Hogs Still In Command

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two weeks ago, Arkansas coach John McDonnell had difficulty believing his Razorbacks, winners of 21 conference outdoor championships, had much of a chance to earn No. 22.

With injuries to Peter Kosgei and others, it looked as if 2006 was Arkansas' year to let someone else have a chance.

But after three days of competition, the Razorbacks find themselves in familiar territory atop the team standings with 47 points, leading Florida (30) and Tennessee (29) through six events at the SEC Outdoor Championships at John McDonnell Field.

There is no doubt teams like LSU (26) and Florida will make a push with a slew of running and field finals to be contested today beginning at noon.

"This is it," McDonnell said. "We have a lot of good people who can score points. I'm real pleased right now. I think our guys are going to be up for the challenge.

"But LSU's having a great meet. Tennessee's having a great meet. I hope the fans come out and watch it. It's going to be a Donnybrook."

It is in the sprints where LSU, Tennessee and Florida will make up ground.

LSU and Tennessee have qualified seven sprinters, while Florida has five.

But Arkansas is not out of ammunition either.

Eric Brown, the conference's top javelin thrower, will compete along with freshman Nkosinza Balumbu in the triple jump. Balumbu is also ranked No. 1 in the SEC.

Then, there's the 1,500 meters and the 5,000 as senior Josphat Boit will look to add to the 10,000 title he won on Friday.

He will be joined by seven teammates looking to score in the 5,000.

But on Saturday, Arkansas received some impressive performances led by none other than one of its 11 freshmen, Scott MacPherson, in the grueling 3,000 steeplechase.

MacPherson, from Plano, Texas, finished fifth in his first-ever attempt at the steeplechase with a time of 8:56.45, good for a NCAA Regional qualifier.

"I like where we are right now. We couldn't have done much more," McDonnell said. "Scott MacPherson ran a terrific race finishing fifth for a freshman. For a freshman he showed a lot of guts out there.

"I watched him run in high school and he was one tough kid. He wasn't afraid to lead and push the pace. I think I have a good one."

Freshman Kenny Cormier, Arkansas' top steeplechaser, fell after clearing one of the barriers midway through the race and finished 11th.

Mychael Stewart, from Bentonville, and Daniel Quinn produced an unexpected seven points for the Razorbacks in the men's long jump.

Stewart finished fourth with a personal-best jump of 24-5 1/2. Quinn's jump of 24-1 3/4 was good enough for seventh.

Both Stewart and Quinn's marks were NCAA Regional qualifiers.

"It's huge. For the past few weeks we've been talking about how close this meet was going to be," Stewart said. "We had a meeting and Coach (McDonnell) said he wanted to get at least four points out of the long jump. It didn't sit well with a couple of us. We thought we could get more. It was extremely good to get a couple of us in there."

Stewart had suffered a hamstring injury at the Texas Relays and Saturday was his competition since.

The disappointment for Arkansas from the long jump, though, was Greg Martin, who failed to qualify for the finals.

Boit joined Summerside, Collin Costello and Perkins qualifying in the 1,500 preliminaries.

Boit won his heat in 3:48.37.

Summerside, a senior, was the Razorbacks' top qualifier in the event with a time of 3:47.26.

Also on Sunday, Boit will run his third final of the meet when the 5,000 fires off at 9:05 p.m.

"I know the 1,500 will be challenging," Boit said. "The 5,000 will be challenging, too, but I feel more comfortable with the 5,000. I feel good."

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