Arkansas Track Teams Eye Busy Weekend

FAYETTEVILLE -- John McDonnell is starting to get a gleam in his eye when he talks about his Arkansas track team, which will compete in the Penn Relays today through Saturday.

"I'll tell you, we have the people, with guys like J-Mee Samuels, Alain Bailey, Nkosinza Balumbu, Adam Perkins and Peter Kosgei," McDonnell said. "We could score some points at nationals, if everyone comes around. We could surprise some people." The immediate goal this weekend is to continue a long streak of bringing home at least one "wagon wheel" for a Penn Relays title. "I can't remember the last time we didn't," McDonnell said. Arkansas' best chance may be in the four-mile relay, in which Matt Munoz, Micky Cobrin, Kosgei and Perkins will join forces. The Razorbacks will also enter the 4x100, 4x200 and distance medley relays, with Clemore Henry (400), Brian Roe (800), Kosgei or Cobrin (1,200) and Perkins (1,600) toting the baton in the distance medley. "We'll be in there, but I don't know if we can win," McDonnell said. "Our 4x100 ran well at home on Saturday and I want to keep them going." Mychael Stewart of Bentonville, who took a spill while lunging to hand the baton to anchor man Samuels in that relay, suffered some abrasions and will not do the long jump this week but will run in the 4x100 and 4x200. Speaking of spills, Lady Razorbacks track coach Lance Harter hopes to avoid what happened to him and field events coach Bryan Compton the last time they went to Penn. "We strapped the pole-vault poles on the side of our minivan, but they slipped out of the front holder while we were going about 60 miles an hour on a highway," Harter said. "Fortunately, no one got hit and nothing was damaged. But when Bryan and I were scrambling along the road to pick up the poles, these construction workers on the highway above us were dying laughing." Compton has had the last laugh four of the last five years, as his vaulters won the collegiate pole vault at Penn. One of those, Jodi Unger, returns. Penn winners April Steiner and Stacie Manuel of Arkansas have graduated, but Lady'Backs Stephanie Irwin, Katie Stripling and Megan Scott will join Unger this weekend. The Arkansas women sprinters and hurdlers will head to the Drake Relays, where Makeatha Cooper, Etienne Chaplin, Tia Thompson and Megan Thompson will run the 4x100 relay. Paige Farrell of Springdale will anchor a UA sprint medley relay team, and the Lady'Backs will also try the unique 4x100 shuttle hurdle relay. Harter will accompany a group of UA distance runners to Stanford, where Denise Bargiachi will try to add a 5,000-meter qualifying time to the 10,000-meter qualifier she already has. Christine Kalmer and Dacia Barr look to improve their 1,500-meter times, while Tiffany Redlarczyk is among the steeplechase entrants. Both Arkansas teams are preparing for the Southeastern Conference Meet, May 10-13 at Tuscaloosa, Ala. "Tennessee, Florida and LSU will be tough in the SEC," McDonnell said. "Our great team may not be until next year. But we've got the talent. The guys just have to believe in themselves." Harter would like to see his 4x100 relay team better the 44.63 it ran last week, and the 4x400 relay team improve its NCAA Regional-qualifying time." "Cooper had a big breakthrough in the 100 hurdles (13.33) last week," Harter noted.

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