Caleb Cross wins 400m hurdles as Hogs take 7th straight SEC Championship
COLUMBIA, Mo. (ArkansasRazorbacks.com)– Running its streak of consecutive overall league titles to seven, the No. 5 University of Arkansas men's track and field team won the 2013 SEC Outdoor Championships this weekend in Columbia, Mo. With the help of five SEC event titles—all won Sunday—the Razorbacks finished the meet with 152.5 points to complete the program's second-consecutive SEC Triple Crown. The win also marks the 18th SEC outdoor team title in program history, and third in a row for Arkansas.
Sunday's highlights featured event titles from Leoman Momoh at 800 meters, Patrick Rono at 1,500 meters, Kemoy Campbell at 5,000 meters, Caleb Cross in the 400-meter hurdles and Andrew Irwin in the pole vault. With the weekend collection, the Razorbacks have now racked up 112 SEC titles in the program's history.
"I'm really proud of our athletes and my coaches," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "There's a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. They just go the job done today. We had a big day and came away with five wins. They call came in about a 30-minute span so we got some real good momentum going. I'm proud of them.
"Track and field at Arkansas is a team sport and we're awfully proud of that. It's a priority for us. We won the national indoor title but we're equally proud of seven SEC titles in a row and two back-to-back Triple Crowns. It means everything to us. I'm almost at a loss for words at how proud I am of everybody."
Rono picked up the Razorbacks' first win on the track with his first-place performance at 1,500 meters. Stalking the lead group at the bell, the Arkansas sophomore put on a late charge to capture his first career SEC outdoor title. He crossed the finish line in a time of 3:50.22. Campbell, in his first of two event finals, finished in fifth place with a time of 3:51.92, good for four points to the team's total.
Campbell was back on the track for the finals of the 5,000 meters where he posted a win in 13:57.17. The 10 points from Campbell and four additional points from Stanley Kebenei's fifth-place finish helped give the Razorbacks an insurmountable lead heading into the final event. Kebenei, off his runner-up finish in the steeplechase Saturday, had a final time of 14:00.45.
"I finished pretty well, and that's what I came here to do," Campbell said. "I was hoping to win the 1,500 (meters) earlier but I wasn't able to do that so I knew I had another chance to win with the 5K. It was a pretty tactical race. There were some good guys in the race and I knew I had my work cut out for me. I had to run smart. I wasn't very smart in running the 1,500 earlier but I went back to the drawing board and knew I had to come with something better in the 5K. It paid off."
The Razorbacks got an early boost from a repeat championship effort from Irwin in the pole vault. The Arkansas sophomore successfully defended his title with a final clearance of 5.59m/18-4. During the competition, Irwin had to come through with two third-attempt clearances, including an effort at 17-9 that assistant coach Doug Case called the tough jump he's ever seen. With Sunday's win, Irwin won his fourth SEC title between his indoor and outdoor performances.
"There was a straight headwind on my third attempt at 17-9," Irwin said. "I really had to battle through the box just to make sure I made the pit, so that was tough in itself. The wind has been swirling all day. It was a tough day so I just had to stay in there and battle it out. You defeintely want to be able to contribute 10 points to the team. We're contending again this year for a Triple Crown. It means something to go out there and win an SEC title."
Cross turned in a repeat performance of his own as he won the 400-meter hurdles in a season-best time of 50.42. He is the seventh hurdler in SEC history to win consecutive titles in the event. Earlier in the day, the Newport, Ark., native earned six points for the Razorbacks with a third-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles. Cross finished the shorter hurdle event with a time of 14.04.
"I didn't have a lot of time between the 400 (hurdles) and the 110s but it was a good day. Winning another SEC title is pretty awesome. I wanted to run a little bit faster but I didn't execute my first 200 like I wanted. I'm happy with the time. It's a season best for me, so I'll just keep working as we go into prelims and nationals."
As the team's lone representative in the finals of the 800 meters, Momoh took the early lead and held on for the wire-to-wire victory. The Razorback senior captured his first individual SEC title with the effort, crossing the finish line in a personal-best time of 1:47.74. Momoh is the third Razorback in the last five years (Alex McClary, 2009; Dorian Ulrey, 2011) to win an SEC title in the event. Momoh entered the weekend with a season-best time of 1:54.59.
"I went out in the first 200 (meters) and just tried to stay in the moment. I didn't expect to lead it but I thought ‘let me just go ahead.' Through 400, I had the lead and I knew I just had to keep running. Sean Obinwa (of Florida) came up on me and I just thought about my teammates and how we needed points. I just kept striding and I made it."
Arkansas bookended its day on the track with fourth- and third-place finishes in the 4x1000- and 4x400-meter relays, respectively. In the opener, the team of Cross, Jarrion Lawson, Akheem Gauntlett and Marek Niit combined to pass the baton around the track in a season-best time of 39.34. Niit and Gauntlett were back on the track in the last event with Neil Braddy and Anton Kokorin to finish third in the 4x400-meter relay. The foursome posted a season-best time of 3:04.68.
Individually, Gauntlett turned in a runner-up finish at 400 meters. The Razorback senior crossed the finish line in a time of 45.53, the second-best mark of his career. Niit was also involved in an earlier event final, finishing eighth overall at 200 meters.
Aside from Irwin's effort in the pole vault, the Razorbacks collected 11.5 points in field events between the high jump and triple jump. Anthony May II tied for fifth in the high jump with teammate Noah Kittelson. Dwayne Golbek was the team's third scorer in the event with a tie for seventh place. Earlier in the day, May finished sixth in the triple jump to earn three points for Arkansas.
A tape-delayed broadcast of the 2013 SEC Outdoor Championships will air May 23 on ESPNU at 7 p.m. (CT). Arkansas' postseason schedule continues May 23-25 with the NCAA West Preliminary in Austin, Texas. After national qualifiers are decided, the collegiate season will come to a conclusion June 5-8 with the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.
For more information regarding Razorback track and field or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Fans can also keep up with Arkansas cross country and track and field through the team's sport-specific RazorbackTF Facebook and Twitter pages.