By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It’s starting to feel like championship time around Southeastern Conference track and field. For all intents and purposes, most of the top athletes in the league have completed their regular seasons with a number of dynamic performances all across the country, but most notably at the Penn and Drake Relays, last weekend.
Several schools will play host and travel to “Twilight” meets this weekend with the intent of improving performances of some of their athletes who maybe are on the bubble of NCAA qualification, or to get some more experience for athletes who are coming off of injuries and will be participating in next week’s SEC Outdoor Championships.
It really began to sink in with me yesterday how close we are to the league championships when I sent out the last SEC Track and Field Athletes of the Week announcement of the 2012 season. On Tuesday, Tre Stallings, our track and field administrator at the SEC, and I will head down to Baton Rouge for the four-day meet which begins on Thursday.
If you’re in the area or you love track and field, I would encourage each of you to come out and take in the SEC Outdoor Championships. It’s a terrific showcase of most of the best talent in collegiate track and field and will be a great preview to many of the athletes you will see in the NCAA Outdoor Championships and the U.S. Olympic Trials.
That said, let me catch you up on some of the latest happenings in the world of SEC track and field.
They don’t call them the Penn Relays and Drake Relays for nothing.
The relays, of course, take center stage at those events and it was no different for teams from the SEC. Two relays won our Runner of the Week awards and, to be honest, it was a tough decision over other relays.
The Florida men’s 4x400-meter relay team was named Co-Men’s Runner of the Week, joining Ole Miss standout sprinter Isiah Young. The Gator quartet of Dedric Dukes, Hugh Graham, Leonardo Seymore and Tony McQuay claimed the event at the Drake Relays in a season-best time of 3:02.41. It was the eighth-fastest time in UF school history and the No. 2 time in the nation this year. More impressively for Mike Holloway’s Gators, they were the only team in the finals of that event to start out with freshmen on the first two legs, while Tony McQuay torched the track for a time of 44.03 on the anchor leg.
The Tennessee women’s sprint medley relay won its third all-time Championship of America in that event at Penn Relays, clocking the third-fastest time in program history at 3:41.78. Brittany Jones, Martinique Octave, Ellen Wortham and Chanelle Price picked up the 20th overall Penn Relays baton-event crown by the Lady Vol program. For Price, it was her sixth Penn Relays victory, tying her with Joetta Clark and Phoebe Wright for second all-time at Tennessee.
The Auburn men’s 4x100-meter relay team captured the Championship of America title at the Penn Relays in a time of 39.34. The Tigers held off late pushes from UTech (a dominant Jamaica power) and LSU to earn the win. They did so without normal second-leg Harry Adams to record the 10th-fastest mark in the NCAA this season. Auburn has won the 4x100 in both meets it has competed in that event this season, posting the No. 1 and No. 10 times nationally.
The Arkansas men’s 4x200-meter relay quartet of Neil Braddy, Marek Niit, Ben Skidmore and Akheem Gauntlett clocked a time of 1:22.27 to capture the Drake Relays title, snapping a five-year hold on the event by Baylor. The Razorbacks’ time goes down as the third-fastest in school history and gave the program its first-ever title in that event at Drake Relays. What’s more impressive is that same foursome returned to the track to log a time of 3:02.47 in the 4x400-meter relay, which went down as the third-fastest performance in Arkansas track and field history.
The Arkansas women’s sprint medley relay team of Gwendolyn Flowers, Tiffany Hines, Regina George and Martine Borge won the event by establishing a new Drake Relays and facility record with its winning performance of 3:45.48, more than five second faster than its nearest competitor. The victory for Arkansas was its first-ever Drake Relays crown in that event and the Razorbacks took more than a full second off the 16-year-old record previously held by Arkansas-Little Rock (3:46.78).
New to the SEC Outdoor Championships? Let me explain how the event works. For those of you who are regular followers of the meet, feel free to skip on to the “Finish Line” portion of the column.
There are 21 events that will be contested on both the men’s and women’s sides – this is a change from the 17 events that take place indoors. The finals of each event will score eight places and those scores will collectively determine the team scores and winners. The same formula is used at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Each final event is scored on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale, meaning that if you win the event, you score 10 points for your team, finish second, you score eight and so forth. Individual, as well as team championships, are crowned at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
On the men’s side, Tennessee has won a league-leading 25 SEC Outdoor Championships, including most recently in 2007. LSU has won the second most with 22 and Arkansas is third with 16. The Razorbacks have won 16 of the last 20 outdoor league crowns, including last season.
On the women’s side, LSU has won a league-leading 12 SEC Outdoor Championships, including each of the last two. Florida, which last won in 2009, has captured five and Tennessee four.
Who should you keep an eye on at next week’s SEC Outdoor Championships? Here are some interesting notes about athletes who are going for multiple league titles in their individual events next week:
2012 SEC Outdoor Meet Returning Champions
110m Hurdles: Barrett Nugent, LSU
200m: Marek Niit, Arkansas
Steeplechase: Matt Cleaver, Georgia
High Jump: Ricky Robertson, Ole Miss
Shot Put: Stephen Saenz, Auburn
Javelin: Brian Moore, Georgia
Decathlon: Gray Horn, Florida
100m: Semoy Hackett, LSU
100m Hurdles: Jasmin Stowers, LSU
200m: Kimberlyn Duncan, LSU
400m Hurdles: Ellen Wortham, Tennessee
800m: Chanelle Price, Tennessee
1,500m: Brittany Sheffey, Tennessee
Steeplechase: Genevieve LaCaze, Florida
High Jump: Maya Pressley, Auburn
Long Jump: Rochelle Farquharson, Mississippi State
Triple Jump: Maria Augutis, Georgia
Shot Put: Annie Alexander, Tennessee
Hammer Throw: Nikola Lomnicka, Georgia
Discus: Annie Alexander, Tennessee
Javelin: Fawn Miller, Florida
Pole Vault: Tina Sutej, Arkansas
Heptathlon: Makeba Alcide, Arkansas
Athletes/Relays Going For More Than Two In A Row
• Gray Horn, Florida – Decathlon (2009, 2010, 2011)
• Nikola Lomincka, Georgia – Women’s Hammer Throw (2010, 2011)
• Brian Moore, Georgia – Men’s Javelin (2010, 2011)
• Barrett Nugent, LSU – Men’s 110m Hurdles (2010, 2011)
• Maya Pressley, Auburn – Women’s High Jump (2010, 2011)
• Ricky Robertson, Ole Miss – Men’s High Jump (2010, 2011)
• Tina Sutej, Arkansas – Women’s Pole Vault (2010, 2011)
• Arkansas women’s 4x400m (2010, 2011)
Athletes Going For Third Title (Non Consecutive)
• Annie Alexander, Tennessee – Women’s Shot Put (2008, 2011)
• Annie Alexander, Tennessee – Women’s Discus (2008, 2011)
• Genevieve LaCaze, Florida – Women’s Steeplechase (2009, 2011)