(Photo: Arkansas Razorback Track & Field and Cross Country Facebook)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - In a season-opening dual, the No. 1 University of Arkansas men's track and field team knocked off third-ranked Texas Friday evening at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks posted a winning score of 85-78 with the help of nine event wins and eight personal-best performances. Arkansas' double winners during the meet were Akheem Gauntlett, Raymond Higgs and Anton Kokorin.
"We got off to a good start and I thought we competed well," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "The times and jumps will all get higher, longer and faster. It's just a matter of time. What we were looking for today was to get our feet wet again. A lot of these guys hadn't competed since the SEC Championships last May or the NCAA Championships in June so it's quite a big step from where they were training in the fall."
Higgs posted the Razorbacks' first win of the meet with an NCAA-leading performance in the long jump, establishing a personal best and collegiate leader with a mark of 7.95m/26-1. With the jump, Higgs moved into ninth place on the program's top-10 list in the event. He completed his sweep of the horizontal jumps with a first-place showing in the triple jump. He finished that event with a mark of 15.15m/49-8.5, another personal best.
On the track, Gauntlett ran to an individual win at 200 meters and anchored the team's 4x400-meter relay to a victory in the final event of the day. He led a 1-2-3 finish for the Razorbacks in the 200 meters with his time of 20.84. In the relay, he was joined in victory by teammates Neil Braddy, Anton Kokorin and Travis Southard.
Kokorin was Arkansas' third two-time winner in Friday's win over the Longhorns. In addition to his effort with the 4x400-meter relay, he held strong for a first-place performance at 400 meters. Making his debut in Cardinal and White, Kokorin closed out the two-lap sprint with a time of 47.56.
Caleb Cross avenged an earlier loss in the hurdle event with a victory at 60 meters. He finished with a personal best time of 6.78, just .02 ahead of Texas' Keiron Stewart. In the 60-meter hurdles, the two runners faced off with Stewart coming away with a narrow .05 win. Cross' hurdle time of 7.79 represents the fastest season opener for the Newport, Ark., native.
Reigning NCAA indoor champion Andrew Irwin opened his sophomore campaign with a win in the pole vault. With the victory in hand by way of fewer misses throughout the competition, he shut it down with a final clearance of 5.20m/17-0.75. Teammate Kevin Lazas finished second in the pole vault and tied his personal best. The 1-2 finish for Irwin and Lazas gave Arkansas a late 80-75 lead over the Longhorns in the team standings.
Newcomer Tomas Squella opened his Arkansas career with a victory at 1,000 meters. He held off a late push from Texas' Patrick McGregor to cross the finish in a time of 2:25.00, just .09 ahead of the hard-charging Longhorn. The top five places in the event finished within a second of one another.
In another Razorback debut performance, Anthony May II won the high jump with a final clearance of 2.18m/7-1.75. He finished with the same mark as teammate Brede Ellingsen but took the win with few misses during the event. May went without a miss through his first six attempts. Devin Randall was the top performer in the throws for the Razorbacks with third- and fourth-place finishes in the shot put and weight throw, respectively.
"(The win) is satisfying," Bucknam said. "You have to be good when all the chips aren't going your way. We had a bunch of distance runners that didn't run today, so we looked a little weak in the distance area tonight but we have a lot of talent there. And without them, we were still able to pull off a win. Things weren't perfect and we didn't show every card we had, and yet we were still able to match the No. 3 team in the country and beat them."
The Razorbacks return to action next weekend with a road trip to College Station, Texas, for the Texas A&M Triangular. Arkansas will be joined at the meet by Southeastern Conference mates LSU and host Aggies. Arkansas' next home meet will be contested Jan. 25-26 with the Razorback Team Invitational. As part of their home slate, the Razorbacks will also host the 2013 NCAA and SEC Indoor Championships later this winter.
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 sports-specific RazorbackTF Facebook and Twitter pages.
(Source: University of Arkansas)