Behind eight event titles and 196 points, the sixth-ranked University of Arkansas men's track and field team won the 2012 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships Sunday evening in Baton Rouge, La. Coupled with their victories at the cross country and indoor meets earlier this season, the Razorbacks completed the 13th SEC triple crown in program history. Sunday's win marked the 17th SEC outdoor team crown in program history.
The Razorbacks collected won their first conference triple crown under head coach Chris Bucknam and the program's 13th since joining the SEC in 1991. Overall, the accomplishment is Arkansas' 22nd conference triple crown dating back to the team's time in the Southwest Conference. The program's last triple crown came during the 2007-08 season.
Over the course of the four-day meet, Arkansas won event titles in the 1,500 meters with Duncan Phillips, 5,000 meters with Lane Boyer, 10,000 meters with Eric Fernandez, 400-meter hurdles with Caleb Cross, pole vault with Andrew Irwin, long jump with Raymond Higgs, decathlon with Kevin Lazas and the 4x100-meter relay. The Razorbacks' title collection is their largest at an SEC meet since the 1998 team also won eight events.
Arkansas' 196 points is the second-highest team score in school history, trailing the 223-point tally of the 1994 team. It is also the fourth-highest team score in SEC Championships history. With eight event titles this weekend, Arkansas now has 106 SEC event titles to its credit.
Five of the team's eight wins came on the final day of competition. Irwin capped the Razorbacks' collection with an American junior record in the pole vault. On his third attempt at the height, the Mount Ida, Ark., cleared 5.72m/18-9.25 for his final clearance of the event. He won the meet with his clearance at 5.62m/18-5.25. With his performance, Irwin improved upon his own school record, secured the 'A' standard for the Olympic Games and tied the Bernie Moore Track Stadium facility record.
The team's first victory of the day came in the 4x100-meter relay. The quartet of Cross, Akheem Gauntlett, Neil Braddy and Marek Niit combined for a winning time of 39.23, a season best and the fourth-fastest effort in school history. The win was also Arkansas' first SEC title in the event, and second overall. The program last won a 4x100-meter relay conference title in 1985 as a member of the SWC.
For the second-consecutive year, the Razorbacks swept the top three spots in the 1,500 meters. Phillips led the charge with the victory in 3:52.60. He was followed by teammates Patrick Rono in 3:52.72 and Anthony Lieghio in 3:53.32. In the 5,000 meters, Boyer led another big collection of points for Arkansas. The team had a 1-3-4 finish in the final individual event on the track. Boyer clocked in with a winning time of 14:01.84, nearly four seconds clear of his nearest competitor.
In his third race of the day, Cross won the program's fourth SEC title in the 400-meter hurdles. Once again lowering his career best in the event, the Newport, Ark., native crossed the finish line in a time of 50.30. He out-leaned Carson Blanks of Ole Miss by the smallest of margins. Cross finished .001 ahead of Blanks who was originally credited with the victory. Earlier in the day, Cross finished third in the 110-meter hurdles.
Leoman Momoh turned in a runner-up showing in the 800 meters. With five runners in the event final, the Razorbacks collected 22 points behind Momoh, Drew Butler in third place, Rono in fourth, Lieghio in seventh and Phillips in eighth.
Arkansas' other individual scorers during the day were Nitt (seventh place, 100 meters; sixth, 200 meters), Gauntlett (third, 400 meters), Eric Fernandez (third, 5,000 meters), Solomon Haile (fourth, 5,000 meters), Kyle Dunn (eighth, 110m hurdles; seventh, 400m hurdles), Brede Ellingsen (sixth, high jump) and Claremore's Dwayne Golbek (eighth, high jump). The 4x400-meter relay team of Gauntlett, Braddy, Ben Skidmore and Travis Southard combined for a fourth-place finish in 3:07.52.
A two-hour highlight show recapping the SEC Championships will air Wednesday, May 23, at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. Arkansas' next competition is the NCAA West Preliminary scheduled for May 24-26 in Austin, Texas.