Bad Weather Strikes Again At SECs
For the third straight year, the SEC Outdoor meet endured delays and fierce storms sending spectators and athletes scrambling for cover.
The lightning warning came around 2:30 p.m. and the downpour started soon after, continuing with sheets of rain coming down at a 45 degree angle off and on for the next four hours before the clouds broke in time for the running events to start just 15 minutes behind schedule at 7:15 p.m.
The pole vault, an event Arkansas has P.J. Brown and Jimmy Duke ranked in the top five, was pushed back to today at noon.
That extra day's rest could be a blessing for Duke, who competed in the decathlon on the first two days and captured fifth for four points.
Last year at Ole Miss, all four days featured a rain delay of some kind. The 10,000 meters was run in a downpour and lightning forced the decathlon to stretch over three days instead of the usual two.
In 2003 at Tennessee, spectators and athletes were sent to the tornado shelter in the basement of the HPER building while strong winds whipped tents down the infield into the stands and funnel clouds touched down throughout Knoxville.
Two of the last three NCAA Outdoor meets have also had a few delays.
Last year in Austin, the first-day events were all but canceled because rain and lightning drove everyone out of the stands in 2002 at LSU.
At least it hasn't been like the 2003 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Waterloo, Iowa.
The wind-chill factor at the late November meet was 19 degrees below zero.
BOIT HOPES TO FOLLOW TREND
If the past is any indication, Arkansas junior Josphat Boit could be running in the Olympics in 2008.
Arkansas hasn't lost a conference cross country meet in 32 years, so it's no surprise the Hogs have fielded the 10K winner at the conference meet for 20 of the last 25 years.
But winning the 10K at the SEC or Southwest Conference Outdoor Championships has been a precurser to an Olympic berth for five of the Razorbacks' last seven winners.
Alistair Cragg (2003, 04), Daniel Lincoln (2002), Sean Kaley (1998), Godfrey Siamusiye (1995, 96) and Reuben Reina (1990) all made the next Olympics after winning a conference 10K title.
Cragg (Ireland) and Lincoln (U.S.) made it in 2004, Kaley (Canada) in 2000, Siamusiye (Zambia) in 1996 and Reina (U.S.) in 1992.
Considering 10 of his countrymen have 10K times faster than his best of 28:07.27 so far this year, Boit will have a tougher task being from the distance dominant Kenya
But the school-record holder in the 10K who shattered the time of 28:20.2 set near-jointly by Lincoln and Cragg at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships is setting his goals no lower than the Razorback greats who preceded him.
"It will not be easy," Boit said, then smiled. " I'd like to join that group, too."
STEVENS' SWAN SONG
If the Razorbacks do what they're supposed to do, Arkansas' injury-plagued senior Robbie Stevens won't get the chance to have a send-off race after two frustrating years.
Stevens has had numerous surgeries on his left ankle and Achilles tendon since his last race, the 800 at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Stevens took a strong third in that race, setting up fellow South African Alistair Cragg to be in a position to clinch the team title by winning the 5,000 meters.
Cragg, running on a hernia, did just that to seal Arkansas' first outdoor title since 1999.
Counting a lost season to the Achilles injury at SMU in 2000-01, Stevens has missed three years of competition while earning two All-American honors in between at Arkansas.
Stevens hasn't run since the 2003 NCAA and McDonnell brought him along on this trip to run the 4x400-meter relay.
"He's got one race in him," McDonnell said. "He's had more operations than you can imagine on that ankle and Achilles tendon.
"It has never really got well. Now he's in good enough shape he can run a 46 (second) something on the relay."
But Stevens likely won't get to run on that 4x400 with Gatson, Brown and Spearmon, who will all be coming off multiple races, if Arkansas already has the team title locked up.
"This will be his last race," McDonnell said. "If we have it won by that time, we're not going to take a chance on the sprinters."
If the Lady Razorbacks emerge victorious after today's final competitions, one area coach Lance Harter and the gals will look to as a difference maker would be the 10,000-meter run held Friday night.
The Lady'Backs compiled 20 points in an event Harter believed would only merit 15.
Arkansas' Laura Jakosky placed second behind the champion Angela Homan of Auburn.
Jakosy's run was deemed tactically superior to Tennessee's Felicia Guiliford, who was a surprise entrant in the event, in the final laps of the race.
Jakosky ran stride for stride with Homan for nearly half the race before the pace became too much for her to handle for a full race.
She had the liberty of falling off the pace because Guiliford, who separated from a pack of Lady'Backs (Alison Zeinner-Rush, Jessie Gordon and Penny Splichal), still had ground to make up to catch Jakosky.
With less than 2,000 meters to go, Guiliford passed Jakosky, who had been conserving her energy for a couple miles by this time. Then, with less than 800 meters to go, Jakosky slid in behind Guiliford and passed her, easily winning second place.
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