

Boit, Kosgei, Sandfort, Shawn Forrest (already a provisional in the 10,000), Marc Rodrigues and Campos will run the always quick 5K at Mt. SAC and McDonnell expects all of them to make the NCAA Regional standard of 14:15.75.

Boit, Kosgei and Sandfort should be primed for excellent times and the rest will have to hang back as the pace picks up, McDonnell said.

"The race they're in is going to be fast," McDonnell said. "Josphat and Peter can pop up there and get some good times and the others have to sit back a little off the pace because it's going to be very fast."

Harun Iman and Brian Roe will run the Olympic Development 800 meters, Gatson and Brown will run the invitational 400 and American indoor record-holder Spearmon will run in the loaded invitational 200 meters in his outdoor debut in the event he's won at the 2004 NCAA outdoor and the 2005 NCAA indoor.

Mt. SAC was the scene of Spearmon's outdoor splash last season when he bested Olympians like Ato Bolden and J.J. Johnson.

After breaking the American record of 20.26 twice in one night at the NCAA indoor meet, lowering it from 20.2 to 20.1 in his win, Spearmon will have high expectations in his Sunday race at 4:30 p.m. central time.

"All the big guns are out there," McDonnell said.

The Lady'Backs will be looking to add qualifiers from seniors Erica Sigmont and Aneita Denton in the 1,500 and 800. Sigmont, a three-time All-American, and Denton, the 2005 NCAA indoor 800 champion, were part of two winning relays in Austin.

Sigmont and freshman Dacia Barr, another member of the two wins at Texas, will run the Olympic Development 1,500, Denton will run the invitational 800 and freshman Paige Farrell of Springdale, the other member of the winning foursome, will run the Olympic Development 800.

Alison Zeiner-Rush, already automatically qualified for the NCAAs in the 10,000, will run the invitational 5,000.

Penny Splichal, Laura Jakosky and Jessie Gordon, a provisional qualifier in the 10K, will run the invitational 10,000 meters at Mt. SAC.

Maureen Scott and Shiloh Whiting qualified for regionals in the steeplechase in Austin with their 2-3 finish and will go for lower times this weekend, Scott in the invitational and Whiting in the regular section.

Beyonka McDowell will long jump and run the 100-meter hurdles.

Senior hurdler Kasia Williams, who ran a personal best 13.13 to take third in the 100 hurdles at Texas, will run the Olympic Development race this weekend.

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