Hogs make push but fall short in track

Arkansas' track and field team comes up short as Texas A&M wins outdoor title.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas triple jumper Nkosinza Balumbu admitted he put everything he had on the line in his final collegiate meet.

And distance runner Dorian Ulrey pushed himself so hard in Saturday's 1,500-meter finals that he had to be taken to the medical tent afterward for treatment.

Balumbu and Ulrey were the only male athletes the Razorbacks had competing on the final day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at John McDonnell.

In spite of their best efforts and a hometown crowd cheering them on, the Hogs went a third consecutive year without capturing an individual national title. And they didn't get the late push needed to finish in the top five in the team race.

"I felt like I could have had some better numbers, but I went out there and I put it all out on the line. I just didn't go as far as I wanted to," Balumbu said. "But you know, it happens that way sometimes. I'm all right with it."

The Razorbacks scored nine points Saturday to take ninth with 27 points, an improvement from their 17th-place finish and 18 points from a year ago. But it wasn't what Arkansas first-year coach Chris Bucknam had hoped for on his home track.

Instead, Texas A&M celebrated winning both the men's and women's national championships at John McDonnell Field.

"We came up a little short. We wanted to contend. We wanted to be amongst the elite top 4," Bucknam said. "... We were hoping to be a little higher."

Heading into the final day of competition, Balumbu and Ulrey were Arkansas' last chances to win gold. Balumbu was the 2008 indoor triple jump champion, and as a runner at Northern Iowa last summer, Ulrey took second in the 1,500-meter outdoor finals.

But Balumbu couldn't improve on his jump of 53 feet, 9 3/4 inches on his first attempt in Saturday's finals. The senior finished fifth and watched as Oklahoma freshman Will Claye celebrated his 18th birthday by winning the triple jump with a mark of 56-6 3/4.

"The thing is he didn't screw up and he didn't back off and he didn't do silly things," Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth said of Balumbu's performance. "He gave us what he had today and that is what it was."

Ulrey, meanwhile, collapsed after he used his last burst of energy to catch up to Oklahoma State's German Fernandez on the final lap of the 1,500-meter finals.

Ulrey moved into second and was pushing Fernandez with 200 meters to go. But the junior ran out of gas as he approached the finish line and took fourth with a time of 3 minutes, 39.93 seconds.

Afterward, as Ulrey lie on a bed in the medical tent, Bucknam said the distance runner would be fine. Bucknam said Ulrey was just "a little bit spent."

"I saw (Ulrey) right next to me and I'm like, ‘This is going to be a hell of race,'" said Fernandez, who won the event with a time of 3:39.00. "... He put everything out there, and he's one of my good friends. So I wish him the best of luck."

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