The No. 8 University of Arkansas men's track and field team increased its total of national qualifiers to four Friday evening at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. On day two of the preliminary event, the Razorbacks collected qualifying performances from Akheem Gauntlett and Neil Braddy at 400 meters and Caleb Cross in the 400-meter hurdles. Raymond Higgs advanced in the long jump Thursday.
The day also featured continued first-round action and Arkansas responded with three quarterfinalists. Marek Niit advanced in the 200 meters, while Cross and Kyle Dunn moved on to the next round of the 100-meter hurdles
Arkansas will have two runners competing in the 400 meters at the NCAA Championships after the efforts of Gauntlett and Braddy. Gauntlett, the sixth-overall performer, finished second in his heat with a time of 46.00. Braddy, running in heat one, finished fourth in his heat but had the fastest at-large time of 46.19 to advance to the national meet.
In his second race of the day, Cross advanced to the national meet in the 400-meter hurdles. The Razorback junior made a charge down the final 100 meters of the race to secure his spot in Des Moines with a second-place finish. He finished with a time of 50.54 and was fifth overall among the 12 runners moving on to the NCAA Championships.
The Razorbacks' day started with qualifying efforts from Cross and Dunn in the first round of the 110-meter hurdles. Cross finished second in his heat and ninth overall with a time of 13.75, while Dunn earned one of the nine at-large spots into the next round with his time of 14.12. The quarterfinal round of the 110-meter hurdles is scheduled for Saturday at 7:05 p.m. (CT).
Niit made his first appearance of the weekend with a qualifying performance in the first round of the 200 meters. Running in heat six, he pulled through in third place in a time of 20.94 and earned one of the automatic qualifying spots into the next round. The 200-meter quarterfinal will be run Saturday at 7:35 p.m. Niit could also see action in both relays for the Razorbacks.
In the final event of day two, Rick Elliott just missed advancing to the NCAA Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Razorback senior finished in seventh place in his heat but 14th overall, missing a national bid by two spots. He finished the race with a time of 8:56.51.
The Razorbacks close out the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary on Saturday with quarterfinal competition in the 200 meters, 1,500 meters and 110-meter hurdles. National spots will also be up for grabs in the 5,000 meters, 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays, high jump, pole vault and discus.