Abolins Wins NCAA Long Jump Title

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.—Nebraska junior Arturs Abolins won the first NCAA men's long jump title in school history Friday during the first day of competition at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at Arkansas' Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center.

The Riga, Latvia, native registered a school-record leap of 26-7 1/4 on his final jump of the competition to overtake Texas A&M's Fabrice Lapierre (26-4 1/2) for first place. Prior to the attempt, Abolins trailed the Aggie by 3 3/4 inches with his mark of 26-0 3/4, which he recorded on his final attempt of three preliminary jumps. He barely reached the finals of the event after jumping only 20-0 1/4 and fouling on his first two attempts.


"I've been consistently jumping 25 feet all year, but this was the first time I've gone eight meters," Abolins said. "Going eight (meters) was a childhood dream of mine. I realized last summer that if you don't enjoy the long jump you aren't going to get high marks. God sent me a message, and I've enjoyed the indoor season and ever single meet."


Friday marked Abolins' fifth consecutive NCAA meet appearance, although he had failed to finish among the top eight in each of his previous attempts. He fouled on each of his three preliminary attempts at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships.


"I remember the last few years I was disappointed, because I knew I could be an All-American. This year I got revenge for all of those previous national meets."


"That was a tremendous win for Arturs on his last jump," Head Coach Gary Pepin said. "He certainly is one of the best jumpers that we've had. Overall, there have been four or five jumpers (in school history) who have been really outstanding, and he's certainly up there with that group. Indoors he's the best."


Prior to Friday, Abolins had never broken the 26-foot mark in his career. His previous career best of 25-9 1/2 was recorded on the same Tyson track during last month's Tyson Invitational. He jumped 25-8 1/4 two weeks ago to earn his second career Big 12 indoor title. Abolins finishes off a tremendous indoor season that saw him go undefeated against collegiate competitiors.


Nebraska gained another All-American when Priscilla Lopes finished runner-up to USC's Virginia Powell in the women's 60-meter hurdles. Lopes' time of 7.87 broke her own school record of 7.92 that she set to win the Big 12 championship two weeks ago. The mark also surpassed the previous NCAA record of 7.90, set by fellow Canadian and former World Champion Perdita Felicien (Illinois) in 2002, although Powell's time of 7.84 was slightly better. Lopes now ranks fifth in the world this season with the time.


"I just asked God to help me go out and run the best that I could run and I did," Lopes said. "It just wasn't enough today, but it makes me want to strive that much harder so I can do that much better next time.


"It's nice because I know I'm on point for good things to come. To come in this season and for my time to keep dropping and dropping, not too many athletes can do that. I'm excited for the outdoor season."


The finish earned Lopes her seventh NCAA All-America honor, and third in three 60-meter hurdles attempts. Lopes reached the final heat after overcoming an early stumble out of the blocks to post a time of 7.98 during the second of two preliminary heats.


Four other Huskers also competed Friday, although none were able to grab top-eight placings.


Sara Jane Baker, who also will compete in the pentathlon on Saturday, tied for 11th in the women's high jump with a clearance of 5-9 1/4. She made the opening height of 5-7 3/4 on her first attempt, then missed once during the second height of 5-9 1/4 before fouling all three of her tries at 5-10 3/4. The lone Husker to compete in multiple events this weekend, Baker entered the competition ranking tied for ninth nationally in the high jump with several athletes.


Last year's runner-up in the NCAA indoor men's pole vault, Ray Scotten, finished 11th Friday with a clearance of 17-6 1/2. He cleared the opening height of 17-0 3/4 on his first try, before clearing the following height of 17-6 1/2 on the final of three attempts. He then missed all three attempts at 17-10 1/2. A total of seven vaulters also cleared 17-6 1/2, but Scotten finished as the fifth among those athletes due to order of misses. The top two vaulters at that height tied for sixth place.


A pair of Huskers—Egle Uljas and Courtney Jones—fell short of earning their first career All-America honors by failing to advance to their respective event finals.


Uljas finished fourth out of five runners in the first of three preliminary heats of the women's 800-meter run with a time of 2:07.16. She did not qualify for Saturday's final after finishing as the 13th overall finisher out of 16 total competitors. The Husker sophomore entered the event with the nation's No. 7 time for the 800, but her time Friday was nearly two full seconds shy of her school-record personal best of 2:05.30.


Jones, who owned the fourth-best clocking among NCAA competitors in the men's 60-meter hurdles, finished seventh out of the heat's eight runners, and 12th out of 16 competitors overall, with a time of 7.85. The senior won his first Big 12 championship two weeks ago with a personal-best time of 7.74.


Due to Abolins' victory, the Nebraska men's team sits in eighth place following day one action with 10 team points. Lopes' second-place finish give the Husker women an eight point total, which ranks XXth.


Saturday's final session at the NCAA Indoor Championships will be a busy day for Nebraska, as six Huskers are scheduled to compete in event finals. Baker and Ashley Selig begin the day's action at 9:30 a.m. in the women's pentathlon. Becky Breisch will aim for her first indoor national title in the women's shot put, Jenny Green will search for more All-America hardware in the women's pole vault and Dusty Jonas and Aaron Plas will square off against a talented field in the men's high jump.


Women's Team Scores
1. Texas - 25
2. North Carolina - 20
3. USC - 19
t4. Stanford - 18

t4. Georgia - 18
t11. Nebraska - 8

Men's Team Scores
1. Arkansas - 24
t2. Florida State - 20
t2. Oregon - 20
4. BYU - 16
5. LSU - 14
8. Nebraska - 10


NCAA Indoor Championships Results

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