Arkansas’ two track and field squads started up their season with the Arkansas Invitational last Friday in Fayetteville. Both teams are able to consider the meet a success despite the participating team’s collective scores not being tallied.
The No. 1 ranked Razorback women’s indoor track and field team opened up their 2016 season against a field that included Texas Tech and several smaller schools from within the state of Arkansas.
As defending national champion, Arkansas returns nine All-Americans from last year’s team. This includes redshirt senior Taylor Ellis-Watson, who finished runner-up in the 400-meter race at the national meet, and redshirt sophomore Taliyah Brooks, who earned All-American honors as a freshman after her efforts in the indoor pentathlon.
The Razorbacks also welcome back two other pentathlon All-Americans in senior Alex Gochenour and junior Leigha Brown.
New members of the team include Oregon transfer Nikki Hiltz, who joins the team after finishing eighth in the mile at the national meet last year.
Ellis-Watson finished first in the 200 with a time of 23.39 seconds and sophomore Payton Stumbaugh came up just behind her with a time of 23.79 seconds to finish in second place.
Hiltz finished in third in the 1,000-meter run with a time of 2:45.94.
The Razorbacks had nine events with at least two top five finishes including the mile and the pole vault. Freshman vaulter Alexis Weeks finished with a Southeastern Conference and NCAA leading score by clearing a height of 4.5 meters, which was almost a foot higher than the second highest tally, according to Razorback Athletics.
Weeks’ sister Victoria Weeks came in second place in the vault with a height of 4.20 meters. The siblings made up half of the Razorbacks four top five finishes in the event. Third and fourth place went to Ariel Voskamp and Megan Zimlich who finished with 4.10 meter and 3.85 meter respectively.
Brooks finished first in both the high jump and 60-meter hurdles. She was also a part of the 4x400 meter relay that earned first place. Brooks notched a top 10 finish in the 200-meter dash, too.
Gochenour and Brown combined for 10 top 10 finishes and six in the top six including high jump and 60-meter hurdles.
The team’s next meet takes place Jan. 22-23 at both the New Mexico Invitational and the Gladstein Invitational in Bloomington, Indiana.
The No. 10 Razorback men’s team was successful in many events as well, as they won eight events outright and earned a top five spot 34 times throughout the meet.
Arkansas came in third during last year’s national championships and brings back several key members, including senior phenom Jarrion Lawson, who has won national titles in long jump and the 4x100 meter relay. Lawson finished as runner-up for the long jump national championship last year after winning in 2014.
All-Americans Kenzo Cotton and Cale Wallace also return from last year’s team. Cotton was honored as the outdoor SEC Freshman Runner of the Year at the end of last season.
Lawson and Cotton both finished with a time of 6.64 in the 60-meter dash, which was good enough for first place. Senior Marqueze Washington finished in third place with a time of 6.73.
Wallace earned the top spot in his event as he won the 1,000-meter run with a time of 2:24.94.
Both Alex George and Kurt Jenner joined Wallace as top place finishers as they won the mile run and the long jump, respectively.
The Razorbacks will continue their journey towards head coach Chris Bucknam’s second national title with the Razorback Invitational on Jan. 29-30.