The Arkansas Razorback men’s and women’s track and field teams added to their already impressive seasons at the Texas Invitational April 16.
The No. 1 women’s track and field team came away from the Texas Invitational with three event wins and many more accolades that shows why the team is considered to be a national title contender.
“We had some outstanding performances,” head coach Lance Harter said. “We had some breakthroughs, too. Ceara Watson, a half-miler, set a life-time best with a 2:06 in the half-mile. Our vaulters really came into form.”
“Our heptathletes continued to take parts of the heptathlon and focus on those as general preparation for the SEC meeting, which is where they will run their next heptathlon.”
Sprinter Taylor Ellis-Watson is having an outdoor season to remember. Already having multiple first-place finishes under her belt this year, the senior took first in the 200-meter dash and set the NCAA-leading mark this season in the event.
Her 22.63 second mark was also a personal best, as the time is good for the second-best 200-meter dash time in the world.
“She is an even better person than she is an athlete,” Harter said. “That is quite a phenomenon. She is a phenomenal competitor and a great team leader. She’s just a fantastic athlete to have on your team and is a dream come true for a coach. That’s all been real positive to say the least.”
Considered Ellis-Watson’s understudy by Harter, Daina Harper ran the fastest time in the 400-meter dash after she finished with a time of 52.70. Harter said the time might help Harper qualify for nationals in the 400-meter dash.
“That was another event at Texas that was real positive,” Harter said of Harper’s performance.
Besides Ellis-Watson and Harper, the pole vaulters once again added one of the highest-scoring events for the Hogs at the meet.
The 2016 NCAA Indoor pole vault champion Lexi Weeks took first with a height of 14 feet 10 inches and her twin sister Tori Weeks took sixth in the meet.
“They continue to develop as the season develops and get better and better,” Harter said.
Arkansas also had three top-five finishers in the 100-meter hurdles. Payton Stumbaugh took second, while Taliyah Brooks and Alex Gochenour took fourth and fifth, respectively.
Another big performance came from Watson, who was the top collegiate finisher in the 800-meter run. She ran a personal best of 2:06.87.
Almost to the halfway point of the outdoor season, the Lady Hogs are on pace to win the Southeastern Conference title and have a chance for a national title, which Harter thinks is in reach for his squad.
“We are one of those that's in conversations to be a national contender,” Harter said. “Everything that has been done thus far has reassured us that we are not fantasizing things that couldn’t happen. These are kids that are on target to do great things at the SEC meet and at the national meet.”
On its pursuit of another Southeastern Conference outdoor title, the No. 7 men’s track and field team put up solid performances at the Texas Invitational in Austin, Texas, on Saturday.
The team did not have any event winners but had multiple athletes place in the top three of their respective events and had many run personal bests.
Ken LeGassey took second in the high jump with a clearance of 2.09 meters after he failed on his first two attempts. His height was good enough to be tied for first but Penn State freshman Chisom Ifedi passed the 2.09 height on his first attempt.
Alex Campbell was not far behind LeGassey, after he tied for fourth at a clearance of 2.03 meters.
LeGassey was the Razorbacks’ highest placer, along with Davon Anderson, who finished second in the 110-meter hurdles. Anderson ran a time of 14.04, which was just .21 seconds away from Iowa’s Aaron Mallett.
The team of Kenzo Cotton, Jarrion Lawson, Marqueze Washington and Roy Ejiakuekwu took third in the 4x100 meter relay with a time 39.52 seconds.
The Razorbacks also had success in the 200-meter dash with four athletes breaking the top 20. Washington set the pace for the Razorbacks, finishing 11th and Lawson followed him in 12th. Josh Washington finished 15th for the Hogs and freshman Obi Igbokwe rounded out the quartet placing 17th.
Ryan Thomas took the bronze in the 800-meter run and set a personal-best time of 1:48.26 in the process.
At the Bryan Clay Invitational, Arkansas’ distance runners paced the competition with all five of its runners recording personal bests. Jack Bruce, a cross country All-American, took first in the 1,500 meter run with a time of 3:41.67. Austen Dalquist was the next Razorback to cross the finish line placing 13th.
Ethan Moehn and Alex George took 18th and 20th after being only .04 seconds apart from each other. Cameron Griffith finished off the Razorbacks and finished 26th.
Frankline Tonui took 26th in the steeplechase race with a time of 9:01.88 at the Mt. SAC relays. It was the first time Tonui had ever competed in this event.
Arkansas returns to John McDonnell Field for the John McDonnell Invitational Friday and Saturday. Friday’s events start at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday’s events start at 3 p.m.