The Arkansas track and field teams silenced the doubters, racking up the points at the 2022 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championship last weekend in Oxford, Mississippi. The men’s team finished the meet with 120 points, narrowly earning a six-point victory over second-place Tennessee, while the women’s team captured second, scoring 103 points, just four behind Florida.
The most critical performance of the weekend came in the men’s 5,000-meter. Entering the event, the Razorbacks were four points behind Alabama which rostered freshman Victor Kiprop, the SEC champion in the 10,000, and sophomore Eliud Kipsang, who holds the collegiate record in the 1,500.
The men needed a spectacular performance if they were going to become SEC champions, and that is exactly what they got. Sophomore Patrick Kiprop and seniors Amon Kemboi and Emmanuel Cheboson went 1-2-3 in the event, earning 24 points for the Razorbacks and closing the door on Alabama's title hopes.
“We knew that it was going to be a hard fought 5,000,” senior Carter Persyn said. “We were constantly watching the points. We know how tight of a battle it is with Alabama. We just wanted to set the tone early that we’re not messing around. We set it out hot, try to spread it out a little bit and let people know that if they want to run with Arkansas, they’re going to have to get after it.”
The men’s team performance was incredible, but the most dominant individual performance came from sophomore Britton Wilson. She completed the triple, competing in the 400, the 400 hurdles, and the 4x400 relay.
Wilson earned first place in both the 400 and the 400 hurdles in 50.05 and 53.75, respectively. Both times were personal bests and gave her the world championship standard. She also anchored the 4x400, in which Arkansas earned third, despite breaking the NCAA record in the event. The placements earned 21.5 points for the Razorbacks, the second-most of any individual athlete.
“She’s gonna have her work cut out as well,” Arkansas women’s head coach Lance Harter said. “Chris Johnson has been experimenting with her the last two competitions to see how well she handles it. If last weekend was any reflection of her ability, she just did a fantastic job of running 50s in the quarter and then coming back in the 400 meter hurdles an hour later and running 55s. She’s an exceptional talent to say the least.”
Several other individuals did well to put the Hogs in position to compete for the title. Notably, sophomore Amanda Fassold won the women’s pole vault with a 4.50m jump, defeating reigning NCAA outdoor pole vault champion Lisa Gunnarsson from LSU. The two will meet again soon in the NCAA championship.
Team success continued in the men’s 110m hurdles, in which the Hogs sent four hurdlers to the final. Each athlete placed in the top six with sophomore Phillip Lemonious and juniors Tre’Bien Gilbert, Ayden Owens-Delerme and Matthew Lewis-Banks placing second, third, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Arkansas placed first in one other event: the men’s 3,000 steeplechase. Junior Andrew Kibet won in 8:42.87, setting a personal record while obliterating the stadium record, 8:51.73. Kibet also competed in the 5,000, but he did not finish because his duties were limited to pacing.
Other top finishers from the women’s team include sophomore Isabel Van Camp, who finished third in the 10,000, junior Lauren Gregory, who earned third in the 5,000 and second in the 1,500, senior Logan Jolly who finished third in the 3,000 steeplechase, and senior Jada Baylark, who finished third in the 100.
Other top finishers from the men’s team include junior Daniel Spejcher who earned second in the decathlon, and Kiprop and sophomore Myles Richter who placed second and third, respectively, in the 10,000.
The Arkansas track and field teams will next compete at the NCAA West Preliminary Round from May 25-28 back home at John McDonnell Field, where both groups will look to repeat their success from 2019 and 2005.