Old, New Events Representing Arkansas at NCAAs

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas will be going with something old and something new in the field events this week at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Top-ranked and the two-time defending outdoor champions, the Razorbacks' best scoring chances will come from senior Jaanus Uudmae and junior Eric Brown.

Uudmae represents the "old" in the triple jump, an event Arkansas set the standard in for years with 20 NCAA outdoor horizontal jump titles starting with future Olympic gold medalist Mike Conley in 1984.

Brown is the "new", returning as an All-American, finishing third at the NCAA Outdoor last season in the javelin. The Junior is now one of the favorites in an event Arkansas has fielded one All-American performer in coach John McDonnell's first 32 years as head track coach.

The javelin, though, has a one-year streak of All-American awards while no Razorback has earned outdoor All-American honors in the long or triple jumps since two-time Olympian Melvin Lister won the triple in 2000.

Uudmae, a two-time All-American indoors, hopes to change that this week in Sacramento, Calif., at Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State campus while Brown will try to sustain a new tradition.

Uudmae has his work cut out as he enters the competition with the eighth-ranked jump in the nation (53 feet, 7 inches), right on the bubble with the top eight finishers scoring points.

Conversely, Brown was ranked second in the javelin almost all season until Trevor Snyder of Georgia passed Brown and previous No. 1 Gabriel Wallin of Boise State with his toss of 248-8.

Snyder's throw was three inches farther than Brown's school-record best of 248-5 posted April 23 in Fayetteville at the McDonnell Invitational and 2 1/4 inches better than Wallin.

With the top three individuals separated by three inches and three others within six feet, Brown anticipates a tight competition and tabbed 2004 runner-up Wallin as the favorite.

"(Wallin) has consistently been in the 240s and the guy who is leading (Snyder) has not," said Brown, who took second to Snyder at the Southeastern Conference Championships on May 15.

"It could come down to either of us and there's about three who are about five feet behind us. Whoever wants it more and whoever is on that day will win."

The same can be said for the triple jump, and McDonnell and jumps coach Dick Booth believe something big is coming from Uudmae.

"Jaanus will be a big scorer, hopefully," McDonnell said of his SEC indoor and outdoor champion. "I'm just waiting for him to get that big jump. Week after week, he's right near 54 feet and he's ready to pop a big one. He's in good shape."

Uudmae is trying to make the World Championships team for his native Estonia and he'll need to surpass 55 feet to have a chance at making his national squad.

"His best jump is yet to come," Booth said. "I really feel if we do the right things and the weather is right, he can get that 55 mark and qualify for the World Championships. I'd like for that to happen for him."

Arkansas' other field event entrants this week are long shots to score with Greg Martin one of the last added in the high jump and senior P.J. Brown making it automatically with his runner-up finish at the Mideast Regional on May 28.

P.J. Brown, who has already been offered and accepted the head track coach and assistant football coach position at his hometown of Poplar Bluff, Mo., is ranked 24th in the vault and would need to set a personal best by eight or nine inches to give himself a shot at scoring.

Martin has a career-best of 7-0 1/2 and is ranked 21st overall, but if he can add two or three inches he could break into the scoring in a down year for the event.

"He's a talented young man, and who knows?" McDonnell said. "The high jump isn't really strong. Sixth, seventh and eighth is all right. They give points for those places, too."

But the big points have to come from roommates Uudmae and Eric Brown. Eric Brown will throw in the preliminary round Wednesday at 5 p.m. Central time and P.J. Brown will try to qualify for the finals in the vault three hours later.

Uudmae's competition will take place Friday and Saturday; Martin will go Thursday at 2:30 p.m. trying to make the Saturday final.

Eric Brown learned a lot about the two-day format last year when he tried to coast through the first three throws and barely made the finals as the 11th ranked competitor.

"Last year, I thought the qualifying would be easier than it was and I kind of took it too easy and barely made it in," he said. "But this year I've been able to hit 70 meters (231 feet) any time I want, so that will definitely make it to the second day."

Brown wasn't projected to score anything last year and put up six for his third-place finish to kick start Arkansas' championship run.

With defending champion Tyson Gay out of the 100 because of a false-start in the finals at the Mideast Regional and All-American Said Ahmed knocked out of the 1,500 with a sore hamstring, more is required of Brown this time around.

"We know that going in we have to pick up for them," he said. "I'd like to win and get more points than is expected of me.

"Just like last year."

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